A bookstore can be a wonderful, welcoming place of both commerce and curiosity. That’s the goal for Woody, an American recently transferred to England to run a branch of Texts. He wants a clean, orderly store and lots of sales to show his bosses when they arrive from the States for a pre-Christmas inspection. Not easy given the shop’s location in a foggy strip mall.
And things keep going wrong. No matter how often the shelves are put in order before the doors are locked at night, when the staff returns in the morning, books are lying all over the floor, many damp and damaged beyond repair. The store’s computers keep acting up-errors appear in brochures and ads and orders disappear completely. And even when the machines are turned off, they seem to glow with a spectral gray light.
The hit-and-run death of an employee in the store’s parking lot marks a turning point. One employee accuses another of making sexual advances and they come to blows. Between one sentence and the next, one loses his ability to read. The security monitors display half-seen things crawling between the stacks that vanish before anyone can find them.
Desperate, Woody musters his staff for an overnight inventory. When the last customers reluctantly depart, leaving almost-visible trails of slime shining behind them, the doors are locked, sealing Woody and the others inside for a final orgy of shelving.
The damp, grey, silent things that have been lurking in the basement and hiding in the fog may move slowly, but they are inexorable. This bookstore is no haven. It is the doorway to a hell unlike any other.
Barnes and Noble
This horror novel by acclaimed fright master Ramsey Campbell takes place in a setting that is decidedly not scary: a large American chain bookstore that has just opened a location in a new strip mall in England. But when the staff pulls an overnight shift to get the store ready for an important visit from the home office, strange things start to happen—and booksellers begin to die.
Woody Blake is the manager of the new Texts bookstore that just opened up off the expressway in Fenny Meadows. The overenthusiastic American expatriate is trying his best to motivate his British staff and increase flagging sales, but with little success. When it is announced that corporate suits from the States are coming for a visit, Woody decides to schedule his staff for an overnight shift of coffee-powered restocking and straightening. But when the night doesn’t go as planned—the power goes out, Woody gets locked in his office, and a soupy, almost sentient, fog surrounds the store—being a bookseller suddenly becomes a life-and-death affair. Based in large part on Campbell’s own retail experience at a large chain bookstore, The Overnight will not only appeal not only to horror aficionados but also to anyone who has ever worked in a bookstore…the endless shelving, unusual hours, irritating customers, book signings with self-absorbed authors, etc. Longtime fans of Campbell (The Doll Who Ate His Mother, The Face That Must Die, etc.) will undoubtedly enjoy this aptly titled novel, which could quite easily keep readers up overnight. Paul Goat Allen