brfgI’d read several glowing reviews of this debut collection by Allyson Bird before I finally got chance to read it, so I approached it with much anticipation. After the first few stories it soon became apparent that it was indeed the work of a very talented new writer.

Published by Screaming Dreams, Bull Running For Girls features 21 tales of ‘adventure-horror’, of which only five have been previously published. It seems remarkable that this is a debut collection, given the variety and breadth of stories contained within. Comparisons have been drawn with the very best practitioners of the weird tale, and this seems entirely justified. The stories encompass many locations, including Hong Kong, Pompeii, Bordeaux, the UK, Pamplona, and the US, and there is a broad gathering of cultures and mythologies touched upon. A sweeping gothic current stands over the collection, both in the tone, description, and sense of bleak madness that the protagonists – usually female – seem to teeter on.

Favourite stories – ‘The Caul Bearer’ is a densely written piece, full of macabre menace and acute chills. I could almost feel the sea mist on my face. ‘Bull Running’ reminded me slightly of Du Maurier’s ‘Don’t Look Now’, with its portents and doom-laden motifs. Several of the stories have autobiographical elements to them, and these chilling telltale signs have a strong resonance. The gothic-laden ‘Dissolution’ is rich with the tone and style of the grotesque.

Many collections suffer from the fact that the tales feel a little bit similar to each another; not so with this book. The travelogue narratives keep them fresh and unexplored, and you truly feel like you’re experiencing something new. All in all, this book is highly recommended. Featuring an introduction by Gary McMahon and excellent cover art by Vincent Chong, Bull Running For Girls announces Allyson Bird as a writer with a very bright future. *****

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