Title: Lost and Found
Author: Simon Avery
Collection: Beneath The Ground
Editor: Joel Lane
Publisher: Alchemy Press
Release Date: 2002, although I’ve also heard that a “problem with printers” meant the release date was actually 2003.
The blurb on the back of Beneath The Ground promises “tales that explore the transition between our world and the tunnels and mines beneath”. As with any anthology, some of the tales are more successful at fulfilling this promise than others and, as we all know, “getting” a story is a very subjective thing. Two stories in this collection really stood out for me; Where Once I Did My Love Beguile by John Howard and Lost and Found by Simon Avery. It was difficult to pick just one for review but in the end I opted for Simon’s story as it fed into an old phobia of mine, the London Underground system.
Lost and Found is, at its most basic, the tale of an obscure folk singer’s descent into madness and his eventual disappearance told through his friend (who remains nameless). It is set in both the seventies, when Danny’s life falls apart, and in the early 2000’s, when his friend and Danny’s sister renew an old relationship. Simon bridges the two decades beautifully with a series of letters sent from Danny to the friend who then shares them with Danny’s sister, Sarah.
Throughout his mental breakdown Danny becomes increasingly obsessed with the London Underground system, finding himself there frequently when he wakes, and ultimately becoming convinced of its otherworldly nature to which he is invariably drawn. As his sister points out, “it was London. Somehow, once it got hold of him, it was corrosive”.
Each detail of the story crafted by Simon feeds a quietly oppressive feel to the narration. This is just another London disappearance which goes unnoticed apart from by Danny’s close friends; there are no national headlines, no public outcry, just another person lost to the city. As for Danny’s version of events, told through his letters, this is just as simply told. That otherworldly existence he glimpses then pursues just is, without any need to over-describe or fill with visceral images.
Lost and Found is a beautiful and haunting read, one which won’t easily be forgotten.
Sharon Ring’s blog is Dark Fiction Review