A Trilogy of Terror
London Tales of Terror (ed) Jacqueline Visick
Scottish Tales of Terror (ed) ‘Angus Campbell’ (R. Chetwynd-Hayes)
Welsh Tales of Terror (ed) R. Chetwynd-Hayes
By the mid-1970s, photographic book jackets had largely replaced original illustrated art work on most mass market paperbacks. This often resulted in some truly awful book covers—I can still recall (with a grimace) the Macmillan paperback reissues of Thomas Hardy’s Collected Works adorned with posed subjects in period costumes. But time has now added a layer of nostalgic affection for the now Golden Age of wonderfully schlocky 1970s paperback covers. These three titles—all published in 1972 and 1973—are wonderful examples of this genre. But never judge a book by...
All three books contain a wide assortment of memorable stories by classic and (perhaps) surprising authors: Brian Aldiss, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Algernon Blackwood, Eleanor Farjeon, Arthur Machen and Walter Scott. Here is a selection of my favourites:
LONDON TALES OF TERROR
L. P. Hartley—Someone in the Lift: The Maldon family spend Christmas at the Brompton Court Hotel and their six-year-old son Peter is certain that he can see a man in the lift, a figure in shadows. The mysterious individual is always absent when Peter tries to show him to his parents. A figment of a youthful imagination?
Elizabeth Bowen—The Demon Lover: In 1941, Mrs Drover returns to her boarded-up home in bomb-ravaged London to collect various family items and finds a letter from her ‘missing, presumed dead’ soldier fiancé reminding her of a promise she gave on the eve of his departure to France in 1916—some twenty-five years earlier. As the agreed hour arrives, her nerves overcome her. She flees into the street and hails a taxi …You will probably guess the ending but it is still registers as one of the most terrifying.
SCOTTISH TALES OF TERROR
Angus Stewart—Brown God in The Beginning: Young Aljo McBain lives on a remote settlement on the Atlantic coast. He is entirely subjugated by the Brown God, a pitiless voice in his head that commands him to conduct bizarre acts of devotion such as obsessively sweeping the path to the light house or squashing hundreds of slugs under the wheels of his bicycle. As he grows older, Aljo’s displays of worship become more vicious and deadly.
Robert Louis Stevenson—The Body-snatcher: The author of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde here pens a fictitious account of the Burke and Hare serial murders that took place in Edinburgh in the 1820s. Medical students Fettes and Macfarlane go into business as Resurrection Men—delivering dug-up corpses to the dissecting rooms of the medical institutions. One stormy night, at Glencorse, the exhumation of a farmer’s wife does not go as planned.
Eileen Bigland—The Lass with The Delicate Air: In this gentle ghost story, a war veteran convalescing at Cawdor Village in the Highlands, falls in love with the mysterious, mournful vision of a beautiful young woman in a blue dress who appears in the forest every New Moon.
WELSH TALES OF TERROR
Dorothy K. Haynes—Mrs. Jones: Mrs. Jones wins all the local cookery competitions with ease. One day a famished crone asks for one of her cakes. Mrs. Jones refuses her, saying ‘I don’t bake for the likes of you’. Unfortunately, the elderly woman turns out to be a sidh, one of the Fae, who spirits Mrs Jones away to the fairy kitchen at the Cove to bake for all eternity.
R. Chetwynd-Hayes—Lord Dunwilliam And the Cwy Annwn: The arrogant Lord Dunwilliam, lost in a snowstorm, chances upon a solitary cottage where live Evan ap Evans and his beautiful daughter, Silah. Dunwilliam decides she will be his at any cost. Such is his lustful obsession that he refuses to heed warnings from both father and daughter that she has a fearsome lover, Annwn the Wild Huntsman and his pack of Hell-Hounds. Stephen Reid