Whitstable is possibly the most touching tale that we have had the privilege to review here at Geek Syndicate. Due for publication in May 2013 by the British Fantasy Award-nominated Spectral Press, Whitstable affectionately envisages a fictional account of Peter Cushing’s life shortly after the death of his beloved wife Helen.
The novella’s release coincides with the centenary of one of the most celebrated and beloved of Hammer’s stars and is a must read; not only for fans of Cushing but for lovers of great writing in general.
Whitstable effortlessly blurs reality and fiction in a beautifully realised tale of good versus evil. Author Stephen Volk gently leads us into the world of Peter Cushing in 1971, devastated by the loss of his soul mate Helen, a man existing rather than living after her death. Out for a walk along the expanse of Whitstable’s beach, Cushing is approached by a boy who recognises him as the famous vampire hunter Doctor Van Helsing from the Hammer movies. The boy asks Cushing for his help to vanquish his stepfather, a man he believes to really be a vampire.
Cushing is compelled to unveil the dark
secret hanging over the boy who approached him, driven by a desire to save the boy from an evil far worse than anything he has faced on screen or that appears in any horror tale. The
tale with the boy and his stepfather is pure fiction, coming from the literary imagination of Stephen Volk, yet I pictured Cushing so vividly
as I read each page that I questioned which parts were factual and which were make believe as they became intertwined with each other.
Within just over 100 pages, Volk captures the tender nature of one of life’s true gentlemen at his most vulnerable. For fans of Cushing, or Hammer in its heyday, there are nods to the life and works of one of Britain’s great actors; it is clear that a lot of research has gone into the book yet it doesn’t feel like a fact laden piece. The whole novella comes across as a love letter crafted as a homage to a distinct period of British cinematic history and Cushing himself. Yet readers unfamiliar with Cushing and his works will feel equally drawn into the writing, presented with a tale of moral integrity in the most difficult of circumstances.
Whitstable is a poignant piece which I suspect will touch even the hardest of hearts. I must confess that I am a fan of Cushing and the genre so there may be a slight aspect of rose-tinted glasses but I suspect not. Either way, I wholeheartedly recommend that you read Whitstable when it is released in May. A most fitting tribute for Cushing’s centenary.
Whitstable will be available in limited edition hardback and unlimited paperback. Further details and pre-orders by visiting the site here.
Reviewer: Phil Ambler