Male Tears has been marketed by its publisher as an exploration of the male psyche – the title nods to a popular feminist meme – but this is somewhat misleading. While many of these stories do indeed involve men in upsetting circumstances, they contain little in the way of subtle emotional or psychological insight. In keeping with the conventions of rural noir and folk horror, the emphasis here is on atmospherics: for the most part, Myers is less interested in depicting his characters’ inner lives than in evoking the eerie menace of moorlands and forests, be that “the gloaming of an October evening” or a whistling wind, “hypnotic and malevolent, as if the stones themselves were groaning with pain”.
While horror is ever ready to intrude, Male Tears is varied in style. Many stories, such as a father’s three-paragraph reflection on ageing, last barely a page, but there’s also a digressively autofictional piece about having a panic attack at a Brueghel exhibition in Vienna. If many are straightforwardly conversational (such as Suburban Animals, whose narrator remembers a childhood friend with Down’s syndrome, targeted by the school bully), others only hint at what’s going on. There are open endings but also gotchas, as with the story about a labourer who, blessed with “the strength and stamina of 10 men”, fascinates his boss’s young nephew, who pictures what the man’s girlfriend must be like after spotting a dress hung up in his caravan.