Patrick McGrath - Blood And Water And Other Stories (Penguin, 1989)
The Angel The Lost Explorer The Black Hand of the Raj Lush Triumphant Ambrose Syme The Arnold Crombeck Story Blood Disease The Skewer Marmilion Hand of a Wanker The Boot’s Tale The E(rot)ic Potato Blood and Water
From the blurb: Dark, unnerving and wickedly funny, Patrick McGrath's acclaimed short stories deal in the bizarre, the erotic, and the unexpected. A failed writer meets an ageing gin-queen who claims he was once visited by an angel; a little girl finds a delirious, dying explorer from the Congo at the bottom of her back garden; a night-club is terrorised by a strange libidinous hand; and a young Victorian lady sails to India to find her fiancé Cecil horribly transformed ....
Blood Disease: Summer, 1934. Anthropologist Dr. William "Congo Bill" Clack-Herman returns to England after spending a year studying a pygmy tribe, a near fatal bout of malaria having reduced him to a shrunken wreck of his former self. His wife Virginia, can barely conceal her distress at his hideous appearance. Together with eleven year old son Frank and his new monkey (a present from Dad. It temporarily dies within hours), they put up for the night at The Blue Bat Inn near Reading, Berks. "Congo Bill," still half ga-ga with delirium, doesn't mind too much when Virginia flirts outrageously with an old flame, Ronald Dexter, and invites him to dine with them. Dexter is travelling with his valet, Clutch, a thoroughly miserable bastard of a superstitious bent. It is Clutch alone who realises that they have strayed into the hang-out of a colony of human vampires ("Pernicious Anaemia" was a buzzword among "serious" "vampire" "researchers" at the time), but can he persuade anyone to believe him?
Hand Of A Wanker: A patron of Babylonia nightclub, Manhattan, is so consumed with self-loathing at his life of solitary vice that he lops off his offending hand with a cleaver. Thereafter, the disembodied limb makes a nuisance of itself by groping the clientèle. The toilets become a no go area as this particular beast with five fingers is amphibious and conceals itself in the u-bend. It is a desperate situation, until our hero and heroine, hunky Gunther of the purple lederhosen and glamorous transvestite Lily de Villiers, lure the miscreant from hiding ....
The E(rot)ic Potato: Sexual awakening of Gilbert the fly, who lives by the pond at a bird sanctuary. Gilbert and the gang have just feasted upon dead rat when Ariadne the dragonfly flashes "the white miracle of her ovipositor" and invites him to join her in the garden shed where a human corpse is mouldering nicely.
The Black Hand Of The Raj: In 1897, Lucy Hepplewhite travels to India to join her husband-to-be, young Civil Servant Cecil Pym at Poonah. The heat is getting her very excited, as - to her shame - is the prospect of her wedding night. But her fiance is far from his usual self. Broody and constantly on edge, Cecil refuses to remove his pith helmet on account of there is a hand protruding from his skull. He is doomed. Amputation is out as the homicidal hand has taken root in Cecil's brain, and the best Dr. Cadwallader can do is to keep the patient heavily sedated. And all because he passed the time of day with a wretched native chappie in a loincloth!
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.