Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The path

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. . .


  1. Your recent books really do transcend all these age categories, Chris.

  2. Just thought I ought to explain that I'm not saying that I find writing for young adults a restriction (or a restriction I find problematic). Young people are an exciting and enthusiastic audience. But I think that these stories do work for adults. They have children as their protagonists it's true, but then so do many stories by Saki (and lots of others).

  3. Hello, Chris! I am a member of The Dracula Society, and I'm also on the committee that votes for our Children of the Night Award. I'm really pleased that you've won our award (which usually goes to a writer for adults but has occasionally been won by a YA author) and I'm looking forward to meeting you at the dinner.

  4. That's great Sue. Thank you so much - and I look forward to meeting you too.

  5. And perhaps I should explain (I'm sure you will know this, but others reading this blog may not!) the title of our award 'Children of the Night' is a quote from Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' :
    'Listen to them-the children of the night. What music they make!'

  6. Thank you for doing these! I loved Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, and I'm addicted to authors notes, so these are great to read! Just wish I'd thought to chime in sooner.

  7. Yes Sue - Thanks. I should have perhaps mentioned that myself. I've always loved that quote. Come to think of it - I'd like that as a ringtone with Bela Lugosi saying it.

    And thanks Orrin. I intend to continue with these through the Tales of Terror series, so it's good to hear that someone enjoys them! Feel free to chime in any time you like.