If you’re a horror fan and looking for a new read, you might want to consider NP Cunniffe’s The Weejee Man. In this novella, Cunniffe explores the history and folklore of the Emerald Isle, taking readers on a terrifying journey that will leave them questioning what is real and what is not. In this review, Tony Jones reviews this interesting Irish horror novella
“A writing holiday on the west coast of Ireland turns into
a trip to hell for a struggling horror author“
The Weejee Man by NP Cunniffe, Horror Book Review
On the back of AM Shine’s double smash hits The Watchers (2021) and The Creeper (2022), not to mention Neil Sharpson’s gripping Knock Knock, Open Wide horror involving Irish folklore may well find itself back in the spotlight after the arrival of NP Cunniffe’s The Weejee Man. I wish there were more supernatural tales on the market exploring the Emerald Isle’s rich history; there are certainly plenty of authors up to the task. John Connolly and Kealan Patrick Burke would rank high on my list, but this great pair primarily set their books in the USA rather than the land of their birth. Peadar Ó Guilín and Deirdre Sullivan are further top picks, the former author of the stunning YA duology The Call (2016-18), which majestically blends fantasy with Irish folklore and history and the latter the recent Wise Creatures, the haunting story of a damaged child medium. I do not think the 250-page long Weejee Man (novella or short novel?) is strong enough to be name-checked against these modern greats, but it certainly had its moments and ultimately I wished it were longer and fleshed out into a more substantial work.
Litopia Writing Community bills the book as “An Irish Blair Witch” which although is an outstanding leading quote may leave readers feeling slightly shortchanged, with the similarities ending after the leading character getting lost and disorientated on a couple of occasions in the Irish countryside. Apart from a narrative which has a sneaky and vague found footage feel to proceedings, there are few other points of comparison to the terrifying modern American horror classic. Having said that, the concept was nicely managed with the reader being kept disorientated with a narrative which includes emails, telephone calls, leaps back and forwards in time and historical letters, all of which are built around horror Rick Rooney’s retreat to a secluded cottage in the West of Ireland.
The Rick Rooney narrative is written in the first person and is undoubtedly the major highlight (and most prominent) sequence in the book. Rick is a horror writer who is terribly overdue in delivering his next book to his publisher and clearly has numerous personal problems, leaving his wife behind to work on the as yet unwritten horror novel he is stressing about. As Rick is a twitching mess he is not a particularly reliable narrator (or sympathetic character) and his problems magnify after he is bullied into fooling around with a Ouija board (pronounced weejee in Irish) in the local village pub. The session on the board ends prematurely and Rich believes they might have brought something back from the other side. At this point, the Ouija board disappears from the plot, which was a shame.
After messing with the spirit board the book really picks up the pace and the already fragile Rick starts seeing things, with NP Cunniffe keeping things nicely shrouded what was actually going on. The West Coast of Ireland village location has its own dark history and although the historical letter sequence was interesting enough it also functioned as a major indicator or spoiler even of the direction the plot was heading into. I found this to be clunky and there might have been more suspense if the supernatural entity back story was filtered into the narrative in a manner which had more flow rather than very convenient letter dropping.
One of the strongest aspects of Weejee Man was the much closer linked narratives of Rick (2019) after his arrival in the cottage and that of his agent Pierce (2020) and the manner in which they inter-connect and feed into each other. Pierce gives us very knowing and foreshadowing nods of what lies ahead for Rick and as readers we also question what the truth might be. As we head to the end there are some very clever revelations and one great twist curveball which alters the perspective of the narrative. Although I enjoyed Weejee Man, which was a quite easy and engaging read, I would have liked to have found out more about the curse and the entity itself which in turn might have upped the level of scares. It has been billed as ‘rural horror’ and it certainly fits that bill, Cunniffe has another 100-page novella length ghost story The Wake (2020), also set in Ireland, which I intend to investigate at a later date by way of comparison.
The Amazon page lists this “for fans of” Adam Nevill (The Ritual), Andrew Michael Hurley (Starve Acre), Tom Fletcher (Witch Bottle) and A.M Shine (The Creepers) who are all authors I have read extensively. I am not going to debate the comparisons which are fair enough, but I am not a fan of comparing new-kid-on-the-block authors to all-time greats such as Nevill and Hurley, as I am not sure it does them any favours. However, Weejee Man was great company for a few hours, is very clever written with the fractured musings of broken horror writer Rick Rooney being the major highlight.
The Weejee Man by NP Cunniffe
Published by ScaryBooks
“An Irish Blair Witch,” Litopia Writing Community
“A very easy and addictive read,” ★★★★ Netgalley Reviewer
“Very, very impressive. Everybody liked it,” Peter Cox, best-selling English author
“Atmospheric slow build horror… a compelling mix of folk horror, faeries, and chilling dread,” ★★★★ Netgalley Reviewer
“A compelling novella that immerses readers in the chilling realm of Irish horror,” ★★★★★ Netgalley Reviewer
A nerve-shredding slice of rural horror for fans of Adam Nevill and Andrew Michael Hurley.
Forced by his publisher to deliver a fresh manuscript by the end of the year, author Rick Rooney retreats to a secluded cottage in the West of Ireland in search of inspiration.
After a night of dabbling with a spirit board at the local pub, strange events begin to unfold at the cottage, while a menacing figure lurks in the trees outside.
When Rick digs deeper into the area’s dark history, he makes a chilling discovery about a local family, a devastating fire, and a centuries-old curse. Has Rick disturbed an ancient evil, and who, or what, is stalking him now?
Some souls should never be summoned…
“A compelling mix of folk horror, faeries, and chilling dread … formed from “found materials” – email, book manuscript, letters,” for fans of Adam Nevill (The Ritual), Andrew Michael Hurley (Starve Acre), Tom Fletcher (Witch Bottle) and A.M Shine (The Creepers).