Written by: Paul Mannering
I have known of Australian horror author, Greg Chapman for his art. Until now.
A member of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association since 2009, Chapman has produced a range of short stories and novellas under the mentorship of Brett McBean (Wolf Creek) and he has been involved in some high-profile projects with other luminaries of the horror literature scene.
Hollow House (Omnium Gatherium Media) is Chapman’s first novel, scraping in at around 40,000 words.
It is the story of an old house in a regular suburban neighbourhood in a regular American city. The neighbours barely notice the place; it has been abandoned for years.
As a reader, the house sits like a spider in the centre of a web throughout the story. The elements of horror are the strands of interconnected lives of the various families and households that live in the same street. These other houses have their own secrets, problems and deep dysfunctions (suicide, serial killers, domestic violence, PTSD to name a few).
Chapman’s story has moments of pure body horror countered by unnerving elements of psychological thriller and the occasional whispers of Lovecraftian horrors from beyond the stars.
I was left wondering if the house on Willow street had somehow the source of its neighbours messed up lives, or if they were there by some tragic cosmic coincidence. Either way the house casts a shadow across them all and remains a disturbing presence through to the end.
From a reader’s perspective I found the story engaging, original and well crafted. There was a variety to the characters and they had distinct personalities and compelling narratives. There is a grimness to the story that I appreciate. Horror is not about redemption or happy endings. It is about walking out into the sunlight and having that uneasy misgiving that something somewhere is very, very wrong.
From a writer’s perspective, the writing is a bit rough in places. It’s not enough to take away from the story, it just marks this point in Chapman’s writing development and it is clear he’ll come into that fine writing voice that shines through in his best moments.