Ramsey Campbell wrote one of the most convincing psychological horror novels of the 1980s with The Face That Must Die. A horror writer since the 1960s (his first collection of short stories was published by the venerable Arkham House when he was still a teenager), Campbell is virtually a brand-name writer in the genre. His allusive and oblique prose lends his stories a hallucinatory tone, a feeling of something not quite right, slightly askew and vaguely malevolent, as Lovecraftian monstrosities flitter just out of eyesight.
But the horror found in The Face That Must Die is an all too real kind. Indeed, the introductory essay included with the 1985 Tor edition, “At the Back of My Mind: A Guided Tour,” is Campbell’s account of his worsening relationship with his mother as she sank into dementia over many years. These days mainstream memoirs and fiction of life with crazy parents are a dime a dozen, but Campbell’s piece has no distancing irony or comic effect. Harrowing and sad and enlightening, it is Campbell’s explanation for “why I write what I write,” and readers can come to their own conclusions about how this influenced The Face That Must Die.