Celebrating 20 E-Books: ‘Red Gloves’
Quietly and without fanfare (that’s how we like it) my last three e-books snuck out into the ether this month. Red Gloves Volumes 1 and 2 and the new collection Frightening became available in new online editions. Frightening tidies up the short story backlist with the remaining new stories I produced in the declining days of the horror story (currently a moribund category, but I’m sure it will be back at some point), and Red Gloves 1 & 2 were created to celebrate a quarter century of writing such stories. They’re divided into London tales and world tales. Nobody ever saw the books because they were printed in the small press. The editions were very beautiful, but the publisher rather chucked them away. In many ways they’re the volumes that most defined my horror story writing.
Originally I was going to call them ‘The Horrors’, a phrase often associated with wartime and panic, a sudden overwhelming sense of the weight of the world. Put another way, a rush of awareness. My mother always spoke of having ‘an attack of the horrors’. But I realized that the title would prove misleading to anyone expecting the frisson of revulsion you get from exposure to blood and guts – they are tales that step into areas of unease rather than the abbatoir.
‘Red Gloves’ suggests to me that no-one is innocent, and carries all sorts of interesting connotations, from Macbeth to Giallo. The hand stained with blood is a mark of lost innocence. The glamorous and rather sinister covers were by the ever-excellent Graham Humphries.
Here’s an excerpt from ‘The Rulebook’, the opening of the first tale in the first volume:
Every house has a rulebook. It’s not an actual book, but it has rules you’re not supposed to break. In our house the rulebook appeared after my Dad went away. Here are some of the rules:
Put the lid down on the toilet seat when you’ve finished.
If you want to get something down from the top shelf don’t stack the furniture to reach it. Your cousin Freddie died like that.
Don’t touch the boiler in the kitchen, you’ll burn yourself.
Reading under the bedsheets with a torch will hurt your eyes.
The internet does not replace real friends.
Don’t say Bollocks even though your Grandad says it all the time.
Just because everyone else has got one doesn’t mean that you should have one too.
When you ask for seconds and can’t finish them, remember there are people starving in Africa.
Television doesn’t go on until you’ve finished your homework.
Pressing 6 on the speed-dial will call Auntie Pauline in Australia, she has verbal diarrhoea and it will come out of your pocket money.
Every time you blaspheme, an angel gets a nosebleed.
Don’t touch the cat’s tray without washing your hands afterwards.
Don’t ever put a lightbulb in the microwave again.
When we went on holiday, there was another set of rules:
Don’t go in the sea until an hour after you’ve eaten.
Always keep an eye on the tide.
Only go into an amusement arcade if you’re prepared to lose money.
A stick of rock can pull your fillings out.
If you feel carsick tell Mum at once, don’t leave it too late and do it down the window.
There’s no need to drop a brick on a jellyfish. It can still feel pain even though it hasn’t got a face.
Soon I made up my own rulebook. These were rules I just seemed to know by instinct, or felt were probably true. Here are some of them:
If you don’t reach the bottom of the stairs before the toilet finishes flushing, the Thing That Lives In The Landing Cupboard will come after you.
You can ruin next door’s telly reception by throwing balls of silver foil at their satellite dish.
Every time you squash an insect, God makes a mark in his book against you.
If you die at home while your Mum is away there will be nobody to feed the cat, and it will eat your eyes.
There is a horror film that can make you go mad if you watch it.
Dad is still checking up on you, even though he isn’t here.
Then, in the winter of my twelfth birthday, I learned a new rule.
Don’t tell the neighbours that Mr Hill murdered his wife.