So I made a start this afternoon and read a nice clutch of creepy short stories: The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire and The Adventure of the Creeping Man, two Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan Doyle, of course, and The Wakeford Abyss a story from Nocturnes by John Connolly.
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is one of the later Holmes anthologies, if not the last. I've heard tell that his later stories are not as good, which surprises me as, judging by the two I picked out to read this afternoon, this is not at all the case.
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire starts with Holmes receiving a letter from one Robert Ferguson, who is concerned about his second wife. Of Peruvian nationality she was caught assaulting Ferguson's disabled teenage son and biting her own one year old son. Ferguson is at his wit's end and, naturally, Holmes and Watson travel to their client's home to investigate this macabre case.
The Adventure of the Creeping Man has Holmes and Watson receiving a visit from Mr. Trevor Bennett, professional assistant to a Professor Presbury and engaged to the professor's daughter. Both Mr. Bennett and his fiancée have concerns for her father who, at sixty one has fallen for a much younger woman and been rejected. This occurance seems to have altered his personality in various frightening ways, night-time wanderings and so forth, so much so that his daughter is unwilling to return to her home until the matter is put to rest. Holmes and Watson investigate in their own inimitable fashion.
A great start to my RIP IV challenge... what better than two seriously dark and mysterious Sherlock Holmes stories? Not much else to say about these apart from the humour in them always takes me by surprise: (Watson on his function in Holmes's life)
But apart from this I had uses. I was a whetstone for his mind. I stimulated him. He liked to think aloud in my presence. His remarks could hardly be said to be made to me - many of them would have been as appropriately addressed to his bedstead - but none the less, having formed the habit, it had become in some way helpful that I should register and interject.
I've been reading John Connolly's Nocturnes for what seems like ages. To tell the truth it *is* ages... maybe eighteen months, I certainly know that I read some stories from it for last year's RIP challenge. Anyway, I only have a few left now so hopefully I can finish it at last.
In The Wakeford Abyss we meet two men, Molton and Clements, about to make a descent into a cavern. Previously mountaineers, they have both decided to try their skills on going 'down' instead of 'up'. Only the cave they have chosen is no ordinary cave. The locals have all kinds of stories to tell and a farmer recounts how his goats, who used to eat the grass right up to the entrance, will now no longer go anywhere near the place. Our heroes, of course, ignore all these warnings (TSTL?) that would make any normal person suddenly remember a previous engagement in another country, and press on with their plans. What happens down there in the depths of the abyss? Well you'll have to read the story to find out. :-)
Sunday now, and for some reason cave stories always make me want to read Cthulhu Mythos tales so I grabbed my copy of Shadows over Innsmouth, edited by Stephen Jones, and settled to down to read.
The Church in High Street, by Ramsey Campbell, recounts how a man down on his luck travels to Temphill in order to take up employment with a friend who needs a personal assistant come sectretary. The town, situated in the Cotswolds of all places, has the reputation of being a strange place with odd inhabitants, which is exactly what the man finds when he gets there. His friend has disappeared and the man follows his friend's trail to the local church...
The Innsmouth Heritage, by Brian Stableford, follows the exploits of David Stevenson as he arrives in Innsmouth. in New England, to catch up with his old friend, Ann Eliot. The notorious families with fish-like facial characteristics are dying out in the town. Stevenson wants to try and discover something about their genes and in what way they differ from the rest of the human race. But it's the 'dreams' which are really bothering the last of the 'lookers' and David's friend, Ann, although not a 'looker' herself is, in fact, one of the dreamers...
The first of these stories, The Church in High Street, didn't really work for me. Perhaps it was the Cotswolds setting (it just is not a weird area) or maybe it was Campbell's writing, I'm not sure. I found his tendency to fill the story with as many clichéd horror details as he could, tedious, and the whole thing felt rushed and unloved. The second story, The Innsmouth Heritage, worked much better I thought. It had more atmosphere and was detailed exactly where I wanted it to be with a nice - though predictable - twist at the end.
There are a few nice illustrations in this book, done by Dave Carson, Martin McKenna and Jim Pitts, and which I couldn't resist photographing.