Friday, 4 February 2011

The Power of Three - 12th Installment

Ah yes … Friday morning, the first coffee break of the day, and here we go with another installment of tales which any self-respecting horror addict should already have read by now, and if they haven’t, which they should certainly be looking out for (otherwise, how can they ever say they’ve exposed their souls to the full sword’s edge of terror?).

As usual, none of these stories were chosen deliberately. They came off my loaded, dust-laden shelf at random, but yet again, I think, they make for an interesting and rather complementary trio. Again – to all those asking if I can actually post these stories here on my blog, rather than simply offer a taste of them, sorry but the answer is ‘no’. Too many copyright issues (and a heck of a lot of typing, in most cases).

Strange Event In The Life Of Schalken The Painter by Sheridan Le Fanu

In 17th century Holland, art-student Godfrey Schalken is disturbed when his teacher’s beautiful daughter is forcibly betrothed to a wealthy but hideous man who doesn’t quite seem to be alive.

Unlike many of Le Fanu’s other early works, this timeless classic is far from ambiguous. There is no uncertainty about whether we’re dealing with the supernatural here. This is an out-and-out tale of devilish horror, containing deeply disturbing elements including abduction, voyeurism and necrophilia. Inspired by one of the real life Godfried Schalcken’s paintings, Lady With a Candle (pictured), Le Fanu set out to write as frightening a ghost story as possible, and undeniably succeeded. Despite its great age, it’s still as readable now – and as unsettling – as it ever was. The 1979 BBC adaptation was a superbly accurate rendition, and helped bring it to a much wider audience.

First published in THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE, 1839.

The Worst Of All Possible Places by David A. Riley

A disgraced teacher is re-housed at the top of a tower block filled with drug addicts and criminals. As if that isn’t bad enough, he then learns that a heretical cult once committed ritual suicide there.

A bone-chilling study of the urban underbelly, liberally dosed with extreme supernatural horror. There are unrelenting shocks, as Pan veteran Riley piles one ghastly development on top of another, putting both his hero and his readers through an ordeal of terror, the intensity of which builds steadily until it’s almost impossible to keep reading. It’s a beautifully written piece as well – in a dark and demented sort of way, lovingly detailing the damp, urine-stained edifice in which our hero is forced to live, not to mention the twisted wrecks of humanity that dwell there with him. A non-stop, gut-punching nightmare of the sort the smartarse 21st century deserves.

First published in HOUSES ON THE BORDERLAND, 2007.

The Music of the Dark Times by Chet Williamson

A hotshot record producer plans to release an album interspersing triumphalist Nazi themes with the original gramophone recordings of a death camp quartet. Needless to say, not everyone approves.

Where do you draw the line between empathy and exploitation? That is the crux of this thought-provoking analysis of past crimes and modern indifference. Once again, we’re dealing with a hint of the unknown but also a human psyche so damaged that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to try and establish from where exactly the eventual backlash originates. But in truth none of that matters. History has shown us that unfeasibly terrible things can happen, and we belittle the possibility at our peril.

First published in THE TWILIGHT ZONE, 1988.

1 comment:

  1. The first one is one of my all-time favourites, the other two will have to be "unearthed", as usual. But thanks for the recommendation again.