Introduction by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Spectral Press
Creakers. We’ve all lived or stayed in one at some point of our lives – those houses whose inexplicable groans and audible timber contortions fill many a pitch black evening with goosebump-raising notions of supernatural activity and evil things perched in the shadows by the bed.
Of course, these notions are little more than the work of overly feverish imaginations – but not so in the case of one particular home that forms the setting for Paul Kane’s Creakers, the latest in Spectral Press’ chapbook line. Protagonist Ray Johnson knows all too well how to handle the titular kind of abode given his occupation – purchasing and renovating old houses for a quick-buck turnover. His latest acquisition is different, though, being the family home he grew up in. With the recent passing of his all-but-estranged mother leaving the property empty, it falls to Ray to fix it up and sell it on, thereby releasing himself of the last vestiges of a childhood he rarely likes to (or rather, can) recall.
Tormented by a seemingly untraceable creaking in the dead of night, and ultimately by a much more energetic ghostly entity, the stresses of Ray’s stay in this old family home finally force him to face some long-buried demons from his traumatic past and the malignant lingering presence they’ve left behind.
Short and easily digested, Creakers is a capably crafted, yet much too familiar tale of abusive deeds, vengeance and angry spirits. Kane’s writing is fittingly economical – well constructed but rarely daring, shocking or particularly tense. The overuse of phonetic representation of the creaking noises in the house becomes grating after a short time (perhaps an intention of the author that just didn’t pay off as hoped), and Ray’s personal revelations can be seen coming a mile off by anyone with a modicum of insight to the genre – as will the method of resolution to the matter of this home’s haunting.
This isn’t to say that Creakers is a waste of time, by any means – the natural brevity of the story format renders that much of an impossibility – as it remains a tight, focused and atmospheric piece of work with some excellent scene-setting and fine characterisation. Rather, it’s a good piece of work hamstrung by familiarity; easily place-able amongst the pages of many an omnibus of garden-variety ghost stories but lacking the heights of creativity, unique voice or bone-chilling impact necessary to stand out from the crowd, Creakers fails to make a convincing argument for demanding your attention in this stand-alone form.
3 out of 5