We've seen so many blogs turned into books that it should probably be its own genre, but Discovering Scarfolk is one of the few to stand on its own and deserve to be more than a ill-conceived Christmas present.
The Scarfolk Council blog by writer and graphic designer Richard Littler is a funny, disturbing mix of The League of Gentlemen and Look Around You. It's a vision of 70s small-town Britain where everything not 'normal' is to be distrusted, even hated and definitely stamped out - and what's 'normal' has been established by a parochial, inward-looking group who've come up with some very odd ideas of how society should work and built a self-absorbed bureaucracy around it.
So essentially, it’s a local council run by UKIP.
Read on to learn more about the book and see some of its mock information posters and book covers.
The blog is best known for its widely-shared posters and book covers. Many of these succeed in being both laugh-out-loud funny and actually creepy – the expressions on the prematurely aged faces on the Never Go With Strange Children poster will give you nightmares.
Their design is a spot-on pastiche of the graphics and photographic language of 70s public information posters and Penguin and Puffin books – only the occasional use of last year's ubiquitous free font Lobster will jar for type nerds.
On the blog, these graphics are accompanied by equally humorous/wrong details on the campaigns and contents of the mock book contents, but Discovering Scarfolk, he's created a narrative to tie them together.
A researcher finds a bunch of notes and materials collected by a Daniel Bush, whose children disappear during a intended-to-be-brief stops in Scarfolk while driving elsewhere – and ends up trapped in the town.
Like The League of Gentlemen, the story parodies the mainstays of modern British horror without taking away any of their ability to disturb. Key references are The Wicker Man, and every story where a person or family get stuck – initially overnight – in a small town. Mark Z Danielewski's American meta-horror House of Leaves is also a clear influence – especially in one sequence where Daniel is pursued through an enormous underground maze by a wonky Minotaur.
The narrative is almost as good as the graphics - both maintaining a deadpan tone despite the world Daniel discovers and its paraphernalia becoming increasingly ludicrous. But it's the posters and book covers – including the cover of Discovering Scarfolk itself, which at first glance is a grubby old local guidebook you'd find in a charity shop in a seaside town – that you'll remember.
For more information, please reread this story.
My copy of Discovering Scarfolk has a Post-it note stuck to it saying 'Not final copy!'. I can't be sure if has been attached by someone in Ebury Press’ PR department, or if this is part of the cover design.
This isn't the most disturbing image in the whole book. You'll have to buy it find out what is.