‘Nowhere Hall’ by Cate Gardner Review

You may have heard of Cate Gardner, her name is mentioned in numerous blogs, twitter feeds and writing forums.  Her work is published in numerous magazines and books and her collection of short stories titled ‘Strange men in pinstripe suits’ has gained rave reviews and praise for its inventiveness and originality. I’m happy to say Cate isn’t one to rest on her laurels. ‘Nowhere Hall’ published by ‘Spectralpress’ more than fulfills the promise of her earlier work. The strangeness is still present (we wouldn’t want it any other way) so too is her ability to make unnatural events and characters seem as real as the very air we breathe, but this time she has added a layer of melancholy upon each page that is beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

‘Nowhere Hall’ begins with a broken man standing upon the kerb contemplating stepping in to the traffic in an attempt to end the many failures of his apparently pointless life. Ron, it seems is such a failure that even this task is beyond his capabilities. He dawdles, teetering on the edge between hopelessness and extinction, watching others around him, silently wanting to be seen, to be noticed and perhaps to be saved. He turns to look behind him, aware that his actions are being watched; the concierge of a hotel tips his hat in Ron’s direction, a silent gesture telling ‘I see you and your lack of conviction.’ The world it seems does notice him, it just doesn’t care. Feathers caught on the breeze, pulled from a passing woman’s dress rise into the sky and Ron’s eyes follow their ascent, it is here that he captures sight of a black umbrella tumbling down, apparently falling from the nearby hotel. He catches it, and sees a tag attached. Written upon it are the words ‘We want to live. Help us.’  He looks back to the hotel, a moment ago a monument of gleaming gold and polished brick, now it sits neglected, the concierge gone, its windows boarded up, it’s welcoming entrance lost to dust and time.

What follows is open to each reader’s interpretation. Is Ron hallucinating, is it a dream, or did he indeed step into the road and find himself in some strange after-life?  Each person will find their own answer and it is in this tight-rope walk of not giving too much away but just enough that makes ‘Nowhere Hall’ such a fantastic read.  It’s not the only reason of course. Cate’s writing is top notch here. The description is the kind that makes other writers wince at how good it is, the inventiveness imaginative and the prose elegant and intelligent. The ‘Vestibule hotel’ is beautifully rendered taking on a character of its own as Ron walks its halls and tries to uncover its secrets. Its wallpaper peels (revealing the disconcerting image of a spindly man holding an umbrella); its rooms hold ghosts and play out memories, desires, dreams?  And its staircases creak and groan as we (well Ron) move further up eager to understand more of its mystery.

And there is mystery here, just as there is terror and yes, even beauty. All it wrapped together in a dark yet heart wrenching atmosphere that is expertly created in Cates unique style. I’ve read a number of books lately, many by well know authors such as ‘John Connolly ‘, ‘Gary McMahon’ and ‘Ramsey Campbell’ each has been enjoyable and rewarding, yet it’s ‘Nowhere Hall’ that I keep returning to. I find myself thinking about it whilst at work, when I’m standing at the checkout and lazing on my sofa. I find myself haunted just as Ron is and it’s this perhaps that makes Cates outing so special. It stays with you long after you have turned the final page. I look forward to reading more of Cate’s work and advise you to do the same. If this is an indication of what’s to come from her in the future then we are in for a very enjoyable ride.

Right, now the bad news. ‘Nowhere Hall’ saw only a limited print run, all of which sold out very quickly, so unless you have been lucky enough to grab a copy, you’re going to be hard pressed to get your hands on it. Saying that, I have a feeling that it may be taken up by other publishers (I’m looking at you Ellen Daltrow and Stephen Jones) and re-printed elsewhere in the future. I hope this is the case as this deserves a wide audience. Failing that, if any of you out there do want to read it (and if not, why not) then email me directly at beckettbaron@btinternet.com and I will lend (my copy is special to me so I do want it back and failure to return it will mean I will send the demons of hell after your ass) you my copy along with postage for it to be returned. Can’t say fairer than that. See, I bet you’re glad you took the time to visit now.

Cate’s collection ‘strange men in pinstriped suits’ is available at Amazon and also check out her forthcoming Novella ‘Barbed wire hearts’ forthcoming from Delirium books. You can find all about Cate and her work at her website www.categardner.net

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One Response in another blog/article

  1. […] And here we are, on another cold and grey Monday morning, wondering just how quickly we can make the week go by until it’s the weekend again. Well, here’s something that will at least occupy a small portion of that time: a great new review of Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall, this time from Richard Baron and posted to his personal website – you can get to it by clicking the link here. […]