Apropos of Dave Morris's gentle hint, I'm cartwheeling myself back through the mists of time to the age of thirteen when, as is germaine to a lot of adolescents, a burgeoning awareness of the transitory nature of life propelled me into the musty pages of paperback horror.
The first book I acquired that had me absolutely reduced to a state of twitchy apprehension was the recently re-issued Pan Book of Horror Stories (see yesterday's posting), I devoured those tales of things beyond the grave with such rapidity that I was soon looking for more in that vein. Fortunately salvation in the form of a ramshackle second hand bookshop run by an elderly World War 1 veteran with the shrapnel wounds from that conflict still very evident on his face and neck was within easy walking distance. The piles of second hand paperbacks on his shelves had a good selection of titles aimed at devotees of the macabre, of which there was always a good contingent in Hastings. The town had hosted some redoubtable sorcerers and necromancers and in fact was and still is laboring under a curse from Alastair Crowley who passed away there in 1947. Hastings wasn't alone in being the unwilling recipient of one of Crowley's last curses as his doctor was also subject to the same dark forces for refusing to indulge the old guy's heroin addiction. A dependency which had resulted from a previous morphine prescription to alleviate the bouts of asthma and bronchitis which had become the bane of Crowley's latter years. Crowley's unfortunate doctor only outlived his patient by one day and Hastings has never recovered from the curse either.
A trip to the gloomy confines of Bookman's Halt offered up another paperback with a truly arresting title and cover. Titled "Not at Night" and edited by Christine Campbell Thomson, it was in fact a paperback reprint from a series of books which she had edited as well as contributed to under the alias's of Flavia Richardson and Christine Hartley (the surname of her second husband) from the mid nineteen twenties onwards. The contents were every bit as compelling as the cover and to my delight I discovered that there were at least two more in the series, and those covers were so good in a weirdly retro way that I found myself making frequent forays back to the depths of the old bookshop until I had unearthed the other two titles.
Here then are the covers for the three Not at Night books as published by Arrow from 1960-1962 and here is another M.R. James adaptation - a real chiller and again from the superb Ghostwatching's YouTube Channel. Curiously Montague Rhodes James was not a big fan of Christine Campbell Thomson's books and accused the series of being "too American". As a lot of the stories were sourced from "Weird Tales" he might have had a point at least as regards their provenance.
and with a final flourish:
Number 2260: The Claw, one-man chain gang
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