Beside The Seaside

Ed. Scott Harrison



If you're planning a staycation in God's Own County this summer, then this anthology of stories set on the White Rose coast is essential holiday packing along with your bucket, spade and sunblock.

However, you might find this collection of supernatural thrills, crime and fantasy makes for sleepless nights in your guest house, hotel or tent as the wind rattles the windows or guy ropes and you recall in the darkest hours the chills contained herein.

Editor Scott Harrison has put together an excellent little gathering of tales that explore the shadowy nooks of the seaside, all loosely bound together by the theme of being set on or around the Yorkshire coast.

There's an excellent introduction by Reggie Perrin and Henry Pratt author David Nobbs, who admits to not being a natural-born Yorkshireman and only living in the county for 22 years, though he confesses to a love affair with Yorkshire going back decades.

In his "incomer's guide" to the dramatic coastline, Nobbs says: "It’s a fierce coast, a dangerous coast. There are beautiful cliff views and walks, but it’s a landscape to be treated with caution. Like Yorkshire itself, it’s no place for wimps".

And the stories Harrison has gathered to follow Nobbs' introduction are, likewise, not for the faint-hearted. The proceedings are kicked off with Alison Littlewood's That's The Way To Do It, a creepy, eerie, downright disturbing tale of a sinister Punch & Judy man on Scarborough sands... there are proper chills in this tale that'll have you shuddering the next time you hear that rather menacing voice issuing buzzily from a seaside tent.

A tad jollier is Lee Harris' Landlady Interface, in which we visit a near-future Robin Hood's Bay where traditional B&Bs are still in evidence, though with a highly technological twist. Harris has a con-man on the prowl in the resort in a tale that is worthy of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected.

One of the highlights of the book - though every tale is a great one - is She Who Waits from Pudsey's Gary McMahon. We're taken to Scarborough again, which through the eyes of a young widower is a bleak place made even more unbearable by the brittle revelry of hen parties and holidaymakers. On the cliff-top castle something lurks and calls to him, but is it his heart's desire or something more ancient and dark?

Not all of the stories are horror or science fiction - Scott Harrison's own effort, The Last Train To Whitby, is evocative of the noirish spy thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s, while Sadie Miller's Scarborough In July is a bittersweet tale of loss, love and loneliness among the vacationing crowds.

Trevor Baxendale's The Woman In The Sand is begins off gently enough, with a woman and her son watching the work of a sand sculptor on the beach. But the artist's fascination with the woman begins to gradually take on a darker hue and results in a denouement that will stay with the reader.

The Girl On The Suicide Bridge by JA Mains is a lovely little slightly-surrealist fantasy about self-sacrifice, and the collection's closer, Scarborough Warning, finishes up with a downbeat little tale of forbidden love and being careful what you wish for.

Beside The Seaside is a perfect little collection of short stories, wherever you're going on holiday this year.

David Barnett