Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Neil Gaiman (author)
Eddie Campbell (artist)
William Morrow

The text of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains was first published in the collection anthology Stories: All New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. This gorgeous full-color illustrated book version was born of a unique collaboration between writer Neil Gaiman and artist Eddie Campbell, who brought to vivid life the characters and landscape of Gaiman's story. In August 2010, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains was performed in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House to a sold-out crowd—Gaiman read his tale live as Campbell's magnificent artwork was presented, scene-by-scene, on large screens. Narrative and art were accompanied by live music composed and performed especially for the story by the FourPlay String Quartet.

The arrival of this book completely snuck past me and so coming across it on the shelf at the local corporate bookstore was a really nice surprise.  I've been a fan of Gaiman since he arrived on the scene.  I was working in a comic shop in Cardiff at the time and from the first thing of his I read I knew he was going to be a writer I'd follow for a long time to come.  With Eddie Campbell it's even more so.  I really like his art but as a writer he's right up there with my absolute favourites (if you've not read anything I heartily recommend his 'Fate of the Artist').  Here the words are all Gaiman with Campbell providing painted illustrations.

The Black Mountains of the title are on the Isle of Skye and there amidst their peaks is a cave full of gold.  Walking to this cave are two men.  One is a dwarf with two secrets and the other is his guide.  The latter has visited the cave in his youth and paid the toll that it's contents ask whilst the former is looking for something and will willingly pay any price.


The book is very much a Gaiman story centred in a slightly folkloric version of our own world, in this case the Jacobean era.  For the most part the book feels like it's going to be a fairly typical adventure story until without warning actions, events and characters take a sharp turn down the left hand path.  What really stands out though is how unrepentantly dark the story is.

The art is presented very much as central to the book.  Rather than restricting it to typical comic book boxes - which does happen on occasion - it is allowed free rein on the page sitting next to, behind and around the words with the text presented sometimes in Campbell's characteristic lettering but mostly in type which I think is a shame as the former is far more to my tastes.

As I'm sure you can imagine from what I said earlier I was excited by this and I wasn't disappointed.  It isn't the best thing either of them has done but it's very enjoyable nonetheless and will satisfy fans of both.

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