R. Chetwynd-Hayes - The Night Ghouls (Fontana, 1975)
The Ghouls The Ghost Who Limped Danger In Numbers Something Comes In From The Garden The Man Who Stayed Behind Christmas Eve Building Site Manuscript No Need For Words The Wailing Waif Of Battersea The Holstein Horror
Nightmares of shuddering horror ...
The terror-crazed ghost of Battersea ... A monster that feeds on virgin's blood ... The evil Black Riders who hunt by night ... A midnight feast of the ghouls ...
Echoing down the eerie centuries, tales of mortal fear to curdle the blood by a master story-teller ...
The Ghouls: "The voice was a gurgle that began somewhere down in the constricted throat and the words seemed to bubble like stew seething in a saucepan ..
Edward Goldsmith receives an unwelcome visit at home from a long-haired, unkempt figure in a grimy overcoat and stained corduroys who smells like "bad milk and dead roses." With some difficulty he informs Edward that he used to live here, but now "I am dud." He is 'Charlie', well known to the local constabulary as a harmless derelict and suspected meths drinker (how else to explain his green complexion?). In reality, of course, he is a ghoul, a resourceful one at that, as, when the terrified Edward implores a friendly bobby to search the house for him, he hides in the wardrobe like he was auditioning for No Sex Please - We're British or something.
The story reads like an early attempt at what would become The Humgoo in The Monster Club, except in this instance the Ghouls are much further gone than their loughville brethren, decomposing on their feet, many missing limbs and some with fractured bones protruding from their skin. They're actually being mass-produced by the Government to replace the working class who've got above themselves by forming trade unions and demanding three weeks paid holiday a year.
The Ghost Who Limped: Mother and father dote on seven year old Brian at the expense of his sensitive, sixteen year old sister, Julia, who can never do anything right. Their garden is haunted by a benign spook, 'Mr. Miss-One' (as in 'miss one step' on account of his limp) who is entirely oblivious to their presence as he goes about weeding his invisible flowerbeds and washing his ghost car. Unfortunately, being a Goth has yet to be invented (even the punk explosion is further away than at first appears) so Julia wills herself to fall in love with him and, after another blazing row in which she finally lets slip that she hates her mother, the family send her to Coventry. Julia decides that if Mr Miss-One can't come to her, she will go to him, and sets off to the garage to hang herself ....
To say any more would be to ruin it, but Mike Ashley has described The Ghost Who Limped as "possibly his best" and it's certainly as good as anything of RCH's I've read up until now.
Danger In Numbers: Jennifer is dumbfounded when she finds husband Robin sitting across the breakfast table from her reading the Daily Mail. She consults psychiatrist Mr. Hunglebert-Chiffinch over this worrying turn of events (not his choice of reading matter, you understand, but the fact that she poisoned him some months before). The shrink advises her that Robin is a guilt induced apparition and, should he show up again, she should sit on his lap and he'll vanish. However, when she gives this a try, she doesn't sink through him and Robin bawls her out. Exasperated, she recruits her mother (a staunch Tory and prime mover in the local, mass husband-murdering Women's Guild) to rid her of the tenacious ghost. This Mrs. Jones accomplishes by sitting on his face and burying his corpse under a huge slab in the cellar ... but that only leads to bigger problems, double trouble in fact.
Building Site Manuscript: Brentford, Middlesex, summer of 1970. Bramwell Francis Coldwell commits suicide by sticking his head in the gas oven, but the "true death" he craves eludes him thanks to the Frankenstein-style dabbling of black magician Lord Emmwood. Back in 1780, he and his henchmen have been stockpiling and reviving the corpses of hanged felons to use as hosts for the elementals who roam the afterlife. Bramwell finds himself trapped within the body of handsome young Donald 'the Dip' Lym, an executed pickpocket. When the living dead he shares his cell with realise he's a live one, only the timely intervention of his jailors saves him from becoming their cannibal feast.
Christmas Eve: Andrew Nesbitt's festive spirit is smithereened when he's picked up by a strange girl in The Royal George Hotel, Manville. Janet Gurney insists that he is one of her kind and must assist her in freeing a fellow "nursling" from his cocoon. This involves lots of cutting away at a fleshy sack with a knife and power tools. Until tonight, Nesbitt had always thought of himself as a middle-aged loner with a wanderlust spirit, but now he has to wonder what species he is and what he will become. It's probably very cleverly done, but this type of miss-mash of horror, SF and fantasy brings me out in hives.
No Need For Words: Barbara and Neil are captured by the Scarlet Leader and his cowled cronies who, by means of some black magic ritual, transform them into baying, dog-faced creatures like themselves. Nightmarish and, for once, played deadly straight.
The Holstein Horror: Fake medium Count Louis de Rohan buys an oak chest from an antiques dealer - the equally fraudulent Mr. Chippendale - and unwittingly releases the tall, long-haired black demon therein during a 'seance'. Clairvoyant Madame Orloff, quoting from Conrad Von Holstein's The Unnatural Enmities And Their Disposal, explains to the Count (or Arthur Watkins as she knows him) that the creature: "doth hunger for the blood of the summoner." In short, if he has not placated the Demon with a pint of virgin's blood in three nights time it will "pluck forth the summoner's wind-pipe and lay it on his breast and then feed mightily on his blood."
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
There hasn't been any RCH in my life for a while so I picked this one up the other day for my first re-read in (probably) more than 20 years! I always think of RCH having three 'periods' -Tandem, Fontana and Kimber / Hale. The Tandem & Fontana years are by far the best, because RCH was yet to aim squarely at the the old lady lending library market (although I've had more than a few old ladies tell me how much they like some of the nastiest of my own stories so perhaps they're making them tougher than they used to).
The Night Ghouls is a thoroughly decent collection, and because Dem hasn't mentioned it I'll just sing the praises of 'Something Comes in From the Garden' - a ghost story with a very nasty ghost indeed. In fact RCH liked it so much / was sufficiently desperate to fill up the space that it was reprinted in the later Kimber book Tales From the Dark Lands (that's the one with the really crappy drawing of racing cars on it - sorry Ionicus).
The only other thing of note is that I picked up on rather more slapping of ladies' bottoms in these stories than I had noticed previously, possibly because I am more on the lookout for such 'themes' after the frankly dodgy goings-on of The Psychic Detective. Anyway I was immensely heartened that time has not withered my ability to enjoy these (I have no wish to repeat the Inseminoid experience of a couple of years ago) so I may well forge ahead with The Elemental next!
The Ghost who Limped is my favourite of the RCH stories that I have read. Admittedly, I haven't read anything like his full output as too many of his tales just go over the top for me. When RCH plays it straight, then that is when he is at his best imo.
Picked up a copy of The Night Ghouls from a market-stall for 50p at the weekend (and for once a book acquired in this way did not smell like a dead tramp's vest). Have only read 'The Ghouls' so far, which struck me as a story in which horror and humour are perfectly balanced. I'd love to see this as the wraparound in a portmanteau film with the dead 'units' relating their tales to the Wheatleyesque bureaucrat of the story. It's interesting to compare 'The Ghouls' with Dennis Etchison's 'The Late Shift', which treats the same idea far more seriously. On the whole, I prefer Ron's chucklesome take on the subject, which is not something I'd ever have expected to find myself writing. I only hope the rest of the collection lives up to its lively opening.
“I heard one cry in the night, and I heard one laugh afterwards. If I cannot forget that, I shall not be able to sleep again.”
Horror-Zeit (Time for Horror) (Pabel 1977, No. 50 of the Vampir Horror Paperback)
This contains only five of the original ten stories. At the time the fixed length of the monthly series was only 145 pages. A few of the missing stories were later collected in another VHR-paperback. Included are: The Ghouls; Something comes in from the Garden; Christmas Eve; The Waling Waif of Battersea; The Holstein Horror.
Like all the books in this monthly series sold only at newsstands and train-stations there was no information about the writer or introductions to the stories included. In hindsight I can understand this policy, the mainly youthful customers wouldn't have cared a lot, and why waste a few of the already limited pages? On the other hand, maybe it would have done more to establish a writer's name. It made the material very arbitrarily. Parry, Haining, van Thal, Fanthorpe, who cares who the editor or writer was. As long as it was horror.
I really like the Les Edwards cover. Strangely it is different version of the original from Christopher Lee's New Chamber of Horrors by Haining. (Or at least seems to be judging from another source. I don't know the original painting.) I find this darker colour version much more effective, right down to Dracula's red eyes.