Gruesome Cargoes

Horror fiction 1925-1937: ‘Not At Nights’ & ‘Creeps’

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dalby’

L. A. Lewis – Tales Of The Grotesque

Posted by demonik on May 13, 2009

L. A. Lewis – Tales Of The Grotesque: Uneasy Tales (Philip Allan, 1934)

L A Lewis Tales Of The Grotesque

L A Lewis Tales Of The Grotesque

Many thanks to Robert Weinberg for kindly granting me permission to use his cover scans.

Lost Keep
Hybrid
The Tower Of Moab
The Child
The Dirk
The Chords Of Chaos
The Meerschaum Pipe
Haunted Air
The Iron Swine
Animate In Death

“Squadron Leader Leslie Allin Lewis (1899-1961) was a veteran of both world wars, flying Sopwith Camels over France in 1918 and Hurricanes over England in 1940. He was also one of the best writers in the macabre and supernatural genre between wars. A collection of his unusual and excellent stories was published in 1934 under the title Tales Of The Grotesque.

From Richard Dalby’s introduction to Haunted Air in The Mammoth Book Of Ghost Stories 2, 1977.

Officially a Creep, a modern edition, edited by Richard Dalby was published by the Ghost Story Press in 1994, and includes what seems to be L(eslie) A. Lewis’s only other contribution to horror fiction, The Author’s Tale – ghosts get down to some serious bondage and caning fun (!) – from Christine Campbell Thomson’s Terror By Night. Prior to that, the excellent Hugh Lamb had revived a few of the stories for his anthologies.

The Child: The narrator, a city boy and motorcyclist – though not, as he hastens to point out, the type “that carries a leggy flapper on the pinion and sports a cigarette holder a yard long”: What’s the matter with him? – investigates an alleged haunting at a gamekeepers cottage in the woods near ‘Wailing Dip’. Some years before, a woman who’d murdered her children had escaped from the local asylum and was last seen near the site. She was heavily pregnant at the time. The woman is presumed dead down a pot hole, but who or what has been stealing poultry from the village these past years and what did a poacher see that scared him to death?

The Meerschaum Pipe: The narrator moves into ‘Heroney’, the former country residence of Harper who butchered several women and buried them in the surrounding fields. Or rather, parts of them:

“The most revolting feature of the murders was his habit of severing the head and limbs and leaving them on the scene for identification, while carrying away the trunk for addition to a sort of museum …”

In between visits to the Vicarage and brushing up on his golf handicap, the new squire takes to smoking Harper’s best pipe. The discovery of a gypsy girl’s mutilated remains in Arningham Woods signals a new reign of terror …

Hybrid: In his youth Chambers was plagued by nightmares which a clairvoyant later convinced him were flashbacks from a previous life when he was an adept black magician. when Chambers marries and takes up home in Sussex he realises that this is where his diabolical incarnation practiced evil and the adjoining field is where he was burnt at the stake. his familiar, a raven-like bird, gradually takes him over until – as his devoted wife explains to Dr. Cole – “His body is mad, but his mind is sane”. chambers degenerates into a hopping, squawking sex maniac and ravishes his wife. Dr. Cole eventually gets a specialist to take care of him but in the meantime Mrs. Chambers gives birth …

The Tower Of Moab: “A veritable flock of ghoulish wraiths whirling about a young girl who stood on the kerb, wearing on her face a look of desperation that spoke of private tragedy … She uttered a ghastly, sobbing scream and hurled herself with a kind of boneless wriggle under the wheels of a lorry.”

A salesman, down on his luck, is fascinated by a huge yellow structure began by a religious cult eighty years earlier as their answer to the Tower of Babel. Fascinated and at a loose end, he jacks in his job and takes a room at the local inn where he can drink himself insensible while investigating the tower. As he sinks further into Whiskey oblivion, he becomes aware of the Devils and Angels flitting about the top of the column until the latter descend on the unwitting public en masse, tormenting them with their sins. Eventually his own demons appear and he’s taken away to a lunatic asylum.

The Author’s Tale: “He would kidnap the venomous swine of a woman and hold her captive in a secret place that he knew, flogging her daily until brute force brought her to absolute subjection.”
He is ‘Lester’, usually an amiable enough fellow with a weakness for the ladies, and she is his third wife who has ruined him, while the remote spot is a deserted farmhouse where he has rigged up his apparatus, a frame with straps and pulleys attached easily capable of suspending his greedy ex until she sees the error of her ways. What he hadn’t accounted for was the place being haunted – and by fiends of particularly sadistic bent who commandeer his torture device and use it to discipline one of their own with a savagery that has even the vengeful Lester. what he witnesses that night persuades him to make a significant amendment to his plans …

Haunted Air: “Apart from its extraordinary shade of pulsating, unnatural green, the object was quite evidently not a bird, and he might momentarily have dubbed it a grotesque toy balloon … but for the fact that it was so obviously – and somehow horribly alive. Carr described it as resembling a monstrous monkey, clambering with incredible speed up an invisible rope.”

A series of mysterious light aircraft crashes claim the lives of a succession of experienced pilots and their passengers. Ace record-breaker Pitchmann sneers at Carr’s death, dismissing him as an amateur and a lightweight, and takes to the skies in unpromising weather to prove how great he is. Meanwhile at the bar, Beckett gives his alarming take on the recent tragedies.

Vault of Evil’s Tales of the Grotesque thread.

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H. D. Everett – The Crimson Blind & Other Stories

Posted by demonik on May 13, 2009

H. D. Everett – The Crimson Blind & Other Stories (Wordsworth, 2006)

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John Atkinson Grimshaw, Autumn Glory, The Old Mill (1869)

The Death Mask
Parson Clench
The Wind of Dunowe
Nevill Nugent’s Legacy
The Crimson Blind *
Fingers of a Hand
The Next Heir
Anne’s Little Ghost
Over the Wires
Water Witch
The Lonely Road
A Girl in White
A Perplexing Case
The Pipers Of Mallory *
Beyond the Pale *
The Whispering Wall

Stories marked * did not appear in The Death Mask And Other Ghosts, (Philip Allan, 1920)

Back cover blurb:

Mrs H.D. Everett was the last in a long line of gifted Victorian novelists who knew how to grip the reader through the invasion of everyday life by the abnormal and dramatic, leaving the facts to produce their special thrills without piling on the agony. ‘I always know’, says one of her characters, ‘how to distinguish a true ghost story from a faked one. The true ghost story never has any point and the faked one dare not leave it out.’ From the chilling horror of The Death Mask to the shocking violence of The Crimson Blind, from the creeping menace of Parson Clench to the mounting suspense of The Pipers of Mallory, these thrilling stories were enthusiastically received by readers and critics when they first appeared, and are sure to delight and terrify the modern reader in equal measure. With their haunting influences, their permeating scents, their midnight apparitions and unexplained sounds, they plunge us, along with the hero or heroine, into a state of increasing nevous excitement.

“Routine material. Indistinguished stories of literal horror … “The Crimson Blind’, which is often anthologised, is much the best story in the book.” – E. F. Bleiler on The Death Mask & Other Ghost Stories.

The excellent Wordsworth Editions published this collection by early (and posthumous) Creeps contributor, Mrs. Everett in a very handsome paperback edition. Let’s hope she’s the first of many! Richard Dalby introduced a collection containing the same sixteen tales for The Ghost Story Society in 1995, but i never thought we’d see a budget edition in my lifetime, so well done Derek and the team! To be fair, Bleiler is not altogether wide of the mark with that “routine” jibe, as some of the stories are …. on the aenemic side.

Includes:

The Crimson Blind: In his youth, Ronald McEwen had spent a fortnight at Swanmere Rectory as a guest of his uncle, Rev. Sylvanus Applegarth. The reverend’s sons are wont to tease Ronald about his belief in ghosts and one night persuaded him to visit a derelict house which – they tell him – has a reputation of being haunted. Ronald is well aware that the boys are planning a prank, but they seem as surprised as he when an upstairs blind is raised and a deranged figure comes crashing through the glass at them. Twenty years later, when the property is incorporated into his friend’s luxurious manor house, McEwen learns the truth. It transpires that the place was once a lunatic asylum, and an inmate had tried to burn his room to the ground, killing himself when he jumped out through the window.

The Death Mask: Gloriana Enderby is fanatically opposed to second marriages. On her deathbed she requests that her husband, Tom, covers her face with a particular handkerchief she values among her possessions.
After the funeral Tom sets his cap at the new neighbours’ daughter, Lucy Ashcroft. When they become engaged Gloriana haunts them, the image of her face forming upon hankies and sheets. When it glowers at them from the tablecloth as they’re attempting to dine, Lucy throws in the towel.

The Lonely Road: With his transport home retired lame, Tom Pultenay is forced to walk the eight miles home from Ballymacor via a road which has attained a bad reputation on account of recent muggings. Sure enough, two rum fellows are soon on his trail, but the weaponless Tom is saved from grief by Boris, the late master’s loyal dog, who takes him the length of the road before fading into nothingness. A sub-plot involves Tom’s tricky courtship of the widow Margaret, but this one definitely warrants Bleiler’s indifference.

Fingers Of A Hand: Much more fun. Two unmarried Aunts, Sara and our narrator Grace, take little Dick and Nancy on holiday in Cove while their father is away in India. The first two weeks are uneventful – thank God Mrs. Everett doesn’t describe them in detail – but when the traditional seaside weather kicks in and torrential rain stops play, Grace finds a message scrawled on the fresh sheet of paper: “GET OUT AT ONCE”. “Surely they could have been traced by no mortal hand!” Sadly, Everett again opts for a benevolent ghost whose interference prevents what would have been a terrible tragedy, but there are some neat moments involving the hand which may even have influenced W. F. Harvey’s malefic The Beast With Five Fingers.

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