Tartarus Press


Figurehead is a sewn hardback book of 246 pages with silk ribbon marker, head and tailbands, and


Limited to 300 copies.


ISBN 978-1-912586-06-6


Price: £35.00 p&p worldwide.

Ebook: £4.99

(Please note that the ebook will be sent manually, so there may be a short delay in receiving it.)



Carly Holmes


‘Beneath her soft skin covering, my mother was once made of twigs and branches. Sometimes in the autumn I swear there was a gleam of berry in her eye, a sloe-shine peep between the thorny tangle of her lashes.’


In this debut collection of stories Carly Holmes peers into every corner of the strange fiction genre: from rural gothic through to traditional ghost stories, the uncanny, and folk horror. Mothers turn into trees when the sun goes down; Russian Dolls mourn their missing sisters in rotting houses; men offer sacrifices to the monsters who embody their inner wildness; and murderous demons protect young girls’ virginity.


Ranging from flash fiction to novelette, these stories are in turn chilling, playful, and melancholy. They resonate with an unsettling and unsettled anxiety about finding, and losing, one’s place in the world. The bonds of family and of community, both in their fracturing and their healing states, the uneasy relationship between living in the present and yearning for the past, are themes that thread their way through Figurehead. Every tale is rich with landscapes haunted by loss and longing.


Contents: ‘The Demon L’, ‘Miss Luna’, ‘Little Matrons’, ‘Sleep’, ‘Ghost Story’, ‘Dropped Stitches’, ‘Like Water Through Fingers’, ‘Maria’s Silence’, ‘Piece by Piece’, ‘The Glamour’, ‘Wich’, ‘Three for a Girl’, ‘Strumpet’, ‘Runty’, ‘Into the Woods’, ‘Alter’, ‘Before the Fairytale’, ‘Bake Day’, ‘Friday’, ‘Heartwood’, ‘Figurehead’, ‘They Tell Me’, ‘Woodside Close’, ‘A Small Life’, ‘Beneath the Skin’, ‘Rootless’. ‘Acknowledgements.’


Carly Holmes lives and writes on the banks of the river Teifi in West Wales. Her debut novel, The Scrapbook, was shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Award and her prize-winning short prose has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Ambit, The Ghastling and Black Static.

When not writing, Carly works as an editor and proof reader.


‘Figurehead’ illustration based on a photograph of a carving by Mark Bridges.


Praise for Figurehead

'The stories in Figurehead are by turns macabre, unsettling, creepy, funny, and every one of them compelling. Carly Holmes is a writer unafraid to take risks in the personae she assumes, from bearded ladies to little girls who go into the world knickerless and proud. The roots of fairy tales sit comfortably next to ghost stories and some edgy modern gothic, and within these tales wild women speak their truths, and their lies. This is a superb book by a writer to watch.' Katherine Stansfield, novelist and poet.

'These stories are extraordinary.  The collection moves between settings and time periods as seamlessly as it shifts between genres.  Here you’ll find threads of the gothic, the uncanny, the supernatural, the ghost story, the fairy tale, and more: all spun together into a rich tapestry that defies categorization.  The writing is both precise and sumptuous, the tales startling and – at times – genuinely frightening.  The result is a collection of dark delights that will keep you reading, and keep you up at night.' Tyler Keevil, author

'To read Carly Holmes is to be enchanted. Luscious, flowing prose that is never afraid to peer into the wild. Whether it’s a fairy tale, a ghost story, or folk horror, the women in her stories are a force to be reckoned with; we feel their dark beating hearts. These are stories that linger, each sumptuous detail burns our fingers on the page. This is fearless writing. It never fails to cast the reader under its spell.' – Angela Readman




"The 26 stories in Holmes’s impressive first collection of fantasy fiction alternate between skillfully orchestrated forays into traditional supernatural horror and modern vignettes steeped in the magic of classic fairy tales." Publishers Weekly, "starred" review.

"...great heights of truly exquisite description" British Fantasy Society

"This is an impressive body of twenty-six pieces which are by turns surprising, intriguing, poignant and humorous, and always intelligent." Horla magazine. (Carly Holmes has also been interviewed here.



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