Celebrating 20 E-Books: ‘Red Gloves’

Books

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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.

            And:

            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.

Red Gloves 1&2

8 comments on “Celebrating 20 E-Books: ‘Red Gloves’”

  1. Wayne#1 says:

    I was one of the lucky ones and received a signed numbered copy in a rather nice slip cover, the slip cover did a weird thing and grew a rather nasty looking mould on its outer edges so I had to remove and recycle it. I guess it won’t be as collectable now as those that still have the hard red slip case. That doesn’t bother me though cos its not a book I would want to part with, I do rather like the stories inside those delightfully sinister covers….

  2. Adam says:

    £2.99 for Fightening – bargain! Less than the price of a pint.

  3. Chris Webb says:

    I think the reason horror and supernatural stories are moribund is that to “work”, or at least to be accepted, people like them to be set in the world created in the 19th century by Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, M R James etc., and brought to life in the 20th century by Hammer. Setting similar stories in semi-detached suburbia, for example, runs the risk of just looking silly, and there is therefore no room for the genre to evolve.

    I recently read an anthology of short stories by Ray Russell (American, mid 20th C) and even he felt the need to go back to 19th and early 20th century Europe. Maybe a writer of rare genius will one day pull it off. Maybe you are that writer!

    A couple more “rules” for you from my childhood:

    Unplug the telly (people still said “telly” in those days) before you go to bed or it will catch fire and we’ll all burn to death.

    Double-lock the front door when you go out so that if anyone breaks in they won’t be able to get out again. (Spot the flawed logic there.)

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I loved those covers, especially the two hands reaching out — — to make a snowball? to show how big the cabbage was? to stroke the glass globe? It has taken me quite a while to realise that Chris Fowler is a kindly soul who will never write a truly terrifying story because he likes people too much. Even Hell Train, drenched in gore as it is, treats people reasonably gently (don’t bother with contrary examples, I want to cherish my delusions.) I still don’t read on the Internet, but I wish you congratulations on your 20 volumes (if that’s the proper word).

  5. Vivienne says:

    I have three sisters. House rule no 1 was Don’t you dare go out looking like that!’

  6. Brian Evans says:

    My mother’s watchword was “Never trust a man who doesn’t like dogs”

  7. Jay Mackie says:

    Very proud to own a signed limited edition of Red Gloves – a truly beautiful, elegant collection. Counting the days until Frightening. I do hope it won’t be your last collection of stories Chris as I do think that this format is still very much alive and kicking in e-book and hard copy format. Although there are some questionable collections of quality out there! It is really encouraging too to discover that the short story anthology is experiencing a quiet renaissance in film world with the latest offering XX from four extremely talented female directors. If any serious directors worth their salt are reading this then PLEASE turn some of the amazing Mr Fowler’s short stories into an Amicus-esque production. Last Call For Passenger Paul and Hot Air would make terrific segments!

  8. admin says:

    I wonder, Jay. With all that’s going on right now, horror stories seem suddenly quaint. They aren’t getting political enough for me, and I find most of the ones I read very unsatisfying.

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