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‘Beneath her soft skin covering, my mother was once made of twigs and branches. Sometimes in the autumn I swear there was a gleam of berry in her eye, a sloe-shine peep between the thorny tangle of her lashes.’
In this debut collection of stories Carly Holmes peers into every corner of the strange fiction genre: from rural gothic through to traditional ghost stories and the uncanny. Mothers turn into trees when the sun goes down; Russian Dolls mourn their missing sisters in rotting houses; men offer sacrifices to the monsters who embody their inner wildness; and murderous demons protect young girls’ virginity.
Ranging from flash fiction to novelette, these stories are in turn chilling, playful, and melancholy. The bonds of family and of community, both in their fracturing and their healing states, the uneasy relationship between living in the present and yearning for the past, are themes that thread their way through Figurehead. Every tale is rich with landscapes haunted by loss and longing.
First published in limited edition collectable hardback by Tartarus Press in 2018. This edition contains three new stories.
‘Sleep’ was selected for Best Horror of the Year Volume 11.
"Figurehead is, primarily, an interrogation of womanhood through the lens of the gothic and weird, and its portrayal of femininity is closely linked to nature, wildness, and a kind of magic that’s rooted in the earth ... Through beautiful, rhythmic prose Figurehead weaves a sequence of stories that are strange, captivating, and unforgettable." Wales Arts Review
“This truly is quality literature of our modern times” – The British Fantasy Society
"Figurehead fits perfectly in the ‘strange genre’ if strange was a genre, as in many ways it defies any genre that it would appear to fit ... One of the main aspects I really enjoyed about Figurehead is its visual style. Many of these tales are extremely and simply visualised, this helps make the book a real page-turner, and gives it a ‘televisual’ quality that leaves the reader waiting for the next episode with bated breath." – Tomas Stanger, Pilgrim House
"Some of the stories are modern day fairy tales, with characters called Gretel knowingly wandering through, while others such as the eponymous story ‘Figurehead’ offer out-and-out fantasy in which the wooden figure on a ship’s prow is given voice to share with us her marine adventures just as ‘Little Matrons’ finds Russian dolls revealing their inner secrets. There’s a confident sense of logic underpinning all of this, a believability to such extraordinary events and happenings which is all down to the author’s assured skill in harnessing a wild imagination to the dark drifts of story." Nation.Cymru
“(An) impressive first collection ... skilfully orchestrated” – Publisher’s Weekly “starred” review
"Carly Holmes is a bewitching writer, and Figurehead is a book that's as full of eeriness and enchantment as one could ever wish for." Buzz Magazine
“Carly Holmes is one of the most gifted writers I’ve come across in recent years” – The Supernatural Tales Blog
“This is a superb book by a writer to watch” – Katherine Stansfield
“These stories are extraordinary” – Tyler Keevil
“To read Carly Holmes is to be enchanted. Luscious, flowing prose that is never afraid to peer into the wild” – Angela Readman
"Glorious, confident writing" Horla
Interview with Carly Holmes here.
Feature on Figurehead in Nation.Cymru here.
Carly Holmes lives and writes on the banks of the river Teifi in west Wales. Her debut novel, The Scrapbook, was shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Award, and her prize-winning short prose has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Ambit, The Ghastling, Shadows & Tall Trees Volume 8, Uncertainties and Black Static.