Parallel Hells, a debut collection of richly gothic short stories by Berlin-based British writer Leon Craig, is appropriately named. The same themes – queerness, identity, obfuscation – occur again and again, creating a unifying thread that leads the reader through a collection of analogous nightmares, much as Dante takes us through the circles of hell. Each of the thirteen stories, never overwritten, always sensuous and atmospheric, packs a brief, intense punch. As in the very best gothic literature, Craig’s worlds are primarily not far removed from our own, with settings ranging from modern-day Mexican resorts to commuter-belt London and everywhere in between.
Deeply traditional motifs – the corpse bride, the haunted dresser, the ancient tome with a dusty secret – rub shoulders with such contemporary considerations as transphobia, age-gap relationships and aeroplane journeys of the most protracted and egregious sort. Craig, a deft hand at this most difficult of forms, the