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Short Story Reviews

Sources are cited at the end of each review excerpt.

The Girl with No Face (Published in La Femme)

In ‘The Girl With No Face’ we head into comedy horror territory with John Llewellyn Probert’s arch homage to the country house horror of Hammer and the French-Italian film classic Les yeux sans visage. A young woman turns up late at night at the home of a leading plastic surgeon and insists, at gun point, that he change her appearance there and then. He, a bereaved widower, has a secret of his own. Events become increasingly, but entertainingly, ludicrous.

Gary Dalkin - Amazing Stories

How the Other Half Dies (Published in The Eighth Black Book of Horror)

John Llewellyn Probert's How The Other Half Dies takes place in one of those ivy-clad mansions complete with a leather wing-backed chair - 'oxblood' no less! But it's anything but traditional or predictable. Although Probert's tale is about storytelling and its dark side, there is no question of any of his characters settling down in such a chair for an evening of cosy, fireside ghost stories. From the first page you can see where the story is heading: down into the depths of human depravity and degradation. It's a gratifyingly sick and twisted joke, whose punch-line made me laugh out loud, but the twist doesn't come out of nowhere. Probert peels away the layers of the story like an onion, or perhaps it might be more apt to compare it to the way his unpleasant central characters peel away... On second thoughts, let's stick with the onion simile, because this story certainly made my eyes water. And not just with laughter.
Together with Probert's Six Of The Best (in the Sixth Black Book Of Horror), about a corrupt TV executive on a paranormal channel, and his It Begins At Home in the series seventh anthology, with its brutally cynical take on charitable advertising campaigns, How The Other Half Dies reads as the third part of a trilogy satirising the mass media in the nastiest way possible. Or I could just be making all that up.
How The Other Half Dies is angry, grisly and horribly funny: it should be given away free with the Daily Mail, as compulsory reading for those who propose the legalisation of vigilantism. Only they'd probably get off on it, if the odious couple in the story is anything to go by.

Tom Johnstone

From 'The Zone' Review

It Begins at Home (Published in the Seventh Black Book of Horror)

This is my problem with John Llewellyn Probert’s horror: I vastly enjoy the anecdotes, the quirky humour and the stylish approach but when he stops being funny I get ridiculously scared. IT BEGINS AT HOME offers us some surgery but perhaps not with the precision we might expect and, because of our expectations, we suffer a lot more. It’s a tale with an unexpected twist that leaves the poor reader with a very genuine but grim aftertaste. Don’t visit this without emotional anesthetic.

John & Jenny and the Lump (Published in The Third Black Book of Horror)

(A) more left field attempt at disquieting and disturbing the reader with a children's book style of writing which will leave a small shiver for anyone who is currently at that stage of reading Peter & Jane books to their children

Lee Medcalf                                                                                                                                      Pantechnicon

In Sickness And... (Published in The Second Black Book of Horror)

There's a whiff of old school craziness about 'In Sickness And...', the tale of a rogue marriage counsellor, who comes in and screws up everybody's lives, then goes home to her husband. It's an over the top exercise in madness that's both unbelievable and great fun.

Peter Tennant                                                                                                                       From 'Black Static' Issue 5

Guided Tour (Published in Supernatural Tales 12)

John L Probert (definitely a new writer to watch) contributes ‘Guided Tour’, plainly allegorical but as frightening as a real spook, where a disenchanted young man manages to carry on with his life after a love disillusionment.

Mario Guslandi
Future Fire Reviews

Size Matters (Published in the anthology ‘The Black Book of Horror’)

A nasty little schlocker about a man hell bent on penis enlargement surgery with a vicious sting in the tail and descriptive passages guaranteed to make the strongest wince.

Peter Tennant
From ‘Black Static’ Issue 2

The Comeback Kid (Published in the anthology ‘When Graveyards Yawn’)

A smart quickie pushing the idea of reincarnation to the farthest limit

Mario Guslandi
‘Whispers of Wickedness’ Review

Special Offer (Published in the anthology ‘Read by Dawn Volume 1’)

A vivid, effective report of how a merciless organization helps people to get rid of their debts for just a little price.

Mario Guslandi
Horror World Book Reviews June 2006

The Volkendorf Exhibition (Published in the anthology ‘Poe’s Progeny’)

When I think of Poe’s influence, I don’t think of well-crafted crime stories, or seafaring adventure; frankly, I’m looking for a touch of the barking mad. John L. Probert’s ‘The Volkendorf Exhibition’ (is) entirely worthy of the Gothic Poe of my preconceptions. It pushes real world trends in body art into Grand Guignol nightmare, and I found it deeply disturbing in the way I associate with Poe’s writing. Probert pursues the logic of a distinctively sick premise with Sadean logic and gusto. I was left slightly worried by this one, and in context, that seems entirely appropriate.

Douglas Campbell
 All Hallows No. 41

Offers an offbeat look at the art world and its more extreme practices - a vignette with a satisfyingly nasty sting in the tale that more than justifies its status as conte cruel.

Peter Tennant
From ‘The Third Alternative’ Issue 42

Entertaining…a bizarre tale with a nasty ending in the tradition of the conte cruel

Mario Guslandi
‘Saluting the Masters’
Emerald City Review

My own favourites (included)…’The Volkendorf Exhibition’ by John L Probert. Clever and cruel.

Terry Gates-Grimwood
 ‘Whispers of Wickedness’ Review

The Moving Image (Published in Supernatural Tales 9)

I got deeply engrossed in The Moving Image by John Llewellyn Probert, where dark secrets are hidden within the frames of extremely rare films shot by a forgotten movie director. Although here and there the story is a bit foggy and lacks plausibility, the global effect is very atmospheric and unsettling.

Mario Guslandi
The Zone Review

A wonderfully readable novella. A real sense of delicate suggestive evocative scariness (the bottom line in this field) and prose that purred like a well-tuned Bentley. Writing so smooth I’m convinced at one stage it asked me for a Vodka Martini, shaken (yes) and stirred (yes, yes!), with a complex technique at work beneath that silky surface that has a genuine ability to unsettle.

Gary Fry
Editor, Gray Friar Press

Taking Over (Published in Fusing Horizons Issue 3)

Starts off quietly, and even ends quietly, but we’ve had a few surprises in the meantime, cunningly meted out. A well-dressed lady of 33 wants to look round a large Georgian property for sale. There are tiny indications, but it’s only after three pages that we learn the lady already knows something about the very unpleasant things that went on in the house, which had been a residential home for the elderly, and some more time before we learn about her own connections to the person who did those things, and, finally, what her own intentions are (as in the title). In the subtle duel between the woman and the estate agent, we see that she takes delight in making him feel uncomfortable, though I’m not sure whether these little cruelties quite make her real intentions believable. And yes, there is something living in the attic. What makes the story successful, I think, is the pacing; we see the present situation from the POV of the woman without being told the back story too quickly, and the whole tale is extremely carefully constructed.

Steve Redwood
‘Whispers of Wickedness’ review

Ophelia (Published in Fusing Horizons No.1)

Bizarre and sadistic…hard to explain without spoiling the twist, but let’s just say I’m glad I’ve left university.

Jeff Gardiner
The Alien Online Review

The title of ‘Ophelia’ by John Llewellyn Probert does rather telegraph its ending, and it is certainly another conte cruel, but in this case a rather quietly repulsive one.

John Howard
 All Hallows No.37

The Trendelenberg Concerto (Published in Here & Now Issue 2)

‘The Trendelenberg Concerto’, a first story by John Llewellyn Probert, is possibly the highlight of the issue, giving us a musician every bit as mad as Lovecraft’s Erich Zann. The story develops at a credible pace, one that makes the train of fantastic events seem entirely plausible, with moments of mystery and gore complementing each other, and the tone of voice with its hint of madness barely held in check is put over well. A very impressive debut and hopefully not the last we’ve heard from Probert.

Peter Tennant
From ‘The Fix’ Issue No.7


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