‘George Clooney’s Moustache’ made my miserable day. On a day that was full of chilly damp pizzle and various disappointments it was playful and chilling, thrilling and light-of-touch from the first word to the last.
The story begins as what appears to be an exploration of Stockholm Syndrome in a mentally-handicapped young woman. It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but it’s one of the funniest stories I’ve read in a long time.
It isn’t long, however, before Rob Shearman begins to undermine all of your preconceptions, and you realise that this story is about something that you hadn’t anticipated. Then you realise that you were wrong about that, and it’s going in a third direction. There are a couple of really good surprises in here.
All of this is handled superbly. The intricacies of how information is fed to the reader to govern these changes of mood are worked with a spectacular ease. There’s never a clunk as we hear the gears change.
It’s a wonderful, nasty, hilarious story with real heart, and bodes incredibly well for Shearman’s new(ish) collection Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical. And probably for his old collections, too.
The one catch is that I read this story in The BFS Yearbook, which was produced for members of the British Fantasy Society last year. The BFS is an organisation that covers horror, fantasy, science fiction, whatever. They currently host a thread about In The Gloaming stuff over at their forums. I’d say it’s worth joining just for the Yearbook (if you like short stories), but you also get a number of journals, discounted convention entry, and the odd free book.
The Yearbook was full of excellent stories. My particular favourites (apart from this one) were ‘After the Ape’ by Stephen Volk, and ‘The Stretch’ by Christopher Fowler. However, there were also good stories from Sarah Pinborough, Gary McMahon, Nicholas Royle, and Kaaron Warren amongst others.
‘George Clooney’s Moustache’ is the most delightful tale about kidnap, rape, and murder that I’ve ever read. (It’s also available in Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical if you can’t be bothered to join the BFS to get the Yearbook)