Tuesday, December 8th , 2009

James Miller Reviews

What Happens When You Wake Up In The Night – Michael Marshall Smith
The Safe Children
– Tom Fletcher

Nightjar is a new small press dedicated to publishing individual short stories in chapbook format. It’s no surprise that Nicholas Royle is behind the enterprise. Ever since he published the ground-breaking Darklands anthologies back in the early 90s, Royle has been at the forefront of challenging new writing, frequently testing the boundaries of conventional ‘genre’ fiction in his work both as a writer and editor. The acclaimed author of five novels and hundreds of short stories, Royle’s work is always original, frequently dark and very disturbing. Nightjar’s first two titles certainly fit these categories: What Happens When You Wake Up In the Night by bestselling sci-fi and thriller stalwart Michael Marshall Smith and The Safe Children by newcomer Tom Fletcher.

Best known for his hugely successful genre fiction, Smith is also a fine short story writer. What Happens When You Wake Up In The Night turns a child’s fear of the dark into reality. A girl wakes up, cold and alone in her bedroom. Her nightlight doesn’t seem to be working, despite her mother’s promises to leave it on, “Mummy had broken the deal.” Written in the deceptively naive tone of a small child, it’s a subtly terrifying tale of disorientation and discovery.

Taken from a very different perspective, Fletcher’s story is also about children and the realisation of our worst fears. Set in a faintly distorted and dystopian near future, a night watchman starts a new job only to discover what really goes on behind the sealed factory doors. Fletcher’s doom-laden descriptions add to the ominous mood, a fusion of individual angst with perverse sexual desire, technology and the ultimate horror of an unregulated free market economy. Clearly a writer to watch out for, Fletcher’s debut novel, The Leaping will be published by Quercus next year, the first in a series of novels exploring alienation and fear in the Lake District. Follow his blog at

Nightjar hopes to publish more original short fiction in the future. Meanwhile, there are only three hundred signed, strictly limited, beautifully packaged editions of these disquieting tales available. Get them while you still can.



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