Posts tagged ‘ghost stories’

June 14, 2014

Robert Aickman: 1914-1981

by Andre

Robert Aickam COLD HAND IN MINE DARK ENTRIES

Robert Aickman is another contender for the best writer you’ve never heard of, so his centenary (on 27 June) is a perfect moment to sample his ‘strange stories’. Tartarus Press has done valiant work in keeping Aickman in print by publishing handsome hardback editions, and now Faber & Faber is reissuing several paperback collections this summer and a couple of rare novels. His debut collection, Dark Entries, is available now and includes an insightful biographical essay from Ramsey Campbell, Britain’s premier horror author and a friend of Aickman.

Cold Hand in Mine, re-published on 3 July, is the 1975 collection that made his name and includes the award-winning Pages From a Young Girl’s Journal. This cultish author’s admirers include Neil Gaiman; The League of Gentleman’s Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Dyson and Reece Shearsmith; and bibliophile Barry Humphries, who wrote that Aickman’s fiction “…captures the very texture of a bad dream which may start, as such dreams do, beguilingly; until the dreamer (and reader) feels the first presentiment of encroaching nightmare – and cannot wake.” Look out for further collections The Wine-Dark Sea (August) and The Unsettled Dust (September) as well as novels The Model and The Late Breakfasters this month in the Faber Finds series.

February 20, 2014

The Rats: James Herbert

by Andre

40th anniversary – spring 2014

James Herbert THE RATSThe nation’s bookshops have been infested with literary rodents for four decades. The Rats was a horrible hit for James Herbert (read our tribute to the master of modern British horror here) in 1974 and beyond. The book has remained in print and publisher Pan Macmillian will issue a 40th anniversary edition in the spring.

When Herbert’s story about giant, murderous rodents with razor-sharp teeth first appeared, its detractors included a young Martin Amis, who reviewed it for The Observer. Admittedly, The Rats is a fundamentally silly and under-developed novel, but when you read it today its anger at complacent authority feels genuine. Herbert was an East End boy made good (he became the art director of an advertising agency), so he knew the appalling post-war conditions that had never really been addressed: poor housing, dystopian tower blocks, casual violence – and vermin.

Herbert’s horror was a gory rejection of the ghost story and the snobbish novels of satanic terror by Dennis Wheatley, as well as being admirably unsentimental: his rodents nibbled at everyone regardless of class, gender, age or colour. (Stephen King also shook up the genre with his debut, Carrie, in 1974). The popularity of The Rats dovetailed with the rise of punk and they both provided a small shock to the establishment. There’s a strong sense of discontent, industrial unrest and government incompetence in Herbert’s depiction of the Seventies. He went on to write better books (Fluke, The Magic Cottage, Sepulchre), but The Rats still packs a punch. Once you’ve read the horrific scene in the Underground, you won’t be able to descend into London Bridge again without looking out for a dirty rat.