Hallowe'en Horrors, Guy Fawkes Gore

Christopher Fowler

Hallowe'en Hell

We don't do Hallowe'en well in this country. We're just not gung ho enough to embrace all of its American peculiarities, except in the suburbs. Nobody can be arsed to do what apparently every American resident does, ie, build hundred foot-tall orange singing plastic skeletons that breathe fire. Except, of course, we have Guy Fawkes in bonfire societies, which function like scabrous political cartoons sending villains to a burning hell. Market this, Walmart. As for good old-fashioned horror, the kind on TV and in movies, why is everything so damned gory these days? I'm watching through my fingers while kids laugh at the 'lame' Exorcist. My theory is, once you've seen parts of your own body being operated on for real you lose your appetite for this stuff. Mind you, these cakes were fun at the local store. The spider and the heart seemed pretty um, engorged.

It's been a learning curve, from hiding behind the sofa during 'Pathfinders to Venus' (I always watched the ITV creepy shows, rarely the BBC's 'Dr Who'). This year's Hallowe'en TV movies made it look like everyone at the networks had given up, but after seeing 'The Sadness' I feel I've reached the ne plus ultra of physically grotesque horror films and can now go back to those under-the-skin psychological tales.

Unforgotten Stories

Although I wrote 'The Book of Forgotten Authors' ages ago, I would have added second volume if the risk-averse publisher had wanted one. I certainly had the material lined up and ready to go. Happily RB Russell's 'Fifty Forgotten Authors' covers some of the gems I missed - and crosses over with some I did cover, like 'The Beetle' and 'Miss Hargreaves', both essential to any serious collection. That's what makes Mr Russell's book particularly interesting to me, knowing that two writers can come to different conclusions about the same stories. Mine was a potted history of popular fiction in whatever form it takes, while Mr Russell's is more concerned with discovering and curating different editions of volumes - a true bookseller's mindset, which I don't quite have. I was surprised to find myself and lovely Lisa Tuttle mentioned as 'authors who make the whole event worthwhile' in the volume. Obviously that makes it even more of a cracking read, which also grants better insights into the author's mind than most of those 'My Amusing Life in A Bookshop' volumes. It has, of course, increased my reading list five-fold, which does not fit very well with my prognosis, but let's see how much I can get done in the time left.

Hated The Decade, Loving The Book

What a horrible, horrible volume 'The Decade in Tory' by Russell Jones is; I'm loving every second of its schadenfreude-filled bile. Has British politics ever reached this level of chimp-with-a-crayon stupidity before? I studied economics and economic history because I was once (hard to believe) fascinated by fiscal balancing acts. To watch the water drain from the oasis leaving floundering mud-covered invertebrates in the present day is depression personified, redeemed here only by Jones' lurid prose, whose phrase 'an unrelenting stream of ineffectual, divisive bum-slurry oozing from N.10 Downing Street' is on the actual flyleaf, indication that it gets much uglier inside almost 700 pages of jaw-dropping reminders about how much worse than merely useless were our 'leaders'. David Cameron's pledge to tackle inequality actually reduced the nation's life expectancy for the first time since 1841. Forget MPs claiming for duck houses, we have career creeps like James Duddridge claiming over £11,000 during his first month in the job for staying in hotels because he had to work late, despite owning two houses in the vicinity. I want to laugh at the grisly Brexit stories he notes, but the laughter freezes on my lips. The catalogue of cock-ups is 'spectacular, avoidable and entirely predictable' but I would Like to think that the general public (for whom read a handful of atrophied rural party members selling Union Jack tea-towels in Dorset) have signed their death warrants. In my own contribution to Hallowe'en horror I fell down a flight of steps this morning with a water bottle in my pocket. We pick up the pieces, check for damage and go on. The pain comes later.


Gareth (not verified) Fri, 04/11/2022 - 19:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Does Pt. II of Forgotten Authors exist in any form? Would love to read some more maybe even on the website.

I’ve enjoyed hunting down a few of those authors and trying to find some of my own here in Cape Town’s second hand bookstores. Great fun.

SteveB (not verified) Fri, 04/11/2022 - 21:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Talking of Pathfinders to Venus, who remembers The Voodoo Factor, with people on a ship turning into spiders!

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 04/11/2022 - 23:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

"flight of stairs." Chris, that will get you faster than anything else, with or without the hot water bottle. I assume that was rubber, by the way, so a type of padding. Do be careful. We could provide quilts and such like to soften the corners if necessary.

Jo W (not verified) Sat, 05/11/2022 - 07:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Is Hallowe’en over? Can I come out yet? Oh no, here comes firework “nights”. Ok, back behind the curtains, lights out, don’t let them see you.

Christopher, please be more careful with those stairs, remember to hold on to the bannister, that “boon to the elderly.” Take careX

linda+ayres (not verified) Sat, 05/11/2022 - 09:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I agree about current horror films,the last film that truly gave me chills was The Others. When I saw Eric Sykes among the cast list I thought it wouldn't be scary, oh how wrong I was.
The staircase incident sounds awful, a trauma at the best of times. I am in awe of your way of handling your situation, in the same circumstances I might well be raging at all and sundry. Please though assume nothing, a dear friend of mine received a diagnosis of a terminal illness back in January, he had MND a slow burning illness that would rob him of everything gradually all the while keeping him mentally alert. He and his wife made plans, with docs permission they took off on an extended tour of Europe in their motor home. Together they talked through the future and what adaptations might be needed. Two weeks after their return a careless driver ended the husband's life. Some may say a blessing but to his wife the bereavement was so much deeper. Sorry for running on.

Brooke (not verified) Sat, 05/11/2022 - 13:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What Gareth said re: more forgotten authors material.
Not pleased to hear about your fall. If you need padding, will add to Helen's contribution.

Paul C (not verified) Sat, 05/11/2022 - 14:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I met R B Russell and his partner Rosalie Parker at the York Book Fair last year - they own Tartarus Press which publishes sumptuous fine editions of supernatural stories. He was fascinating to talk to and very generous with his
time. Will definitely buy his 'Fifty Forgotten Books' - thanks for the recommendation.

Sorry to hear about your fall. We're all immensely grateful that you continue with these blogs. Respect.

Kimberly Molesworth (not verified) Sat, 05/11/2022 - 23:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Let me second Paul C’s comment on being immensely grateful that you continue these blogs. I love them and may risk becoming over educated!
Yes and the stairs, we usually have have ourselves to blame when we fall. So use the damn handrail Chris!

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Sun, 06/11/2022 - 01:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I wasn't there when Chris fell on the stairs, so I don't know why that happened. However, I will say this from my own experience. When you have neuropathy in your feet and hands, you can't feel things. That includes stair railings. I don't have the issue at the level Chris does, but I drop things every day. I think I have a grip on something, and I don't. When I walk to the store with my shopping cart, I talk to myself the whole way saying "Pay attention - pay attention" because tripping and falling isn't an option. I don't know if padding would help. It might. Just don't end up looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. That would make mobility even more problematic!

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Sun, 06/11/2022 - 07:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I understand the peripheral neuropathy issue of not knowing where my feet are, so can well imagine the tumble. If I thought it would help, I’d get some raggedy-assed wool and take up knitting, but believe Chris would be better off as the Stay-Puft Man. I will also vote for any version of Forgotten Authors, if it’s in the cards, but must say we’ve been damn lucky to get what we’ve got. Thanks, Chris, and best wishes for less pain.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Sun, 06/11/2022 - 07:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Escalators are somehow even worse than stairs, I find. Hopefully you're not too sore.

In NZ we have somehow managed to be lumbered with and American style Halloween and a week of goddam fireworks, even though very few people could actually tell you anything about the gunpowder plot (other than that it was "an attempt to blow up parliament"). We could be commemorating Parihaka, but instead there's this desperate grasping for things that aren't relevant to us. FOMO maybe?

Christopher Fowler Sun, 06/11/2022 - 14:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Gareth, the book exists in pieces only, some of which I published or gave to friends who needed articles. However, there IS another version with more in it, but to be honest I'm not well enough now to start sifting through all the information.

Anna-Maria - I blame 'colony mentality' for grimly clinging to rituals that cannot possibly mean anything there. I'm very anti-Little England, although I've enjoyed some amazing nights with bonfire leagues here in the UK.

Bob Low (not verified) Sun, 06/11/2022 - 21:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That description of you and Lisa Tuttle is bang on the money.

Stephen Groves (not verified) Thu, 10/11/2022 - 18:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ok I watched The Sadness ,very gory but I found it not very engaging,it was no Train To Busan in my opinion.I’m still looking for a film that’s creepy and unnerving that you still thinki about 2 hours after you’ve seen it ie Spoorloos.The search continues …..
All best