The Overnight Ramsey Campbell

The Overnight

First Published 2004
416 Pages

Slipcased 1902880951
Hardcover 190288096X
Date Read
June 2004

Texts, the multinational bookstore has just opened its latest branch in Fenny Meadows, just outside Manchester. The new staff members are struggling to come to terms with the American idea of service smile, think happy, can't do too much for a good company... However, shortly after opening the weather deteriorates and the shop finds its self surrounded, day and night, by a dense fog.

When one of the staff is killed in a freak accident the remaining people are understandably shaken up. Rather than replace the employee the shop manager decides to split her tasks around the other, already overworked, employees.

As stress levels increase the staff members start to become increasingly antagonistic towards one another. They also start to see strange misty figures running along the lines of shelves. Books are defaced and damaged and a large number of videos seem to be showing a hazy image of men fighting rather than their supposed subject.

When they are all asked to work overnight just prior to a visit from head office they are all understandably reluctant but, as they want to keep their jobs, they all agree. As the long night begins emotions seem to be stretched to breaking point. When the lights go out, telephones go dead and doors mysteriously become jammed the staff begin to wonder if they will survive the night.

The Overnight is the latest offering from Ramsey Campbell and it is everything you could hope for. Campbell has taken an innocuous situation, working in a bookshop, and woven a disturbing creepy tale around it.

As the long night progresses you can practically feel the tensions between the various characters building. You know that something has to give but the question is what!

As you might expect from Ramsey Campbell, the characters are superb. In particular Woody, the American Shop manager, is beautifully written. As an English person I have been brought up being told that American chain stores have a corporate "identity" that is expected to be observed by all staff at all times the "happy-happy, permanent smile, have-a-nice-day" attitude that is rarely found in British shops. TV programmes and films portray these employees practically as mindless clones, the Stepford Wives of retail, reciting corporate mantras. To read the apparent reactions of the Mancunian staff of Texts (Fenny Meadows) to this concept adds a humorous subtext to the novel.

As the story progresses the reasons behind the happenings is hinted at but, unlike some of the more obvious horror novels, there is no big "reveal" at the end don't expect a classic "My god, this is all because we have been built on an ancient pagan burial ground" solution.

To state the obvious, I loved this story. OK, I am a fan of Ramsey Campbell's writing but this aside, The Overnight is a superbly creepy novel.

Sure to make you think twice the next time the boss asks you to pull an all-nighter...


Fog radiant with floodlights blocks the far end of the alley, but that isn't why his mind feels near to paralysis. His shadow has thrown itself face down in the alley, and it's no longer alone. On either side of it a squat lumpy silhouette is expanding like a misshapen balloon, either creeping closer at his back or swelling up from the tarmac, unless they're doing both. For the moment they have nothing he would want to call heads, but they have at least one arm each, altogether too long in both cases, that they're stretching out to him.

He daren't look. He can't even bear to see their increasingly malformed shadows. As he dashes into the alley he shuts his eyes tight, feeling like a child who's trying to believe he can hide in his personal dark. He has fled just a couple of steps when his fists are captured by appendages too cold and soft and uncertain of their shape to pass for hands...

Texts is the newest branch of a bookshop chain, located in the Fenny Meadows business park. Where could be less haunted? The area seems to have no history, or if it has, it's contained in a hard-to-obtain book from a small local publisher. The workers in the bookshop have more immediate problems of their own. Woody the manager is losing more than his sleep over their sales figures. Wilf's childhood inability to read is creeping back. Madeleine is convinced somebody is playing tricks with her section of the shop. Agnes and others find the service lift more vocal than it ought to be. What lurks under everyone's behaviour and under the business park will become apparent when the entire personnel have to work all night at the shop at least, those who have survived so far. Fenny Meadows has been waiting a long time.

Jack Sullivan, editor of The Penguin Encyclopaedia of Horror and the Supernatural, writes "Ramsey Campbell has succeeded more brilliantly than any other writer in bringing the supernatural tale up to date without sacrificing the literary standards that Le Fanu, M.R. James and other early masters made an indelible part of the tradition."

THE OVERNIGHT is Ramsey Campbell's latest novel of contemporary supernatural terror.