Help the Witch by Tom Cox

A review of the folklore horror short story collection Help the Witch by Tom Cox.

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Tom Cox, a British author from Nottinghamshire who lives in Somerset, previously worked for the Guardian as a critic and other media outlets writing columns and features until, I suppose, passion forced him to quit print journalism in 2015 and focus on writing more creative literature that sits within the genres of nature, folklore, and the supernatural. Cox is known for, amongst other non-fiction, the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, The Bad and The Furry.

Help the Witch is Cox’s first step into fiction, and is a collection of ten ghost stories. It was first published in 2018 by Unbound, who use crowd-funding to establish demand for books. Cox writes with inspiration from our native landscape in these stories that stretch our understanding of folk tales, as we know them.

The stories in this collection are described as being “riddled with talismans and portents, saturated by shadows beneath trees and whispers behind doors,” which I would agree with. The characters in these stories go through very relatable modern-day struggles, and yet they are navigating themselves through a traditional folklore tale. However, Tom Cox doesn’t rely on the format of a folklore tale to carry these stories to success, as nature is romanticised in descriptions that are poetic and immersive. The romantic elements of Cox’s writing reminded me of poets such as Wordsworth and Byron. Ultimately, Cox creates a world woven together by modernity and tradition, which is beautiful, strange, and wonderful.

A collection of short stories is a great way to step into fiction, and to play around in your favourite genres. Cox has definitely achieved success in this collection that is funny, creepy, and poignant. It’s easy to read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading horror, as it also offers something different to a reader who may feel overwhelmed with a four-hundred-page novel.

Kirsty-Louise is a published author and poet with a BA hons in English Literature. Working as a Secondary English Teacher, dog walks on the coast, and reading books pass her time in Ramsgate & Margate.

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