Beukes: The novel was always about the artistic impulse. It was always about the urge to try and create something beautiful, to try and remake the world in a way where things are malleable, where things can reach their potential. As far as [the antagonist is] concerned, he is looking inside people to try and bring something beautiful out in them, and he just does it in a terrible way.
With The Shining Girls, I wanted to write a real serial killer, which is a loathsome, empty, broken human being. There is nothing admirable about them. They are just scumbags. Impotent scumbags. That is what real serial killers are. They are opportunistic, violent men, and they have no insight into why they do what they do, and they are certainly not outwitting detectives while sipping Chianti and sautéing someone's liver. With this particular killer, I was much more interested in thwarted ambition. The creative urge, being possessed by the creative urge and trying to find your audience and not being overlooked. It's kind of a broken masculinity as well. It's a hungriness that the killer is filled with … He doesn't mean for this to happen the way it does, and I feel a lot of sympathy for him. Which is not to say that the acts aren't atrocious and horrific and awful.
Critically celebrated novelist Scott Spencer—writing as Chase Novak—delivers a Rosemary’s Baby-like novel of gothic horror, set against the backdrop of modern-day Upper East Side Manhattan. You can download the eBook for $2.99 from now until October 6th. Gorge yourself on this chilling tale, and get ready for the sequel, Brood, which lands in bookstores on October 7th.
Inspired by Kanae Minato’s horror novel and the back-to-school season, today’s question is this: what’s the worst thing a teacher has ever done to you?
To preserve her identity and prevent any tinkering with her mind and soul at the hands of interfering psychiatrists Jean is advised by that Voice to murder her father. And she does so in a lovingly savage way. It's the beginning of her descent into a surreal world of hallucinations, indulgent sexuality and violent murderous attacks. Imagine if you will a most bizarre mix of the selfish child murderess Rhoda Penmark, vindictive pathological liar Mary Tilford, and seductive teen age vixen Lolita and you have only a smidgen of an idea of what Frank Walford has created in Jean Deslines. It's difficult to believe that a fifteen year old girl is narrating this lurid tale of madness, pansexuality and brutal murder. Jean may very well be crime fiction's first bisexual serial killer. Oh, I forgot to mention that Twisted Clay was published in 1933.
Twisted Clay has been reissued by
For more wicked women, amoral temptresses, and literary femme fatales in forgotten books of the past visit Patti Abbot's blog.
I've written previously about the strange stories (his preferred term) of Aickman in my post on Powers of Darkness. But re-reading these tales in their new editions brought forth some interesting recurrent themes in his writing. Aickman doesn't really write traditional supernatural stories though some of them incorporate tropes of ghost story fiction and horror fiction. There is always an ambiguity pervading the stories, a ghost may not be a ghost at all but the fervent imagining of a disturbed mind. There are some instances of outright horror as in his chilling tale of the walking dead in "Ringing the Changes" found in Dark Entries or the thing that lives in the lake in "Niemandswasser" or the grisly and nightmarish true purpose of "The Hospice" both in Cold Hand in Mine. But more often than not the odd and bizarre events tend to be shrouded in a haze of the characters' twisted perceptions of reality and enhanced by their personal quirks and eccentricities.
There are six long stories in Dark Entries and eight in Cold Hand in Mine. Most of them run between 30 and 50 pages. Aickman takes his time telling his tale, like a patient artist at work on a canvas he paints landscapes with carefully chosen words that evoke a sublime atmosphere blending dread and anticipation of the characters' inevitable doom. No one really escapes unscathed in an Aickman story. If they are lucky enough to survive their encounters they will carry with them a haunting memory of the world of the macabre and the weird. Many of Aickman's characters are forever changed and scarred by their inexplicable adventures. And the reader taking in Aickman's narratives cannot help but be affected as well.
For more about Faber & Faber's paperback reprints of Robert Aickman's books visit this page at their website. They plan to release a total of six of his books. It is also worth noting that Tartarus Press, an independent UK publisher of supernatural fiction, has reprinted all of Aickman's books in hardcover editions. All of them are still available. As part of the centenary of Aickman's birth Tartarus has also published this month The River Runs Uphill, an autobiographical volume originally published in 1967. Read more at the Tarturus Press website.
Whitten wrote one of the most interesting takes on the werewolf legend with his Southern Gothic novel Moon of the Wolf (1967). In it we get a combination of a murder mystery and an exploration of lycanthropy from a psychologist's perspective. A series of murders seem to be the work of a savage animal. Whitten sets his novel in the 1930s so when the first murder victim also turns out to be a black woman we get the additional layer of social criticism of racism in the south. The police sheriff's investigation leads him to a wealthy white family of plantation owners and whispers of illicit sexual relations.
Angry locals insist the girl was attacked by a pack of wild dogs and set out like a posse of Transylvanian villagers to kill them all. But the skeptical sheriff is not convinced. Medical evidence points to violence by a human hand even amid the signs of an animal attack. His questioning of the locals uncovers their superstitious beliefs, the curious practice of hoodoo with its bottle tree and other witchcraft-like talismans, and an odd reference to "Loup Garou." A psychologist enters the picture and begins to explain the legend of the werewolf and lycanthropy as a legitimate mental illness.
Guy Endore treated the werewolf legend as a mental illness in Werewolf of Paris decades earlier, but Whitten makes his approach more accessible and tells the story in such a way that one never really knows if the werewolf is real or imagined. The finale, of course, will settle all that ambiguity with a somewhat startling revelation.
Moon of the Wolf was made into a TV movie (almost faithful to the book) in the 1970s with David Janssen as the sheriff and Bradford Dillman as the primary murder suspect. You can find several versions of the full movie at YouTube. The best quality version I found is here.