If you want the executive summary Six Stories is a cracking read, just go straight out and get your hands on a copy. It has energy and tension that keeps you racing through it, but its structure also gives natural space for pause. The premise is that the story is told over the course of six podcast episodes, each of which gives a different perspective on the same event – the disappearance of a 15 year old boy and the discovery of his body a year later. As a result the book breaks up nicely into six sections that can be read as instalments or taken as a box set binge together.
It’s a structure that fits nicely with my commute. One story per bus journey, leaving a sense of what will follow that helps to build the tension, although Matt Wesolowski’s writing does that itself in reality. The podcast has a homespun feel that is reminiscent of a Blair Witch camcorder style and there is an element of crossover between crime and Matt’s more traditional home ground of horror. Teenagers, all of them to some extent outsiders, taking trips into the country to a wild location filled with myths and legends of witchcraft and monsters – solid horror territory.
A group of parents looking for positive experiences for their children formed the Rangers as an activity group meeting regularly in a local hall and venturing into the countryside to experience the great outdoors. Scarclaw Fell adventure centre became the focus of their trips and over the years new members joined. By the late 1990s the older members had formed a tight group and would use the greater freedom of trips away to smoke, drink and explore the area, until tragedy tore the group apart.
Twenty years later Scott King’s popular podcast picks up the story and interviews with all of the key protagonists shed light onto events that have lain dormant and forgotten. The characters are well drawn with the changing perspective giving us fresh insight into each of them as they step forward to tell their part of the story, and around the edges of each of them is the shadow of a dark creature that looms over Scarclaw Fell. But was the monster conjured into life by their fears to stalk the fell or does it rather reside within them?
The writing feels fresh, the tension is palpable and I was hooked from the opening pages to the final revelation. Six Stories is quite simply a belting read that grabs you by your nerve endings and holds you tight in its pulsating grip. It is also now available as an audio book which isn’t normally my thing but on this occasion has genuine appeal with a full cast of 17 different voices. Keep an eye out for Matt Wesolwski, it feels like he’s another one to watch from the impressive Orenda stable.