Frightening New Collection Coming

Reading & Writing

crewdson 2

There are going to be a total of twenty books from me coming out as e-editions this year, including nearly all of my short stories, and a brand-new collection of short stories entitled: ‘Frightening’. I hope to be able to price this below the usual level to encourage new readers.

I’d told myself I wasn’t going to write any more short stories; they’re almost impossible to sell these days, you virtually end up giving them away and the market is tiny. And yet how can you stop if you’re still pursuing that ever-shifting phantom, the perfect short story? I’ve certainly never written one – although a few have come quite close to pleasing me. But oddly enough, the collection with which I was most pleased, ‘Red Gloves’, was seen and bought by almost nobody. After it came out two years ago I virtually stopped producing such tales.

It didn’t help that the publisher of ‘Red Gloves’, PS, produces the very finest looking books in the country and has the worst distribution system I’ve ever come across. I felt that perhaps I’d never write another decent short story, or perhaps that I was simply – like so many of the authors I write about in my weekly ‘Invisible Ink’ column – simply out of my time.But there it is still in front of me, the tantalising image of the perfect tale. I know of some other authors who have produced utter masterpieces, so I know it’s possible.

Among the greats I would include ‘The Swimmer’ by John Cheever, stories by Conan Doyle, Raymond Carver, Shirley Jackson, HH Monroe, Jim Shepard and William Faulkner. If I was famous enough to persuade a publisher to let me gather together the very best stories, I’d include William Sansom, who wrote ‘The Long Sheet’, in which captives are required to wring out a great wet sheet with their hands, and the process is described in flesh-smarting detail. Nor can the sheet ever be completely dried, because fresh moisture is constantly sprayed on it. The final lines of the story reveal the true nature of torment while pointing the way to another prescient writer, J G Ballard.

I’d also include the unsung genius Dino Buzzati, whose stories have the grim inexorability of an infinite downward spiral, as roads never end, houses gradually collapse, rivers flood, good people starve, revolutions occur and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that anyone can do about it.

It will come as no surprise that these two authors are out of print while MR James is constantly republished. I find James’s tales filled with comforting nostalgia, not disturbing at all, and the same goes for HP Lovecraft, whose tales of nameless horror I have never truly enjoyed. I prefer Elizabeth Jane Howard, whose final haunting image in the story ‘Three Miles Up’ stayed with me for years, and shows her terrific storytelling strength, or John Collier, whose bizarre tale ‘Evening Primrose’, with its central image of shadowy figures moving around in department stores at night, also haunted my dreams (Weirdly, this has been released on DVD as a TV musical with songs by Stephen Sondheim (!) although I think it’s very rare now).

Because perhaps great short stories are like music. They soar and lift the emotions, but also plunge them to the depths. They are a condensed drug, and one I hope from which I never recover.

The picture above is, of course, from the astonishing Gregory Crewdson, whose photography books are the most unsettling I’ve ever seen.


11 comments on “Frightening New Collection Coming”

  1. Chris Lancaster says:

    That’s good news on the new collection. Will there be a physical edition? I hope so.

    In case it helps, I bought Red Gloves and enjoyed it greatly, particularly the second “book”. I’m surprised by your comments about PS, though. I’ve bought quite a few books from them over the years, and other than it sometimes being rather difficult to work out when a book is actually going to be out, have found them good and reliable. Their books also turn up on Amazon, which I would have thought means that they have a good reach. It sounds as if you perhaps see tbings differently, however

  2. admin says:

    I like PS, Chris, and have often worked with them over the years, but they are essentially creatives, not businesspeople. I set up meetings for them and arranged launches which they never followed up on. They let good books slip through the cracks because they’re not interested in promotion, only in printing. There’s no question that they produce superb books, but they need to act like real publishers.

  3. Matthew says:

    I also hope Frightening comes out in a real form, as I have most if not all of your other books on my shelves.

    I do love short stories, and will normally buy one or two short story collections a year. I enjoy the shiver that a good horror short story can give with the last few words. Your story about the 2 people in the lift (sorry the name escapes me) did that, as did a story from Michael Marshall Smith about a newsgroup. That punch sticks in the mind in a way that a longer story doesn’t.

    So I am glad that you are continuing to search for that perfect short story, as I know I will enjoy them all.

  4. Wayne says:

    Yes a proper wood pulp edition would be a boon. I am only three books short of a full set of your works, including the best lets forget book I am not aloud to mention on here. Ebooks are all well and good but as I have said before nothing beats a proper old fashion hard copy.

    I love short story collections they are perfect for holidays, Or waiting rooms. I managed to get a signed copy of Red Gloves in the slip case and really did enjoy it and the artwork was rather nice too.

  5. Stephen Groves says:

    Hi Chris,

    Music to the ears .I too thought Red Gloves was a great collection and I currently own 13 copies , and yes I know I’m in danger of Mrs Stalky being able to have me put away under the mental health act but she dosn’t know ,so thats that .

    All Best

  6. Peter Lee says:

    I bought “Red Gloves” (afraid I thought it wasn’t one of your best though) and I agree that PS were pretty poor on the distribution front, but I was also extremely disappointed that the deluxe edition was just one book rather than two separate volumes. Mind you, I think the producers of the “Casebook” also let you down with its endless delays, and all of the typos / printing errors it contained, which did spoil it for me.

  7. Jo W says:

    That story you mentioned, The Long Sheet, would hold no terrors for those mums of forty/fifty years ago,when not every home had a washing machine,let alone a wringer! Include towelling nappies in the punishment. Mums just got on with it, with love.

  8. andrea yang says:

    I know you love the format but subtitle that mentions short stories is the kiss of death in the public library where I work. Good luck with your venture .

  9. keith says:

    I bought the Red Gloves collection Chris, and I loved every bit of it. A splendid edition by PS Publishing too. The only qualms I have about PS though is that many times my books just don’t arrive. Although Peter Crowther has replaced these a few times I do wonder where the first orders end up.

  10. snowy says:

    Andrea, have you condsidered conducting an experiment? [I’d do it myself, but I don’t have a library full of customers to play with.]

    The next time there is a gap, pull out the short story collections and shelve/display them somewhere prominent, near the queue to checkout. And here’s the ‘charm’, put them under a BIG banner that says “Short Reads for Busy People”.

    [There is a long explanation why this should work, but it’s a bit wordy and you will doubtless recognise the technique from seeing it used in supermarkets anyway. It’s why they put sweets amd magazines by the tills.]


  11. m says:

    I’m thrilled about the new collections. It might be time to get a proper ereader.

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