Darkest Part of the Woods

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Overview

For decades the lives of the Price family have been snarled with the fate of the ancient forest of Goodmanswood. There, Dr. Lennox Price discovered an hallucinogenic moss which quickly became the focus of a cult. Though the moss is long gone, the whole forest can now affect the minds of visitors.

After Lennox is killed trying to return to his beloved wood, his widow sees and hears him in the trees-or is it a dark version of the Green Man that caresses her with leafy hands? ...

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Overview

For decades the lives of the Price family have been snarled with the fate of the ancient forest of Goodmanswood. There, Dr. Lennox Price discovered an hallucinogenic moss which quickly became the focus of a cult. Though the moss is long gone, the whole forest can now affect the minds of visitors.

After Lennox is killed trying to return to his beloved wood, his widow sees and hears him in the trees-or is it a dark version of the Green Man that caresses her with leafy hands? Lennox's grandson heeds a call to lie in his lover's arms in the very heart of the forest-and cannot help but wonder what the fruit of that love will be.

And Heather, Lennox's daughter, who turned her back on her father's mysteries and sought sanctuary in the world of facts and history? Goodmanswood summons her as well . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers will hesitate to visit their favorite chain bookstore after finishing this horror tour de force from British author Campbell (The Darkest Part of the Woods). Texts, an American bookseller, has just opened its first U.K. outlet in newly built Fenny Meadows retail park, and manager Woody Blake is struggling to whip the store into shape, despite such perplexing setbacks as computers spitting out flyers with embarrassing typos and books nightly disarranging themselves on the shelves and oozing grubby residues. You might think that something from the boggy terrain was corrupting the store environment and indeed that's what a local author suggests when he recounts the site's ancient history of draining itself, then swallowing up villages built on it. The stage is set for shocking revelations when Woody calls for a work all-nighter and the staff finally see what's patronizing their store after hours. Eldritch horrors are Campbell's forte, and he does a brilliant job of insinuating them into the modern work environment through computers, cell phones and security cameras whose apparent malfunction is an index to the indescribable forces they channel. His rich and evocative prose serves, like the Fenny Meadows fog, to wrap scenes in a dense miasma of disturbing images and shadowy shapes. Nearly plotless, this novel is one of his most sustained exercises in atmosphere and a high water mark of horror. Agent, Kay McCauley. (Apr. 1)FYI: Campbell has won more than 20 World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Bram Stoker and other major awards. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Since Dr. Lennox Price's discovery of a hallucinogenic moss growing nearby his family home, the Price family has been inextricably linked with the ancient forest known as Goodmanswood. As family members hear the call of the wood and answer it in their own way, the forest works its eerie spell on them, changing their lives to suit its own dark purposes. A master storyteller of horror fiction, Campbell brings his landscapes to life, imbuing them with personalities and motives that are as inhuman as they are beautiful and terrible. Eloquent and complex, this dark fantasy belongs in most horror collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Campbell's masterpiece. As ever, Campbell places believable characters into fabulously dark situations and lets the situation become more memorable than the characters (Midnight Sun, 1990, etc.). Although this time they're an agreeable group of interesting folks, they too fade once the fun-ride is over. The strongest invention here remains the horror out of space and time that's centered in Goodmanswood, outside Brichester. When the American professor of popular delusions hears of the madness of crowds in Brichester, he goes there and hasn't left since-indeed, he winds up as an inmate of the Arbours, a home for the mentally bombed. Lennox is married to Margo, a painter/sculptor, and they have two daughters: Sylvia, a pregnant vegan who writes books about the weird stuff her father wrote about; and older daughter Heather, who works in a bookstore and is divorced mother to Sam, Lennox's grandson, who hopes to go into publishing (to us Sam would be better off saving trees from publishers). In fact, Sam limps from an ankle he broke while living in a tree and trying to save it from being cut down for a bypass. But-the horror. Some time ago it was noted that a mound existed in Goodmanswood with strange lighted insects flying around it, while several trees around the mound held a lichen that, if touched, gave a person lasting hallucinations-the madness Lennox came to write about. Every now and then, Lennox and a group of fellow hallucinators escape from the Arbours and go off to the mound, along "the path that led to itself." What is the secret of the mound? Far better than the secret, when it's at last revealed in eye-scraping gothic type, is the buildup of a living darkness within the woods, adarkness blacker than night itself, with falling leaves that circle about and return as bits of blackness to their trees. And this is magically fresh and memorable. What happens when you go into the woods, children.
From the Publisher
"What distinguishes [this novel] is the suppleness, fluidity, and richly textured elegance of its prose. Campbell's writing has never been better; his etching of character has never been more telling and shrewd; his modulation of the narrative has never been surer."

Weird Tales on Pact of the Fathers

"The world Ramsey Campbell takes for granted is the world of our darkest nightmares. Horrors in his fiction are never merely invented, they are felt and experienced, and affect the reader for days afterward."

—Peter Straub, New York Times bestselling author of A Dark Matter

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765346827
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ramsey Campbell has won more awards than any other living author of horror or dark fantasy, including four World Fantasy Awards, nine British Fantasy Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards, and two International Horror Guild Awards. Critically acclaimed both in the US and in England, Campbell is widely regarded as one of the genre's literary lights for both his short fiction and his novels. His classic novels, such as The Face that Must Die, The Doll Who Ate His Mother, and The Influence, set new standards for horror as literature. His collection, Scared Stiff, virtually established the subgenre of erotic horror.

Ramsey Campbell's works have been published in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and several other languages. He has been President of the British Fantasy Society and has edited critically acclaimed anthologies, including Fine Frights. Campbell's best known works in the US are Obsession, Incarnate, Midnight Sun, and Nazareth Hill.

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Read an Excerpt

I

The Mound in the Dark

HEATHER was scanning into the computer a book that smelled of all its centuries when Randall answered the phone. She looked up to find him holding a finger to his faint smile as if hushing himself until she was ready for him. His bushy brows were raised high, and as their gazes met, his wide pale blue eyes gave in to a blink. "An American lady is asking for you," he said.

She picked up the flat almost weightless receiver from his amiably strewn desk. "Heather Price."

"Heather…"

Her mother's voice sounded both determined and exhausted. "What's happened?" Heather said.

"Your father's out. Six of them have gone into the woods." Her phone demonstrated its mobility with an outburst of vicious static and subtracted a few syllables from "I'm driving over there now."

"Do you want me to as well?"

"I wish you would. The more of us there are—" The completion of her thought was lost in a chorus of static, after which a tattered version of her voice said "We'll find each other."

"I have to leave early," Heather told Randall, who was gripping his lowered chin and rubbing it with a thumb while he eyed a fluorescent tube that went some way towards bringing the rafters up to date. When his head lifted as his gaze descended, unsure how concerned it was entitled to look, she said "I have to leave now. Could you scan those last few pages for me?"

"I'll be more than glad."

She squeezed his surprised arm with both hands on the way to grabbing her handbag and coat from the stand behind her desk. She let herself out of the gate in the stout oaken counter and hurried between the massive tables surrounded by students at books and computer terminals. Three lecturers discussing cricket passed her abreast in the echoing vaulted sandstone corridor before she ran out of the towering front doors of the university, under an arch two feet thick, to the car park.

The air was edged with a late October chill. As she hastened to her car, past saplings crystalline with spiders' beaded webs, she felt as if the thinnest glaze of ice were fitting itself to her cheeks and forehead. The long lofty Gothic facade and its high pointed windows had acquired a glitter reminiscent of frost. When she started her Civic, the engine produced a cloud worthy of any of the bonfires due next week.

The main streets of Brichester were already clogged with traffic. She was wishing she had headed for the motorway by the time she reached the foot of Mercy Hill. As she drove up through its ribs of terraced streets, past the hospital that overlooked a graveyard, she remembered how her father used to drive her and Sylvia to the top when they were little—how he'd urged them to see as far as they could. The memory made her release a long slow breath that blurred the wind screen, unless the blurring was in her eyes. A mist was coating the lights of Brichester with luminous fur, while to the west, beyond the river Severn reddened by a low gigantic sun, Wales glimmered like a scattering of white-hot ash. To the east the motorway shone white and red, and at the eastern limit of her vision the Cotswold hills were a mass of humps in assorted shades of grey. Ahead to the north she saw a brownish mass that looked small enough to grasp with one hand. She drove faster towards it and the new bypass.

She heard lorries before the unkempt hedges of the old Goodmanswood road let her see them. As soon as she sped onto the bypass, vehicles big enough for families to inhabit blocked her view. At least they were no longer using Goodmanswood as a route between the motorway and Sharpness on the Severn, but they prevented her from seeing the woods until she was almost alongside. Without warning the lorry in front of her veered into the right-hand lane, causing another behemoth to gasp and bray, and she saw the woods stretching ahead to the left of the road, their leaves all the colours of old paper, shiny as scales in the gathering dimness. As the lorries roared onward, past a new roadsign that had acquired a greenish tinge, she swung her car into a lay-by. She fished her flashlight from behind her seat and ducked out of the car.

The clamour of traffic blotted out any sounds among the trees. There was movement in the woods, but none of it was alive. Whenever headlights swung around the curve beyond the lay-by, rank after rank of trees flared up, as lattices of shadow trawled the dimness. She could hardly get lost in less than a square mile of woods when the bypass was making so much noise, but she hoped that wouldn't cover up any sounds of her family. She stepped off the concrete of the lay-by onto soft slippery leaf-strewn earth.

Beam after headlight beam solidified by mist preceded her between the trees. Her shadow kept springing up in front of her, caged by tree-trunks, while unexpectedly chill shadows of trees glided over her back. Before long the beams fell short of her, but she didn't need to use the flashlight yet; she had only to head for the sunset that tinged the highest leaves crimson as though the world was yielding up blood to the sky. Perhaps the dimmest stretch of the headlights was still visible beyond her, producing an impression of thin movements that of dodged between the trees. The traffic noise was muffled now, but a backward glance showed her a shuttling of lights. "Mother?" she tried calling, and raised her voice. "Anyone?"

She thought she heard a distant pair of syllables respond from the direction of the sinking glow. She followed as straight a route as she could towards it through the wooden maze, around humps of scaly earth. Moist air that tasted of fog and decay caught in her throat as she called "If you can hear me, give a shout" and switched the flashlight on.

She hoped it would show where she was. While its beam illuminated her way, it persisted in starting thin shapes out of concealment behind the trees, the kind of sight she could imagine troubling her as a child. She tried standing still and listening for sounds other than the drip of condensation around her in the dimness. She could no longer hear the bypass. "Where are you?" she called, because she felt observed.

"Heather."

So Margo was the watcher, wherever she was. Unsure what she could see ahead, Heather switched the flashlight off. The underbelly of the sky lurched at her, lowering itself on countless legs—at least, that was how it might have seemed to her before she'd grown up. She narrowed her eyes to make them work. Just close enough for her to believe the spectacle was real, trees glowed in the midst of the crowded dimness. "Is the light you?" she shouted.

"We're here."

Of course, the search had found its object, and the glow was of flashlights. As she followed her light towards it, a multitude of thin glistening shapes stepped out from behind their companions and shadows hitched themselves across the chaos of fallen leaves. She'd hurried some hundreds of yards before she was certain she could see lights converging on her goal. Another few strides and she was able to make out a uniformed nurse from the Arbour. He reached the clearing in the middle of the woods as she did.

The clearing was perhaps a hundred yards wide. Her father and five other people were posed on a ring of bricks far too low to be described as a wall. It took Heather a moment to recognise it from her childhood. The six appeared to be precisely equidistant on it, and staring at the shallow mound it encircled. They looked transfixed by the convergence of lights that united their shadows like a huge six-legged insect on the mound.

Her mother stood just outside the ring of bricks, directly in front of Heather's father, hugging herself with her arms folded over the artist's apron she wore in the studio. Her small face was more wrinkled than ever around lips pursed pale and greenish eyes that might have been determined not to blink until he acknowledged her. "I've just this instant got here," she told Heather, apparently to explain her lack of effect, and redoubled her frown at him. "Come off there, Lennox. You're working everyone up."

When this produced no result she turned her little body but not her head towards their daughter. "Look who's here. Look, she's here to help take you back. Look."

"Yes, do come with us, dad. You don't want to stay out here when it's getting dark."

His gaze didn't shift from the mound. He was clasping his left wrist with his right hand behind his back as if recalling how it felt to be a professor. As he leaned forward an inch into a flashlight beam, the furrows etched across his wide forehead and down his long loose face appeared to deepen while his brows and shock of hair grew even whiter. Either he'd neglected to comb his hair or the woods had dishevelled it, and Heather couldn't tell how much of their brightness his large blue eyes owed to a resolution not to look confused. She was swallowing a sudden taste of grief when he muttered "Where's the other?"

"I'm not understanding you, Lennox."

"The one who came last. Sister Twig."

"Are you talking about Sylvia? She's somewhere in America. It was Heather who stayed, and you won't even look at her."

"It's all right, mummy. I understand why dad wants Sylvia," Heather was quick to say. "Only why are you here, dad? You don't need to come here any more."

His gaze drifted towards her and grew unexpectedly sad. She wasn't sure he was responding to her until he said "Why are any of us, Heather?"

"I can't say," she admitted, hoping fiercely that he'd reverted to his old self. "Can you?"

"Didn't you hear?"

A flashlight must have shifted, which was why the trees beyond him appeared to edge attentively forward. "Hear what?" Margo demanded impatiently. "You're the lecturer."

He clapped his hands, a sound that rattled through the woods. With delight or incredulity he declared "They never heard."

Heather made herself relax before her innards tightened too much. All of his fellow patients had burst out laughing—a woman whose fingers were clasped prayerfully together so hard they gleamed white, a man apparently unable to prevent his head from ducking from side to side, a woman digging her fingertips into her cheeks as though to support her protuberant eyes, a man whose fists had spent minutes in beginning to open towards the mound, another poised in a crouch that seemed on the point of dropping him to his knees. Four male nurses from the Arbour who had been attempting to persuade them off the bricks fell silent as the five turned just their heads to Lennox. He glanced at each of them, a smile trembling on his broad thick lips. "Maybe," he said at last, "his mouth's full."

Not all of his companions were happy to greet this with laughter, but the woman with clasped hands and the crouched man made up for the rest. "Well, okay," Lennox said when they eventually subsided. "We may as well go."

He gestured to include Heather and Margo and the nurses in his invitation as he stepped off the bricks. He'd barely started across the clearing when the other patients followed him. "Fair enough, that's the way," Heather heard a nurse murmur to his colleagues. "Just stay close."

She saw the flashlight beams jerk among the trees, casting a net of shadows over Lennox and his followers. "Thanks, Heather," Margo said and gave her a shaky hug. "I don't know what I'd do without you."

"You'd do pretty amazingly," Heather assured her, "as if that's news to anyone."

Margo kept hold of her. "My car's at the Arbour. Shall I drive you back to yours?"

"You don't want to be walking alone in the woods now it's dark," Heather understood aloud. As they reached the edge of the clearing she took Margo's arm and glanced back. She might have turned her flashlight beam that way if she had been by herself. Instead she shone it forward, illuminating her mother's route, and saw how the nurses appeared to be using their lights to herd the patients between the scaly columns in the dark. There was nothing behind her that she hadn't already seen, she reflected. Three decades must have exposed more of the ring of bricks, that was all. When she and Sylvia were children they had called it the path that led to itself.

Copyright © 2002 by Ramsey Campbell

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2006

    I have not finished it, but this book is like pulling teeth

    Do not judge this book by its cover. The artwork on the front is the only redeeming quality of the book. Once you open the book, let the boredom and horrible plot begin.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2005

    ...dot dot dot...

    I have to say, I did like this books plot, and most of all the imagery, but it seemed a bit lengthy at times. Don't get me wrong the book is great, but I think sometimes it was a little too detailed on some things and it made it kind of monotonous.I still reccomed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2003

    Great horror tale

    American professor Dr. Lennox Price moves his family to Goodmanswood, England to study the dark legends surrounding the area especially the delusions of the nearby residents. However, instead of debunking the myths, Lennox is soon sucked into his work as a converted true believer. Thus he is committed, but quickly develops a cult following among the asylum¿s crazier folks.<P> His daughter archivist Heather follows up on her father¿s enigmatic beliefs about Goodmanswood that links them to the alchemist Nathaniel Selcouth, who resided there. Heather digs into the works of Nathaniel, who apparently was trying to fashion a messenger who would serve as his servant in seeking the outer limits of the spiritual and physical universe. Meanwhile, children insist a grotesque 'sticky man' resides in the woods. Heather wonders if he exists and if he does is he the evil behind all the malevolence destroying the Price family?<P> THE DARKEST PART OF THE WOODS is a classic horror tale that works because of the set up by Ramsey Campbell is at its best here. The Price family are intelligent nice people who are being overwhelmed by a sinister darkness that grows ever menacing with each new page. The story line is taut as readers will feel the creepiness of the woods that transforms into something immoral and dangerous. Mr. Campbell is at his best with this superb horror thriller.<P> Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Necro

    She sat and sighed, she embraced her death and solitude

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2013

    Hawkfrost

    We could always try again you know..." he brushed against her. His tailtip resting against her belly. "With the kits." He moewed against her ear.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    Owlfur

    Felt like she was choking and fell unconcious. Something grabbed the stone

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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