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Fireside dark storytelling rendered even more magical

I am old now, or at least, I am no longer young, and everything I see reminds me of something else I’ve seen, such that I see nothing for the first time. A bonny girl, her head fiery-red, reminds me only of another hundred such lasses, and their mothers, and what they were as they grew, and what they looked like when they died. It is the curse of age, that all things are reflections of other things

Fabulous weaver of weird and wonderful stories for adults and children Neil Gaiman wrote this short story/novella The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, which was published in a collection of creepy dark stories: Stories: All New Tales, by Headline, back in 2010.

Then this story by Gaiman developed another life, when he was invited to read his story aloud, and with projected artwork by Eddie Campbell, with a musical underscore by FourPlay String Quartet at the Graphic Festival at Sydney Opera House.


Neil Gaiman reading, Eddie Campbell’s images, and underscoring by FourPlay, Sydney Opera House 2010 excerpt starts at 2.44 and runs to 4.10

Now Headline have reduced the experience back down to the individual reading experience – a book, a story on the page, that artwork, condensed into a wonderful weaving of seductive and dark words, sensuous and sometimes scary images, and the tactile experience of silky, glossy pages, hardcover, slightly textured titling. The book as craft, art, and beautiful object as well as wondrous words and a story like some well-honed myth, handed down through generations.

The Truth Is A Cave

This is a journey through the Highlands, a journey made by two stern men, both with hidden secrets. The un-named narrator is a small fierce man. His companion, Calum MacInnes, is a tall, gaunt one. And there appears to be distrust of the other, from both sides, as they set out to find hidden gold which may be cursed

Artist Eddie Campbell’s artworks are gorgeous, and varied in style, ranging from graphic, solid broad-brush stroked figures which are almost cartoon in simplicity, to some lovely part-shaded, part outline, suggestions of shapes, which appear to flicker out from misty, pastel backgrounds. I particularly like the fact that the textured background Campbell must originally have used is visible, a wash across all pages, so that the use of colour is subtle and varied.

This is really not a book to get on ereader – the subtlety of texture, the vibrancy of colour and shape need to be appreciated in the larger size of a book’s pages.

I was extremely fortunate to be offered this by Headline, as a review copy.

My only regret is that I missed knowing about this book till a few days after Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell and Foursquare repeated the performed event of the story. Seeing these illustrations stage sized, having the author read his tale aloud and with the underscore, sitting rapt with others whilst this played out, must have been a magnificent occasion

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains Amazon UK
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains Amazon USA

And, of course, I must once again give hearty thanks to fellow blogger, friend,and fellow Amazon reviewer Fiction Fan, who is also at times my crossed books at dawn duelling partner, when one of us fervently recommends a book to the other which makes the other react with the sort of enthusiasm normally reserved for a festering swarm of fruit flies on a rotting pineapple. (I’ve resisted the urge to use media here, and will leave it to your fertile imaginations)

However she absolutely came up trumps for me with this one, urgently contacting me to tell me that I would yearn and lust for this, and that ARCS were available She was SO right – and you should also check out her magnificent review, chock full of those marvellous illustrations, and other quotes Fiction Fan’s review of this

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