About Matthew G. Rees
'In turns elusive, eerie, delicately unsettling and quietly devastating . . . his story arcs cast their strange net over the reader.'
Prize-winning writer CARLY HOLMES on Keyhole
'Rees is fully in control of that particular gift of authors of fantastic stories, which consists of placing banal objects, or characters, in situations where they are at the same time innocent and threatening.'
GUIDO EEKHAUT, award-winning author of the novel Absinthe
'is an absolute master! His collections are GOLD'
MRREMORANMAN, co-host horrorprompt
Matthew G. Rees (pictured) grew up in a Welsh family in the border country between England and Wales known as the Marches. His early career was in journalism. Later he entered teaching, living and working for a period in Moscow (which has been a setting for some of his fiction). In a varied life, other employment has included time as a night-shift cab driver.
His writing has appeared in anthologies, chapbooks and magazines (digital and print). He has acquired a reputation for vivid and striking literary fiction that leans to the supernatural (see reviews). Keyhole, his first collection of short stories (set in Wales and the Marches - see Books page), was published to acclaim by Three Impostors press in 2019 (also featuring photographs by him) and has been read internationally, with copies going to readers in Austria, Australia, Finland, France, Spain, Norway, Poland, Japan, Puerto Rico and other parts of the United States, to name just some of the countries.
Additionally, Rees is a writer of theatre drama. Two plays by him have been performed professionally. (See 'Theatre' tab for more about his writing for the stage.) He has a PhD from the University of Swansea, and currently lives in Wales.
He suspects that the Marches - that distinctive and beautiful (but pressured) borderland between England and Wales, associated with such figures as Walter Map, William Langland, Thomas Traherne (memorialised in stained glass at Hereford Cathedral), Francis Kilvert, A.E. Housman, John Masefield, Bruce Chatwin and so many others - has, in particular, left its mark on him.
He has come to think of it as a gateway not to the nations either side of it but to a hinterland that somehow lies deeper and is more mysterious. He sees parallels with the partitions that Arthur Machen, who grew up in the southern Marches, spoke of as being the veils between the known and unknown worlds.
'It's a place where you constantly find yourself stumbling across strange stories, that aren't always myths,' says Rees. 'Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, who was very much "into" spiritualism, has a number of connections with the Marches. He attended a seance in a house in the rural village where I once lived.'
In addition to his associations with Wales and the Marches, Rees believes that travel has influenced him significantly. Either as a journalist, teacher, 'traveller', or holiday-maker on his own or as a child with his parents, Rees has spent time in more than twenty countries.
His most recent collection. The Snow Leopard of Moscow & Other Stories, was inspired by his time living and working in Putin-era Moscow. The collection (see Books page) has been acclaimed and has been described as 'nothing short of perfection'.
Rees has also journeyed to some of the more remote islands of the British Isles, including the Scottish holy island of Iona, ancient Sark and beautiful Herm in the Channel Islands, Lundy - famous for its population of puffins - in the Bristol Channel (travelling there on the world's last sea-going paddle-steamer), the Isles of Scilly (off Cornwall in the English South-West) and the lonely islet of Bishop Rock, known for its lighthouse and seals.
Although his writing is not exclusively concerned with the supernatural, Rees admits to an interest in fiction that explores 'the liminal' - what he thinks of as that intriguing borderland of possibility between what is and what might be. Some of his stories are notable for their dark humour.
Arthur Machen, M.R. James, Roald Dahl, Patrick McGrath and Thomas Ligotti are writers who've been referenced in discussions of his work. Rees has expressed interest in diverse writers including Glyn Jones, Walter de la Mare, Daphne Du Maurier and Flannery O'Connor.
Machen (pictured), Welsh writer of the supernatural (1863-1947), spoke of his certainty of our co-existence with another world – one that we are close to in our daily lives and from which we are separated by the finest partition: ". . . the unknown world is , in truth, about us everywhere, everywhere near to our feet; the thinnest veil separates us from it, the door in the wall of the next street communicates with it" (from The London Adventure).
One of the hallmarks of Matthew G. Rees's story collections is their occupation of that territory where the known and the unknown meet and interact.
Although having his own ‘voice’ and employing modern settings, readers of Keyhole might detect a lineage with such writers as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Glyn Jones and Roald Dahl (though Rees stresses that the book is not necessarily representative of the whole of his writing). Some may feel that the British literary and cinematic tradition of ‘folk horror’ can also be seen in his work.
Rees agrees that his creative pre-occupations thus far have been 'with matters outside the mainstream'. He says it's unlikely that he'll ever consciously enter 'kitchen sink' or 'Aga saga' territory, albeit, as his fiction to date perhaps suggests, he is interested in the secret lives of the outwardly ordinary... and he thinks this may be a theme of future work.
A factor that he feels drives some of his fiction - particularly some of his short stories - into the realms of the extraordinary is his interest in imagery.
Mentally-held images have triggered the writing of many of his stories, the narrative coalescing around a picture in his mind's eye - rather than those stories arising as the result of, say, conscious plotting, or research, or the wish to promote or punish some cause.
This is something that perhaps places Rees with writers such as Stephen King, Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Mavis Gallant and others, who've stressed the importance of imagery, dreams and the unconscious in their writing process.
Something Rees always hopes to achieve with his fiction is an image that will live on in the mind of the reader long after the story has been finished or the actors have left the stage. For Rees, this is one of the hallmarks of a truly successful story or play.
In recent times, he has come to connect this interest in imagery with the regular Saturday morning visits he made in his boyhood to his local cinema.
He says, 'A picture I remember from that time was Whistle Down The Wind starring Hayley Mills and Alan Bates (who later appeared in The Go-Between, from L.P Hartley's book - both the novel and film resonate with me for some reason). I love good cinema. We were fortunate - at a time when so many of them were being turned into bingo halls or wrestling venues - that our town had two. We were mainly loyal to our Odeon, a lovely old Art Deco building, with a grand staircase and a fabulous high 'circle'. Tragically, the place was demolished. Later, as a student, I loved the old Globe cinema in Cardiff.
'Back then, directors didn't have today's incredible technological tricks at their disposal. I wonder if that caused stories to be more engaging and cinematography stronger (think of John Ford's footage of Monument Valley) . . .
Possibly - though there was plenty of ham and wooden acting about, and, at times, some seriously clunky writing!
'Either way, like fine fiction, there has always been something spellbinding for me about great cinema, and I shall always be thankful for the way my parents packed me off to the pictures on Saturday mornings - with some pocket money... and my big sister.'