The Booking is a novella by Ramsey Campbell published in 2016 by Dark Regions Press as the third book of their Black Labrinth imprint.
The story follows Kiefer, a young man who accepts a position at a bookstore called BOOKS ARE LIFE which is located in a remote section of the city. His desperate need for the job causes him to ignore the many eccentricities of his new boss Brookes. Brookes hires Kiefer to catalogue and post all the store’s merchandise for online sale despite the man’s mistrust of technology and the internet. Brookes refuses to allow Kiefer to activate his phone or computer’s cameras while inside the store as he believes it allows insidious things access to the minds of those near it when on. He also insists on handling all the store’s physical transactions personally. Kiefer soon begins to notice how books which have been sold somehow reappear on the shelves soon after they’ve left the store. The place also seems to change from time-to-time, seemingly birthing more book-filled hallways and rooms. Is something strange going on inside BOOKS ARE LIFE, or is it all in Kiefer’s mind?
As always with Campbell, the wordplay, primarily that of Brookes, does double-duty, hiding subtext within each comment or phrase, feeding into the ever-present paranoia of the place. The chills unfold very subtly here, and it wasn’t until the books finale that I found myself rethinking everything which had happened up to that point. While I can’t place this beside my most favorite Campbell books (Incarnate, The Grin of the Dark, Ancient Images, Hungry Moon, The Kind Folk, etc.), I still enjoyed it, particularly since it’s about something I really love… Books! I also loved the cover and interior artwork by Santiago Caruso throughout, which was very evocative.
Artwork by Santiago Caruso
Dark Regions Press: https://darkregions.com/products/the-booking-by-ramsey-campbell-black-labyrinth-book-iii
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Booking-Black-Labyrinth-Ramsey-Campbell/dp/1626411395
10 thoughts on “The Booking By Ramsey Campbell”
Old bookstores are good fodder for horror stories, almost as good fodder as old books themselves. There is such a difference perusing an old shop compared to a modern Barnes and Noble.
I do love going to used bookstores over new ones because you can usually find some really obscure gems in them.
When you come to NY you should go to the Strand
I’ll definitely have to check that out. Thanks for letting me know about it!
It is also on the same block as Forbidden Planet. In fact I’ll be hitting both of them next week.
Nice! I’ll be reluctantly going to a musical with my family one day, so hopefully they can endure my checking those places out.
I still have yet to venture further into Campbell’s work aside from an odd short story or two, but I’m sure you’ll eventually “wear me down” by continually singing his praises. 🙂 I love the visual art in this post too!
I truly love his work, be it short stories, novels, novellas, you-name-it. Ancient Images was my first introduction to Ramsey, and I think it serves as a good starting off place. His short story collections are always amazing too, Alone With the Horrors being my favorite of them.
Just started to get into Ramsey Campbell, who I think comes originally from the Wirral, which is not far from where I live. But some of his books are difficult to get hold of, such as the short story collection Alone With The Horrors you recommend, which I believe has the story in that you blogged about some time ago titled: The Ferries. However, I’ve just managed to get my hands on a copy of Campbell’s Dark Companions, so I’ll give it a read and hopefully be converted.
I must admit that my two favourites are M.R. James and E.F. Benson. Strangely enough, I’ve never really got into HP Lovecraft, so fingers crossed for my reading of Campbell, who I believe is a Lovecraft fan and writes in a similar way.
Must say, I was amazed you never listed James’ ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, my Lad’ as one of your favourites when you blogged his stories, though Casting the Runes you mentioned, which of course is unbelievably good; so too is A Warning to the Curious, another favourite Jamesean story of mine. Though there are many others.
By the way, are you aware of Sheila Hodgson’s attempts at writing in the style of M.R. James. The volume is titled The Fellow Travellers and, in mine view, it is very good indeed. But then again anyone who writes like James and continues the tradition will always get my vote.
Just like to add that this a great site, so very well done; I’m sure I’ll continue dipping into it, especially for your views on ghost stories you’ve read and further reading lists which I find very informative and guides to choosing what to and what not to read. And I love your yearly Halloween and Christmas reading lists. I also found the link to the wonderful M.R. James podcast site: A Podcast to the Curious, which I’m sure I’d have never have found without visiting your own site. So many thanks for that.
In short, keep up the good work. For fans of the ghost story this is a truly wonderful site. Best wishes.
Hello Gary, and thank you for the very kind words.
Ramsey is a big fan of M.R. James for sure. He even wrote the short story “The Guide” as a tribute to him. I originally started reading James when Ramsey selected “A Warning to the Curious” as a favorite tale of his for the anthology My Favorite Horror Story.
My personal top four favorite writers would be 1. Ramsey Campbell, 2. Algernon Blackwood, 3. M.R. James and 4. E.F. Benson. There’s a long list of others writers who I’d list before Lovecraft (even though I do like his work), so I think you’ll enjoy Ramsey even if Lovecraft isn’t your cup of tea. It may be sacrilege to say, but I feel Ramsey is a far superior writer to Lovecraft overall.
As for the “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad” from my M.R. James entry, that was a bit of an oversight on my part. I do indeed love that story, but that was one of the earliest articles I ever wrote and wasn’t as comprehensive as I should have been. I originally wrote it for a site that was owned by someone else called Vintage Horror, which is now sadly defunct. I converted over most everything I’d written for it to here over time. I do plan to revisit the James tales I failed to include in a future post.
I was not aware of Sheila Hodgson’s work, but will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for bringing her to my attention.
I look forward to assembling the Halloween and Christmas reading lists each year, so I’m very pleased to hear that you enjoy them.
Podcast to the Curious is great fun, for sure. There is also a free podcast out there which does audio readings of E.F. Benson stories. I think the reader is a man named Richard Crowest.
Thanks again for the feedback, Gary! I love getting feedback, and I hope to hear from you again.