Review: Sussex Horrors by Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall

Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terror and Other Seaside Haunts by Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall
Herbs House (January 2018)
156 pages; $12.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

Unlike the common horrors of a typical seaside vacation, this anthology doesn’t involve overpriced hotel rooms or poorly cooked meals— although there is one rather nasty gift shop. Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terrors and Other Seaside Haunts brings together the combined talents of authors Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall to surprise and delight with enough gruesome horror to make us immediately rush for the perceived safety of the big city where things simply make sense. Preying on the fear of life outside the predictable and exploring the seldom-trod back roads of Sussex, this volume presents twelve well-crafted tales of terror.

The stories begin with one of my favorites, “Seagulls” by Rayne Hall. A moving-day story of escalating dread, this short tale sets the tone for the volume in true E. F. Benson style. Not much happens, yet… everything happens. This slow-burn of interior fear captures the nuance of moments—what one wants when starting a new life and how one underestimates the unknown and unexpected. I will say no more except that this tale succinctly establishes the quality of the narratives that follow.

For those that love cosmic horror, “The Rebirth” by Mark Cassell delights as Kelly, a schoolteacher, encounters a creature worthy of H.P. Lovecraft or John Wyndham. Her journey is as visceral as it gets as she attempts to rescue Bethany, a child that has been, let us say, ingested. The twists and turns deliver more than enough yuck-factor and the resolution is satisfying. Mr. Cassell’s ability to turn a stomach-wrenching phrase is to be commended.

Next on my list of Sussex destinations is “Furzby Holt by Jonathan Broughton. At the end of a dark and unpaved road this dilapidated village is trapped in its own misery. Or, at least that’s how it seems to census-taker Kevin, whose mission is to complete a series of interviews. This creepy tale delivered an exciting premise when one realizes not every place is on Google Maps. Nor should they be. I truly enjoyed this story, thought it could have been expanded, and was sorry when it ended. I wanted to know more and hope the author considers a sequel about Furzby Holt and its residents.

Lastly, my personal favorite in the book was “The Pensioner Pirates of Marine Parade” by Jonathan Broughton. This is not to take anything away from the other authors and one could argue this tale least fits the theme of the volume. Having said that, the originality made me smile and cringe all at the same time.

To sum up, like unexpectedly stepping on a razor blade barefoot in the sand, Sussex Tales: Stories of Coastal Terrors and Other Seaside Haunts consistently delivers while easily slicing through the flesh and bone of horror tropes. There are no lazy tales in this volume; be assured, there is substance and blood. I can’t imagine the Sussex Visitor Centres endorsing this book, but they should. The anthology would make for a great summer beach read if you watch where you step and keep an eye on the skies. The gulls are not to be trusted.

27 thoughts on “Review: Sussex Horrors by Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall”

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful review! It’s fascinating to see how a reader perceives the stories we’ve created. By the way, you may want to correct my name. It’s Rayne Hall, Not Raven Hall. (Though I quite like Raven. 😀 )

      1. yes, thank you… that was likely MY error… although I would love to blame autocorrect… which never does… let that be a lesson to ALWAYS drink when writing reviews!

  2. We have seagulls here in Rhode Island, even haunting the Walmart parking lot. I’ll never quite see them the same way again…

  3. I like how the story written by Rayne shows that something, at first glance harmless, can become a real terror. It’s unexpected and thus even more frightening.

  4. Rayne Hall’s “Seagulls” remind me of my country’s mountainous shore where shepherds graze their herds. I like this spooky tale so much and the entire tone of this volume is very inspired.

  5. This book sounds amazing. I’m always up for some spawn-of-Cthulhu shenanigans. (And evil seagulls. It’s about time someone told the truth about those suckers.)

    1. Hmm, maybe there’s another story waiting to be written. A Cthulhu-inspired tentacled monster living in the sea at the foot of the cliffs of Hastings. 🙂

  6. Looks like “Seagulls” is a hit! I guess birds anywhere can be vicious. Here in Florida, we have some that look like cranes and they will literally attack you for food. Their favourites appear to be McDonald’s fries and bread so if u don’t have either of those for lunch, you should be pretty safe lol. Overall, it seems like a great collection of short stories with something for everyone.

    1. The Sussex seagulls eat anything. They’re not choosy. They’re so greedy, they’ll rip food out of your hands, even if they’re not hungry. Last year, I bought a sandwich and sat on a bench on the St Leonards promenade, and a seagull swooped down and took the whole sandwich!

    1. The cover shows St Leonards Pier. It’s one of those typically British piers where no ships or boats ever dock. They exist purely for pleasure and leisure.

  7. What a wonderful review, it actually made me pick up this book, and I was not disappointed. I have been following Rayne’s posts about writing, which helped me a lot, but now I have discovered two more great authors. Definitely recommend!

  8. Oh, I don’t think I’d read this on a beach. Such beautiful horror anthologies are best read in a dimly lit bedroom in a rented seaside house, at least for me. 😉

  9. When I go to the beach usually I like to feed the seagulls and view them as beautiful and harmless birds. I hope I can keep my vision for the seagulls when I see one next time. Rayne’s seagulls are nothing like the ones I know. Let’s just hope I don’t run into the seagulls from the book. Rayne, can you see a scary side on anything? How can you transform something so calm and innocent into such a monster?

  10. I’m currently delving into the world of cosmic horror. I love the way the characters expand and it stimulates my mind.
    Any suggestions for ‘must read’ cosmic horror novels?

  11. I have a question for all three writers:

    Was it difficult for you all to write this novel together?
    What were the challenges you faced when it came to creative difficulties?

    I have always admired people who can work together to create a world for people to lose themselves in without losing the plot.

  12. I especially liked ‘Seagulls’. Having lived on the coast for a lot of my life I thought Rayne Hall captured the eeriness of the birds really well, reflecting in the MC’s growing state of panic.

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