Warner Holme Review: Ramsey Campbell, Certainly

Ramsey Campbell, Certainly, Edited by S.T. Joshi
Drugstore Indian Press, 2021

Review by Warner Holme: Ramsey Campbell, Certainly is a collection, of essays by the well-known horror author. A man who started young, this volume deals primarily in his work after the turn of the millennium. While the subject matter, style, and purpose of each piece varied greatly there is a unity in that they all serve as reflections and expressions of Campbell’s interests and influences.

An example of the stranger pieces comes with “Getting the Bird.” This essay is very much not in the style of the direct and informative, instead more a piece of prose poetry which informs the reader about Campbell and in the process about the genre. It is certainly not something a reader can pay attention to only in the passing, although other strange poetical pieces such as a short playful piece titled “Steve Jones” show that the style in the collection continues to vary.

Many of the articles are in tribute to or simply discussing individuals whom Campbell had a personal relationship. While informative about the genre, these are also quite detailed and entertaining when it comes to the human element, providing personal thanks and anecdotes on more than one occasion. Such details sometimes reference back to the works of the people in question, yet it is just as likely that “Coming to Liverpool”, one of the longer pieces in the collection, is a fairly autobiographical one. Detailing much or the life of his mother, including some of her attempts to be published, and a great deal of disturbing personal and historical information about her. It is a stark and unusual piece, detailing abusive behavior by his father and a steady descent into some degree of madness by his mother. While the telling of such Tales, even from one’s family, is nothing unusual it is none the less an illustration of just how personal some of the information in this volume is.

The collection begins with a very nice introduction by editor S. T. Joshi. In it he expresses his own interests in Ramsey Campbell, some of the influence the man possessed in the genre, and explain some of the contents of the book. It is short and to the point. On the other hand, at the end, while there is a list of acknowledgments, namely the first place each piece appeared, there is no index. This is unfortunate as the subjects covered in this volume vary widely, and the table of contents does not have much utility in searching up information. While it does not ruin the book or its usefulness, this is nonetheless a notable flaw.

Ramsey Campbell, Certainly is an enjoyable read to anyone interested in the various subjects it covers. It is also a very convenient collection of nonfiction work by the author in question, and his thoughts upon the genre in which he plies his trade. To anyone interested in scholarship related to these subjects, or to Ramsey Campbell himself, it would be an invaluable tool, and those interested in weird fiction and horror are encouraged to check it out.

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