I loved this book. Every story was different and I loved the fact that some left you wondering what was going to happen. My favourite story was 'Joe Gallows', a gruesome but compelling story. Highly recommend this book."
“He had a need for a very particular kind of slaughter.” p. 1
This eerie collection opens with a story that will disturb the squeamish then eases into a series of tales with intriguing supernatural elements.
The first story “Joe Gallows” craftily made me feel sorry for the unsavory main character before he commits his brutal acts. Joe is creepy and forlorn with a presence that reminded me of the nightly visitor in Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game. This story made me double-check my door locks! I could definitely see this character featured in a full horror novel. Creepy, creepy Joe.
In every story, characters take shape swiftly and the reader is thrust into their strange predicaments with a sense of uneasiness. Folk horror elements abound with ill-intentioned animals and sentient natural elements. “Silent Night” and “The Orchard” told ghost stories of a pub and a rectory orchard so haunted that I didn’t want either to end just yet.
“He flinched, eyes wide in expectation and dread. There came a second knock, harder this time, followed by a firm rapping as if someone was demanding entry.” p. 107
The story “Crawl” built suspense triggered by the simplest of sounds: tapping. The character’s distress mounted with a tension reminiscent of Poe’s Telltale Heart.
“Blank Screen” offered a contemporary, yet still supernatural, jab at online trolls.
I’m now looking forward to reading Oldham’s collection Hag’s Breath to see her unique take on witchcraft and wickedness!
by Nina Johnson
Wakeful children is a fab collection of short stories. Really was a great read. Hoping to see more from the talented S P Oldham.
“Wakeful Children” is a collection of diverse and chilling tales, well-defined characters and worlds rich with astute observations and vivid sensory details. From the semi-rural horror of “Joe Gallows”, the bleak internet chat-rooms of “Blank Screen” and the varied portraits of suburban dread in-between, this anthology of short-stories from S.P. Oldham evokes the menace of Stephen King, the slow-burning terror of H.P. Lovecraft, and the fatalistic spider-webs of Edgar Allen Poe.
And – as with every good short-fiction collection – there is an underlying theme: to read each subsequent story within “Wakeful Children” is to be absorbed deeper down into the eerie places Oldham creates across these startling and suspenseful snapshots, her prose illuminating a nexus half rooted in the tangible realm, and half which can only ever be glimpsed at the furthest reaches of mere perception.
About the book: Eleven short stories varying from slightly spooky to downright terrifying. A mix of different horror genres; certainly not appropriate for children.
Review: I enjoyed how each of the stories was a different kind of horror story. I appreciated that they had length to them but were still short stories. If you love horror I would definitely recommend this book.
by TDC Book Reviews
The whole thing was written in such a perfect way for the type of stories!
Wow.. well these collections of stories really have no limits!
The whole thing was written in such a perfect way for the type of stories. The majority of the stories don't fit under the 'horror' category, but they are 100% of the supernatural genre. The context of the things that happen have got very graphic and vivid image representation which was both extremely strange and i was unsure about but i really also enjoyed this as i have never read anything with so much detail for such short stories!!
Each and every character that is represented in these stories are very head strong and you feel a instant connection to them.
The majority of the stories follow people with very troubled lives which i found to be very sympathetic towards them,given the eerie and descriptive lives they live(d)
What I also found very very interesting was how the stories have got an old fashioned theme run through them and then they jump to reality, i enjoyed this feature quite a lot.
by Leah Dollard
WAKEFUL CHILDREN: A Real Tour-De-force in the Horror Genre
Author S.P Oldham understands the sheer art inherent within the weaving a truly compelling tale. From the very beginning with the story "Joe Gallows", we are lead into a dark world that rushes towards us, like the icy prick and sudden deluge of a surging wave. There is that tingle within the senses, and an emotional rush of foreboding, so familiar, in the best of stories where wickedness and unexpected events take over and you are in for the fearful ride. Such is the first presentation leading off this anthology, and immediately the reader is thrown right into the crux of the narrative.
And what a narrative it is!
This is just the beginning. In total, there are eleven separate tales here, each with the necessary ingredients of light and shadow to add (at the very least) a littler shiver up the spine. My personal favorites include the following: "Joe Gallows", "The Sandman," "The Orchard" and "The Face in the Gale". Any one of these stories could stand alone, be expanded into a longer work, or adapted for the screen.
And while there is great diversity of tone and approach,Oldham applies a language that is concrete and yet features traces of graphic dazzle. You, as the reader, are ultimately seduced.
But the author does not let go of this carefully applied grip. There is mystery, suspense, and an awesome amount of craft at work here.
Even if horror, suspense and the like are not your preferred cup of brew, prepare to have your mind opened and completely blown.
To say I was impressed by the merits and the literary application throughout the pages of this anthology would be a gross and egregious understatement. -L.M. Ross
by L.M Ross
Wakeful Children by S.P. Oldham is a delightful collection of extremely well-written short stories guaranteed to hearken readers back to a cherished past, when they sat by a fire and listened with rapt attention as granny told scary stories. For those not lucky enough to possess such memories, Wakeful Children will fill that gap.
Oldham’s stories read like fairy tales cross pollinated by the Twilight Zone. Some are more gruesome than Grimm. Each tale is told in third person by a gentle, all-knowing voice that lends a haunting, personal quality to each story. Surprise endings and ambiguous conclusions will echo and linger in readers’ minds, causing them to rethink each story.
The characters are all unique: old, young, men, women; some are innocent, and some are downright dangerous. Everyone can find a character with whom they can identify.
The setting of each tale is precise enough to visualize, yet nebulous enough so that readers will feel that they might take place in any small town in Great Britain in various non-specific eras.
The silky plots are all intelligent and well-structured. The speed of each trajectory is carefully timed to hold a reader’s attention, to draw readers more closely into the terror. A grown-up version of the boogey man deliciously lingers over every single second, savoring every bit of terror. Readers will find themselves holding their breath along with the protagonist as he hides under the covers and listens for the ticking sound to draw closer. With a jolt, Joe Gallows transforms from a singular, twisted prankster to something much more dangerous. Ghosts, witches, and even diabolic weather conditions challenge characters and test their ability to survive.
Oldham’s style is clear and economical. She incorporates vivid descriptions and stunning metaphors without burdening the text with unnecessary words. The author’s attention to detail will enhance a reader’s ability visualize each setting without getting bogged down by excess.
The most notable quality of the collection, is the fact that each story has a unique plot. There is absolutely no redundancy among them and no derivative retelling of iconic tales, a sad practice that is all too common in the genre.
It can be said that the full-speed-ahead nature of current society is the perfect reason more readers reach for short story collections. Those who enjoy horror, hauntings, and the unexplained should give Wakeful Children a read.
by Suzanne M Synborski, aka Rougeski
Recommended for fans of the horror genre
Wakeful Children by S P Oldham is a horror anthology that reads fast and is recommended for fans of the genre.
The first story Joe Gallows starts out strong, a tale of a poor man in a cycle of violent abuse and revenge. Absorption, the second story, is more experimental written in second-person and it’s an interesting style. Even the tree is a character.
Once I got to the story entitled Sandman, which is about depression and the strange land of sleep, I noticed a recurring theme about dreams. The Century Man explored this, and stories like Crawl being about the deep human fear of the darkness of the night.
Some of the stories such as Allissa, Falling are more like fantasy with its mysterious setting.
Overall, as horror and the supernatural goes, the whole of the book be it hallucinations or dreams concerns how scary it is when reality comes unglued and no one knows what’s really real…
The brevity of the short stories works well, with expressive language. It doesn’t take long to read, so no reason not to give this anthology a try!
by Ray Hecht
How I love a good horror! As much as I enjoyed all the short and varied stories, the one that I would call my favourite was Joe Gallows. This was a very gruesome story and could imagine this would make a good horror movie. I rarely write what (happens in) a story for fear of spoiling for others, but I do highly recommend, especially if you enjoy this genre.
by Jeanette Styles
I have to say the stories in this collection will haunt you and the book itself is somewhere between 4 and 5 stars because I loved many of the tales 5 stars worth and some 4 stars worth. Readers are going to find 11 short stories that take you into the realm that lies between dreams and nightmares. I read this collection just before Halloween, a great time for the theme that runs throughout the tales, but must say you can enjoy these stories anytime and maybe would like to read them with the lights on.
by Pamela Winn
I loved this book. Gruesome and compelling, this is a wonderful collection of horror stories. S.P. Oldham is a gifted writer and lends a great style to this genre. Out of all the stories, Joe Gallows will haunt you. Looking forward to more great reading from this author.
by Jude Radley
I discovered this book through a friend and I'm so glad I did. The author has a fantastic prose that will have you hanging on her every word. Its so good that i have purchased another copy for a friend as a Christmas present. I am normally a massive fan of Stephen King, but I have to say, Wakeful Children give a him a run for his money.
by Stacey J
Sat and read this book in one sitting on Christmas eve. Not your normal Christmas reading but I was hooked from the first page and could not put it down. Every story has you gripped and each one is better than the last. To say I was disappointed when I reached the end of the book would be an understatement. I can not wait to read more from this author.
by Rachael roberts
"Wakeful Children-A very enjoyable read
I loved this book from start to finish. S.Oldham writes cleverly & emotively.Each story is different & as you read you start to be spellbound & eager to read more.The first tale is a bit gruesome &certainly not for the faint-hearted but suddenly you are craving more of this intrigue! In summary an enjoyable read for those that thrive on tales of the supernatural & horror.Would highly recommend & look forward to reading more from this talented author
by Ann Hunt
Wakeful Children is a collection of eleven short stories and is the first I have read from this author. I read a lot of anthologies and collections of shorts, and it is unusual for me to thoroughly enjoy every one if the stories. Wakeful Children was an exception. The first story, Joe Gallows, was more brutal than I had expected, and is probably my favourite if I had to choose one, closely followed by The Orchard, and The Face of the Gale. All in all, Wakeful Children is a fantastic collection, beautifully written, completely absorbing, and highly recommended.
by Peter Blakey-Novis
Excellent series of short stories. The Wakeful Children encompasses great characters, draws you in right from the very start and ends up chilling you to the bone!
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent series of short stories
The Wakeful Children encompasses great characters, draws you in right from the very start and ends up chilling you to the bone!
"5 out of 5 stars Fabulous book with creepy short stories just right for a cold dark winters night. When you are tucked up safe in bed with a cup of hot chocolate of course."
by A Customer
S P Oldham writes in a way that will keep you gruesomely hooked. The stories are immersive and draw you along - each very different from others you may have read before. Watch out Stephen King, there's somebody here that will have you trembling on you pedestal...
Well done S P Oldham!"
by A C Salter
Wakeful Children is a superb collection of eleven short horror stories by S.P. Oldham. These tales span different time periods, tackle unique fears, and linger in the dark corners of your mind for days after reading them. Murder, ghosts, time-travel, a witch, and nightmares are just a few of the terrors within this compilation.
My favourite story was “Crawl” about a man petrified by a shadowy night-time stalker. I’m one of those people who, upon waking in the middle of the night, needs to convince myself that the dark mass in the corner is just a pile of clothes before I can summon the courage to get out of bed. And, after reading this story, my imagination went wild. It’s a story that really got under my skin.
“Absorption” was also fantastic and pushed against the normal constraints of story telling. This experimental narrative intersperses second and third person points of view to give the reader three flash fiction stories of the strange happenings of Oakwood Close tied together by the need for suffering by an ancient, sentient tree.
If true-life horrors get your heart racing more than supernatural beings, there are stories here to give you a thrill as well. “Joe Gallows” is the first entry in the collection and is a blood bath. This gritty tale of dead animals, a slingshot and revenge, is a fantastic start to Wakeful Children, and will keep you turning the pages.
Oldham’s prose is eloquent and beautiful, even through gory passages, bordering on (and often crossing into) literary horror. This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author, but it will not be the last.
by J A Sullivan
I love it when a new author takes my expectations and flips them upside down. This book is superbly written and from the second I picked it up I didn't want to put it down. The stories are inventive and unique and breathtaking. A lot of the other reviews discuss the story Joe Gallows - truly spot on - but they don't mention the suffocating feeling of the Sandman, or the shiver inducing Silent Night.
Just see for yourself what frightens you the most, because in this book, the terror is plenty.
by Theresa Jacobs
In started this book two days ago...at night. I wanted to finish it that night but after reading the first couple of stories I had to stop. There is not much out there unattributed me in the horror genre but this sent my mind into hearing and seeing things. The author's writing style, word choice...amazing. I look forward to reading more of her works. The short stories are just enough and let your imagination run wild. The reader feels the characters fear, sees what they see.
This is another great book by SP Oldham! For me, short stories are a welcome distraction between long series. I felt like these were some of my own nightmares written on paper. From glimpses into the mind of killers to trying to drag oneself back to wake. I recommend this book for a quick and easy read just before you drift off to sleep
by Cindy Lou
Wakeful Children is a mixed bag of short stories that cover nearly the entire gamut of the macabre. There is a killer with the suggestive and eponymous surname ‘Gallows' who leaves just the right amount of violence in his wake to gratify the gore-hounds and voyeurs of psychotic behaviour; the mysterious events surrounding an oak tree which seem to be a cross between the fiction of Ramsay Campbell and Laird Barron; the thing living in a dark pool which reminded me of chilling references to an ‘Old One' living in a dark pool inside a mine in Robert Arthur's book, ‘Moaning Cave' one of my childhood favourites; a tale about chatrooms and the horror that lurks behind usernames and the myth of anonymity that the internet seems to bestow upon our bawdy behaviour.
There are many more with varying quality, some of them ending with an unfinished-business-feeling for me, but none can be accused of a dearth of creativity. After all, sometimes, things left unsaid and threads with loose ends can titillate or chill us even more, like teeth and nothing but gleaming white teeth visible in the gloom.
My favourite of the lot is ‘The Century Man,’ the best for me in terms of richness of idea. One of the passages seemed to define myself and how I feel about the world: He had no desire to hurt anyone; he merely wanted to be an observer, a witness, a shadow in the background. There was no room for that in these civilised days, no opportunity for blameless participation.
Overall, a very eclectic collection told in lush prose. I'll read more from this author.
by Rajeev Singh
"Interesting stories on witchcraft, witches and spells. Well written, minor edits required else it holds your interest. Will suggest each story begins on a fresh new page. Will surely read the authors work in future. Do continue writing."
by Rohini Mishra
Well worth it
An excellent read, this book gave me the chills a few times, if you want a scary story..... read on I say
by Sylvia Williams
In Wakeful Children, Oldham gives us a range of very subtle horror stories. All are trips into the uncanny. Several are horrific, and ALL are best enjoyed with an attentive read (a personal note that you might find helpful: I tried to listen to this book while working on a painting. I used the kindle ap’s text to speech, which is serviceable with some novels, but NOT with this one. Text to speech kills all the subtleties, and this work thrives on its subtleties. An audio book would be great, but the “text to speech” option should be avoided).
Wakeful Children gives us eleven short stories, and in them, Oldham’s landscapes are alive, and they are malevolent. Trees poison, Winter hunts. Holly ensnares.
Humans populate the top levels of these stories, but it is in the lower surfaces where the eeriness, the uncanniness, and the poetry resides.
For example, in the second story: “Absorption”, the surface details present instances of domestic unhappiness among a variety of households - these surface stories are easy enough to follow, but the story is actually about a weirdling tree that influences the nearby homes and thrives on the misery it causes. (This second layer, the entire point of the story, is what I missed using text to speech.) The book offers many encounters with the fantastic: evil trees; an embodiment of the Sandman, making its way into the real world; haunted pubs; children at the mercy of nature; voyeurs, who time-travel at terrible costs; witches, with cliffs to beguile on; bed-users, with covers to tremble under; blinding snow and biting wind, each with the space to shriek in.
Fantasy elements creep in strong with these stories - but so does the real world, and so does horror. Oldham gives us one story that takes place via an internet chat room, and the opening story, “Joe Gallows” is horrific and disturbing (not to mention ORIGINAL), right from the start. It is instantly unnerving, and increasingly gruesome - what else would you want in a horror story?
These works are eerie, nicely written and well worth your time - just make sure you read them with your own eyes. Thank you!
by Rik Ty
*Product Received for Free*
When people reminisce on the struggles of childhood, the memories often remain centered on the mundane: forgetting homework, apparent oppression by the adults around you, being forced to eat overcooked broccoli, among many other trials and tribulations. And yet, so many pieces of entertainment that focus on nostalgia fail to recall the unique and rampant paranoias that seemed to consume many a night as a child. The shadows that seemed to dance in the dark, the visions of monsters behind our eyes, the pitter patter of goblin footsteps we were promised were raindrops…
It’s humorous to reminisce at the unfounded worries that seemed so present to us in our youth, and despite their fantastical natures the sureness of our truth. In a number of short stories that each play on these youthful woes, S.P. Oldham places a unique spin on both classic childhood tales and simple gut feelings. The stories are strengthened by the sheer microcosm of each and every monster- from merely a deranged youth who locally terrorizes a family to a personification of insomnia, Oldham plays to the personality of her beasts- the horror of random selection for torment. While some may argue that the locality of her antagonists hinders the ability to chill the reader to the core, the fallibility of some of them adds to a certain realism. For example, in the collection’s opener, Joe Gallows, the titular character is a mere child obsessed with hanging animals. While this is not the end of the story by any means, his progression of victims is jagged enough to shock the first read and provide a near-electric dread throughout repeat reads.
From story to story it is clear that Oldham excels with subtlety. The standout tale of the collection, Devil’s Drop, shows the best of her strengths. Telling the story of siblings who stray into the territory of some sort of demon, Oldham weaves her way out of the need to describe the creature. While this could be indicative of laziness or indecisiveness Oldham’s use of elaboration based solely on the children’s feelings, the near primal dread of being caught where one shouldn’t be, instead creates a bone-chilling vagueness. This manipulations seems to hint that not even the protagonists, who know to fear it, know exactly what they are fearing. Another story in this collection, Absorption, uses a similar vagueness in vignettes to show the corruptive influence of what seems to be an Ent. However, I must concede that the horror is must less effective in the latter, more clearly envisioning a dark pity.
Oldham’s use of phrasing throughout every story manages to mix a sort of simplistic innocence with a near-Lovecraftian sense of knowing too much, and it is this oddly true-to-life childish wit that gives Wakeful Children it’s best moments. While the ages of some characters are purposefully vague, such as the apparent basement-dweller in Blank Screen who mixes childish hatred with vile threats, or the old-enough-to-have-a-family insomniac of The Sandman, every character regardless of maturity seemed to hold a similar sort of wariness born of inexperience. Similarly, in The Sandman, the protagonist’s exploration of the titular creature’s dreamscape is an appropriately Lovecraftian journey into a world that simply doesn’t make sense.
Thus, Oldham displays an impressive ability to evoke the nostalgic fears within
childhood without compromising the staying power of the horror. While a few stories in the collection are weakened by the format, which I found too ready to conclude, in general I found each story bite-sized enough to provide a quick thrill, most of which tended to stick with me for at least a few hours apiece. While the horror featured within is of a subtle type (no splatter-fests here!) I found it quietly introspective and showing a command of youthful impulsiveness, spite, and dread.
by Joshua Henson
The first story in this collection was my favourite, and it set the tone of the book. The horror wasn’t just gore, but was shocking all the same (as it should be) and full of vivid description. Although I didn’t feel that the rest of the stories were as good, I felt like they had a lot to live up to, and they all had their moments. Overall, a good (and unnerving) selection of horror stories.
by Amanda Steel
Each story in the book was captivating and exciting. I enjoyed reading every minute of it and would highly recommend Sue's work.
I am 48 years old, happily married to Adam for the last 28 of those years. I have two grown up sons and a spoiled Cocker Spaniel. We live in the Sirhowy Valley in South Wales.
I write primarily in the Horror and Speculative Fiction/ Supernatural genre, though I have been known to dabble in others from time to time.