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DP Watt
An Emporium of Automata
Eibonvale Press
UK Hardcover / Trade Paperback First Edition
ISBN 978-1-908125-18-7 / TPB: 978-1-908125170
Publication Date: 12-07-2012
284 pages; £ 22.00 (TPB: £8.99)
Date Reviewed: 04-20-2013
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2013

Index:  Fantasy  General Fiction

If you ask me what kind of writer is DP Watt, my answer is that it's hard to tell. Partly a horror writer, partly a new "decadent", by all means a creator of weird fiction, somewhere between ETA Hoffmann and Ligotti. The present collection (previously published in hardcover edition from Ex Occidente Press) effectively represents the many faces of this eclectic author continuously shifting from the bizarre to the grotesque, from the baroque to the uncanny. Thus, predictably enough, some stories are engrossing and delightful, other irritant and unaccomplished, some downright boring. Which ones are which, it depends , I guess, on the reader's personal taste and sensitivity.

I'll mention here the stories that I found more compelling and I'll ignore those which left me perplexed or annoyed. Generally speaking the best pieces (at least to me) are those where there's a definite plot, with a beginning and an ending, in other words where the writer acts as a storyteller. Call me an old traditionalist, if you wish.

"All His Worldly Goods" is an excellent mix of horror and nostalgia where a copy of Montague Summers' famous "The Supernatural Omnibus" keeps haunting a lonely bookshop clerk while "Erbach's Emporium of Automata" is a tantalizing tale about childhood memories, describing an odd emporium of mechanical toys and its unspeakable secrets.

In the offbeat and disturbing "The Butcher's Daughter" the appalling private affairs of a recently deceased old lady are finally revealed when a couple of newly-weds goes to live in her former house.

There are a couple of ghostly tales, the first ("Room 89") slightly in the fashion of MR James, enjoyable enough but which could have been greatly improved by trimming some overlong and a bit tedious sections, the second ("Telling Tales"), an enigmatic, well crafted story revolving around a conversation on the phone between and old lady and a mysterious informer.

"1<_0" is the disquieting report of the gradual physical and spiritual disappearance of a man becoming quite invisible to his own family.

I doubt it that six good stories out of a collection of twenty-one can constitute a sufficient reason to interest the average reader and convince him/her to buy a copy, On the other hand if you're a daring person ready to experiment with unusual types of fiction, introspective journeys into the human psyche and you're not as old fashioned as I am to require stories with a clear-cut plot and actual characters, I suspect you will greatly enjoy this offbeat book.

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