Tuesday, 14 September 2010
I was very proud to see that Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror appeared on Charlie Higson's list of his top ten horror books. Mine was the only children's book on the list and I was in some very illustrious company - Stephen King, M R James, Richard Matheson and Daphne du Maurier all getting a mention.
I was also sent a link by Mary Hoffman to a lovely Bookbag review of The Dead of Winter
And then, yesterday, I was told by Ian Lamb at Bloomsbury that Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth had been awarded the Dracula Society's Children of the Night Award. This is not - as its title may suggest - a children's book award. It is an award given by the society for the best book (fiction or non-fiction) in the previous year with a Gothic horror theme. Robert Westhall, Sarah Waters and Terry Pratchett have all been past recipients. I'm off to an awards dinner in November and I'll tell you more about it then.
And so, back to the stories in Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror. . .
The Path was one of the stories I had sketched in decades before this book was published. It went through many forms, but the Cumbrian location was always the same and many of the essentials remained unchanged as it shifted from having an adult protagonist to having a teenager as the main character. I have walked the route that Matthew takes. I know those hills very well.
Partly it is another story that plays on my fear of heights (despite my love of hill-walking), but it is far more about the idea of a sinister double. Edgar Allan Poe's wonderful William Wilson is about a doppelganger, as is the creepy German silent movie The Student of Prague. But the creature in my story is actually more of a wraith - a double that presages death. The Path is one of my own personal favourites. I have a vivid image of the thing that follows Matthew up that track. It catches me by surprise every time I read it.
I am a huge fan of cyclical stories - stories that eat their own tails, so to speak, and go round and round in a dizzying circle. A fine example of this kind of storytelling is Roman Polanski's The Tenant.
Which reminds me - I have that on DVD and haven't watched it yet. I haven't seen it for ages. What a treat. . .