Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sorting Out Jonathan Aycliffe / Daniel Easterman / Denis MacEoin

"Jonathan Aycliffe" is the pseudonym, for ghostly novels and short stories, of Denis MacEoin, who writes academic works under his own name, but who is best known for his international thrillers, many set in the Middle East, written under his "Daniel Easterman" pseudonym. Recently I discovered that there was a (new to me) Jonathan Aycliffe novel published a few years ago after a long gap.  This inspired me to sort out his publications, some of which originally appeared in hardcover, others in paperback (listed below as tp = trade paperback or mm = mass market sized).  Some first appeared in England; some in Canada; some in the U.S.  The Aycliffe novels are basically commercial supernatural fiction, but they are very well-done and engaging, though some are better than others.  The best Aycliffe one is (arguably) Whispers in the Dark

Denis MacEoin was born as Denis Martin McKeown on 26 January 1949, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of David McKeown (1922-1995); he apparently altered the spelling of his surname as a young adult.  He studied at the Belfast Royal Academical Institution, then at Trinity College, Dublin, where he specialized in medieval literature (MA in English Literature, 1971), the University of Edinburgh (MA in Persian and Arabic, 1975), and at King's College Cambridge (PhD in Persian studies, 1979). He married in 1975; his wife, Beth MacEoin, has three degrees, in English, Art History, and homeopathic medicine; she has written many books on homeopathy and natural health. Denis was a lecturer at the University of Fez, Morocco, 1979-80, and lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Newcastle, 1981-86, after which he became a freelance writer, though he has more recently been involved professionally with editing the Middle East Quarterly, beginning in 2009, and afterwards becoming (around 2013) a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

In 1980 MacEoin made a formal break with the Baha'i religion he had studied. In 1994 he wrote:  "I'm very sceptical about religions and occult beliefs, astrology, reincarnation, New Age ideas and so on, but as anyone who has read my novels will know, I am deeply conscious of the importance of the irrational as a factor in human life. Even scientists often adopt an irrational position in defence of pure science just as secularists adopt an irrational stance about secularism."  On the topic of ghosts  he is a non-believer, but is "spooked" by old houses and graveyards:  "Much of this is undoubtedly childhood fears carried into adulthood, although I think ghosts represent much more than that: they represent memories, regrets, remorse, inability to come to terms with the past, the presence of our own past in our present, or the simple sense of continuity with people now dead. I am perpetually puzzled by one curious thing. There are three ghost-story writers closely attached  to King's College: M.R. James, A.N.L Munby and myself. All three of use were, in some measure, bibliographers and antiquarians, and all three of us have published serious studies in that area. But however much I ponder on this, I can never quite work out what significance, if any, to attribute to it."  In a biographical note about MacEoin at the Middle East Forum it states: 

Denis has a range of interests. He runs a blog entitled 'A Liberal Defence of Israel' and is involved with pro-Israel activity in the UK. He is a huge fan of Portuguese fado music and is currently trying to organize a concert to include Portuguese musicians and British poets reading translations of the poetry used in the songs. He loves French cinema, American films like Metropolitan and Lost in Translation, Persian classical music (Muhammad Reza Shajarian above all), Arabic and Persian calligraphy, and a wide range of British and American novelists. He also loves the best US TV shows, from NYPD and The West Wing to ER and Mad Men, as well as a steady diet of British classical dramas from Austen to Mitford. He is a former President of the UK Natural Medicines Society, and continues to take an interest in the debate over alternative and complementary medicine.

As "Jonathan Aycliffe" he has published nine novels and two short stories, the bibliographical details of which are given below, along with notice of some interviews (with links to the online ones).  As "Daniel Easterman" he has published sixteen novels (one with a different title in the US and UK), and one nonfiction book.  As "Denis MacEoin" he has published seven books and one booklet, some based on his theses; another book was published online (google for Music, Chess and other Sins: Segregation, Integration, and Muslim Schools in Britain, 2009). Most of the bibliographies (online or offline) have conflicting dates for the first publication of Aycliffe's/Easterman's/MacEoin's books. I spent a considerable amount of time sorting them out, and hope that I have the facts (formats, months and years for Aycliffe; just years for the other bylines) and chronology correct. Here are the bibliographies, Aycliffe first, followed by Easterman and then MacEoin.



Books by “Jonathan Aycliffe”

Naomi’s Room
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1991 [tp]
            New York: HarperPaperbacks, [April] 1992 [mm]
            London: Grafton, [November] 1992 [mm]
            London: Corsair, [October] 2013 [tp]

Whispers in the Dark
            London: HarperCollins [November] 1992 [hc 0-246-13893-9,
                        tp 0-246-13927-7]
            New York: HarperPaperbacks, [May] 1993  [mm]
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1993 [mm]
            London: Constable, [October] 2014 [tp]

The Vanishment
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1993  [hc 0-00-224160-9,
                       tp 0-00-224157-9]
            New York: HarperPaperbacks, [June] 1994  [mm]
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1994 [mm]
            London: Constable, [October] 2014 [tp]

The Matrix
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1994  [hc]
            New York: HarperPaperbacks, [April] 1995 [mm]
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1995 [tp]
            London: Corsair, [October] 2013 [tp]

The Lost
            New York: HarperPrism, [June] 1996 [hc]
            London: HarperCollins, [November] 1996 [hc 0-00-225239-2,
                        tp 0-00-649615-6]
            New York: HarperPrism, [August] 1998 [mm]
            London: Constable, [October] 2015 [tp]

The Talisman
            Ashcroft, British Columbia: Ash-Tree Press, [November] 1999
                        [600 copies]
            London: Severn House, [February] 2001 [hc]  
            London: Constable, [October] 2015 [tp]

A Shadow on the Wall
            London: Severn House, [February] 2000  [hc]
            New York: Night Shade Books, [February] 2015 [hc]
            London: Constable, [October] 2015 [tp]
            New York: Night Shade Books, [August] 2016 [tp]

A Garden Lost in Time
            London: Allison & Busby, [January] 2004  [hc]
            Eugene, OR: Bruin Books, [October] 2013  [tp]

The Silence of Ghosts
            London: Corsair, [October] 2013 [tp]
            New York: Night Shade Books, [February] 2015 [hc]
            New York: Night Shade Books, [April] 2016 [tp]


Short Stories:

“The Reiver’s Lament”
            In Blue Motel (1994), ed. Peter Crowther
“The Scent of Oranges”
            In Midnight Never Comes (1997), ed. by Barbara and 
                       Christopher Roden

Interviews:
“Jonathan Aycliffe Prefers the Shadows”
            In Wordsmiths of Wonder (1993), by Stan Nicholls
Interview with Paul MacAvoy
            Prism, 2003
“Exclusive Interview with Jonathan Aycliffe” by Lucy Moore
            FemaleFirst, posted 30 November 2013
 

Books by “Daniel Easterman”

The Last Assassin (1985)
The Seventh Sanctuary (1987)
The Ninth Buddha (1988)
Brotherhood of the Tomb (1989)
Night of the Seventh Darkness (1991)
Name of the Beast (1992)
New Jerusalems: Reflections on Islam, Fundamentalism and the 
            Rushdie Affair (1993) by Daniel Easterman   [nonfiction]
The Judas Testament (1994)
Night of the Apocalypse (US May 1995), retitled Day of Wrath (UK 
            October 1995)
The Final Judgement (1996)
K (1997), sometimes listed as K Is for Killing
Incarnation (1998)
The Jaguar Mask  (2000)
Midnight Comes at Noon (2001)
Maroc (2002)
The Sword  (2007)
Spear of Destiny (2009)


Books by “Denis MacEoin”

A Revised Survey of the Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History 
           (PhD. thesis, King's College Cambridge, 1977)
Islam in the Modern World (1983), ed. Denis MacEoin and Ahmed 
            Al-Shahi
A People Apart: The Bahaʼi Community of Iran in the Twentieth 
            Century (1989) [booklet, 35 pp.]
The Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History (1992) 
The Hijacking of British Islam: How Extremist Literature Is 
            Subverting Mosques in the UK (2007) 
Sharia Law or "One Law for All?" (2009)
The Messiah of Shiraz: Studies in Early and Middle Babism (2009) 
            [revision of a 1979 thesis]
Rituals in Babism and Baha'ism (2014)


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thomas Kent Miller on his Holmes/Haggard pastiches

There is a new interview with Thomas Kent Miller on the re-release of the first of his three Sherlock Holmes (with a dose of H. Rider Haggard) pastiches:


Another way Miller’s books differ from other Holmes pastiches is they are not written in Doyle’s voice, but in Haggard’s [character from She, Leo Vincey].

“I read a lot of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories to get a clear sense of who Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be, how he would react, the kinds of things he would think and say,” Miller said. “Whenever anything is told through another party the sensibilities of that person change that story. Sherlock Holmes stories all came through Watson. Well, (in Miller’s first book, “Sherlock Holmes on the Roof of the World”), Leo Vincey’s telling his story, so it’s filtered through Vincey’s sensibilities.”

For the full article click here.  

Order the first book from Amazon.com ($9.95) here, or Amazon.co.uk (£6.99) here. (Volumes two and three will be released in September and November respectively.)



Sherlock Holmes on the Roof of the World

Sherlock Holmes finds a 2,000-year-old manuscript presumably written by Jesus, hidden away in a library in Tibet. It’s a murder mystery told by Leo Vincey from the H. Rider Haggard novel, “She.”  Published June 20th, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Ghostly Story in a Little Blue Book

E. Haldeman-Julius was a printer of Girard, Kansas, who published many thousands of little books in the 1920s and for a few decades thereafter. The books were about 3.5 x 5 inches, of varying page-length but none really very long--all were small enough to be staple-bound. Most of them had a blue paper cover; hence the series title of Little Blue Books. 

One booklet I picked up ages ago is Mystery Tales of Ghosts and Villians [n.d., but March 1927].  My copy, pictured at right, is bound in brownish paper--there is a printed note on the lower cover that says, "Sorry, we had to use this cover paper because emergency conditions made it impossible to get standard cover stock. We'll switch back immediately after receiving new supplies." 

A good deal of what Haldeman-Julius printed was done without authorization, and there are no acknowledgements or any statements of copyright in most of the Little Blue Books I've seen  (though a lot of the texts used were certainly still in copyright). Mystery Tales of Ghosts and Villians collects three tales.  The first is "Number 13" by M.R. James (which originally appeared in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, 1904).   The third story is one by Charles Dickens, "Dr. Manette's Manuscript," an extract from A Tale of Two Cities (1859). The middle story is the unfamiliar one, which make this Little Blue Book interesting.  It is a seemingly simple story of a ghost having related his own murder, but it has some interesting twists revealed at the end.  It is the only tale I know of by Katherine Rickford, whom I presume was British, for the tale, "Joseph: A Story," first appeared in the British magazine Land and Water, 18 September 1919. It was soon reprinted in the US magazine, The Living Age, for 18 October 1919--The Living Age was made up of reprints from other magazines, mostly British.  From there it was reprinted in two of Joseph Lewis French's anthologies, The Best Psychic Stories (Boni & Liveright, May 1920) and Masterpieces of Mystery, Volume 2: Ghost Stories (Doubleday, Page, November 1920).  And so, after the appearance of Mystery Tales of Ghosts and Villains, the vogue for Katherine Rickford passed. 

Does anyone know any biographical or bibliographical details for Katherine Rickford?  A bit of google-fu (using as search terms "The Living Age" and "Katherine Rickford") will turn up for reading a text of "Joseph: A Story." I wouldn't call it a lost classic, but it's an interesting bit of commercial fiction. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Blackwood Telling Stories on Film!

Some years ago I wrote here on Wormwoodiana about a snippet of film of Algernon Blackwood, see here (though the links to the program which included the snippet are now dead).  Now I'm pleased to report that two short films, about thirteen or fourteen minutes each, of Blackwood telling stories are viewable on youtube.

They are the two surviving episodes of a series of six such short-films made by Rayant Pictures in  1949-1950. (For details, see Mike Ashley's Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood, 2001, pp. 330-331.) I learned of them last week via a posting by Jim at the Blackwood yahoogroup (ablackwood).  Having just watched them, I thought I'd share them with readers of Wormwoodiana.  Here are the titles and links:

The Reformation of St. Jules 

Lock Your Door

Enjoy!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Crown’s “Classics of Modern Science Fiction” Series



This series consists of  ten hardcover volumes published by Crown Publishers of New York in 1984-85. George Zebrowski was the series editor. The series was published irregularly.  The first set of four books came out in January 1984. The second set of four books came out in October 1984. The final two books came out nearly a year later in September 1985. 

Three titles were by Chad Oliver, with two from Philip José  Farmer. The series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov appears in all volumes. All ten dust-wrapper illustrations are by Michael Booth.

The series evidently sold poorly. One wonders if the idea of “classic” science fiction had passed a generational boundary  before this series was begun.

Volume 1. Eric Frank Russell. Man, Martians and Machines. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1955.

Volume 2.  James Gunn. The Joymakers.  Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1961.

Volume 3.  Chad Oliver. The Shores of Another Sea. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1971.

Volume 4. Philip José Farmer. The Classic Philip José Farmer 1952-1964. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by Martin H. Greenberg. First edition. Collection of six stories.

Volume 5. Philip José Farmer. The Classic Philip José Farmer 1964-1973. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by Martin H. Greenberg. First edition. Collection of eight stories.

Volume 6. Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planet. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. “Author’s Note” (undated) by Murray Leinster. Originally published in 1954.

Volume 7. Charles L. Harness. The Paradox Men. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Afterword (“The Flight into Tomorrow”) by Brian W. Aldiss. “Author’s Note” (dated March 1984) by Charles L. Harness.  Originally published in 1953 under the title Flight into Yesterday. This edition has been substantially revised.

Volume 8. Chad Oliver. Unearthly Neighbors. 1st hardcover appearance. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Afterword (dated April 1984) by Chad Oliver. Originally published in 1960. This edition has been substantially revised. 

Volume 9. Chad Oliver. Shadows in the Sun. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Afterword (dated April 1985) by Chad Oliver. Originally published in 1954.

Volume 10. Ward Moore. Greener than You Think. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1947.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Spiritual Adventures - Arthur Symons, edited by Nicholas Freeman


Nick Freeman at Loughborough University has recently edited a new edition of Spiritual Adventures, a book of short stories by the Eighteen Nineties author and poet Arthur Symons. This is volume 2 in the Jewelled Tortoise series from the Modern Humanities Research Association.

As well as the eight original stories, this edition adds seven hard-to-find early stories and essays by Symons. Nick Freeman provides an excellent introduction, a chronology of Symons’ life and work, and some pithy and helpful notes. We asked Nick to answer a few questions about the book and its author.

Arthur Symons wrote an important essay entitled ‘The Decadent Movement in Literature’, though when it emerged in book form, he changed it to The Symbolist Movement in Literature. Did he see his own work in these terms, moving through Decadence to Symbolism?

Symons’ influential formulation of decadence, ‘The Decadent Movement in Literature’, appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in November 1893. It helped make his name, but even in this short article, the term ‘decadence’ is already problematic. Much of the essay is devoted to French literature which had not yet been made available in English translation, with lengthy considerations of Remy de Gourmont, J.-K. Huysmans, and the poetry of Paul Verlaine, but while we might now think that Oscar Wilde would be the obvious reference point for a writer trying to explain the new gospel of amoral aestheticism, especially in an American magazine, Symons instead foregrounds the poetry of W.E. Henley. By the terms of his essay, only a few of the poems in Symons’ Silhouettes (1892) qualify as ‘decadent’, and these chiefly because they avoid didactic or moral comment on the situations they describe.

The year after Symons’ essay appeared, the launch of The Yellow Book instituted a kind of ‘coffee-table decadence’ which introduced the hot topics of Anglo-French cultural debate to a wider audience than ever before, even if the journal only sold around 8,000 copies per quarterly issue. Boasting a cover design and other drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, and Symons’ controversial poem, ‘Stella Maris’, which dramatized an encounter with a prostitute, the journal seemed to endorse Wilde’s claim that ‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.’

At this point, proponents of decadence saw themselves as disseminating European avant-garde ideas and practices, while their critics saw them as juvenile in their determination to kick against Victorian middle-class convention. There was a lively debate between the two groups, but this came to an abrupt halt when Wilde was found guilty of Gross Indecency in the Spring of 1895. For most ‘normal’ people, ‘decadence’ now meant sexual immorality, unmanliness, and even depravity.

Symons’ shift from ‘decadence’ to ‘symbolism’ in his book The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1900) reflects his deliberate movement away from Wildean association, but also his friendship with W.B. Yeats (whom he considered the premier English language symbolist), his discovery of William Blake, and his ever-deeper immersion in contemporary French literature and art, from Baudelaire to Odilon Redon. ‘Symbolism’ was not a dirty word in the 1890s and 1900s, and this made it useful for Symons, first because it was not tainted by the Wilde scandal, and second because it reflected his own growing interest in ways of writing about the spiritual and numinous outside a traditional Christian context.

Is Spiritual Adventures an archetypal Nineties book? How do you see Symons' stories compared with those of his contemporaries such as Dowson, Crackanthorpe, Machen?

The 1890s was the decade in which the short story established itself as a serious art form in Britain. Almost from the outset however there was a split between those who saw it as an essentially commercial form, plot-driven and easily classified according to genre, and those who sought to produce more consciously ‘artistic’ works. Symons is firmly in this camp, and he also belongs to the nineties in his recurrent investigations of the relationship between artists and the ‘ordinary’ world. He is however very different from his contemporaries. He has something of Dowson’s melancholia, but it isn’t caused by unrequited love, or a sense of physical transience. Instead, Symons focuses on the ways in which writers, painters, and musicians face what Yeats would later term the choice, ‘Perfection of the life, or of the work.’ He is less cynical than Crackanthorpe, and his style is more sensuous and elaborate. ‘The Death of Peter Waydelin’ is as close as Symons gets to Crackanthorpe’s grim seediness.

Of the above writers, he is closest to Machen, though he tends to avoid supernatural elements in his writing. Symons is probably most like Machen when writing about creative individuals whose desires or ambitions are incompatible with the everyday. Machen’s Lucian Taylor seems to have no friends, but he would probably enjoy an absinthe with Symons’ painter, Peter Waydelin, or the pianist, Christian Trevalga. There are also similarities between Machen’s Gwent and Symons’ Cornwall, both realms of visionary imagination.

One of Dowson’s books was entitled Dilemmas. Do you see that as a key theme of Symons’ book too? What are the dilemmas his characters face?


Symons held that ‘the man of genius is fundamentally abnormal’, and the behaviour of his central characters tends to emphasise the difficulty of producing art while trying to lead a ‘normal’ life. In ‘Christian Trevalga’, for instance, the main character is attempting to become a concert pianist, and finds himself torn between loving a woman and practising Chopin. Inevitably, the piano comes out on top. In ‘An Autumn City’, the newly-married Daniel Roserra takes his wife to the French town of Arles, hoping she will love it as much as he does. That she would rather go to Marseilles tells Roserra that he has made a terrible mistake in marrying her. Finally, in ‘Seaward Lackland’, a young Cornish fisherman has a profound spiritual crisis, but he isn’t torn between the love of the church and the love of a good (or not so good) woman. His torment concerns theological interpretation, and causes him to take up a very idiosyncratic spiritual position. Perhaps surprisingly, this was the ‘spiritual adventure’ Thomas Hardy most admired.

The first piece, ‘A Prelude to Life’ seems to be a fictionalised autobiography of his youth, but is perhaps more artful, more “created” than this might suggest. Was Symons consciously trying out a modern, “unreliable” form of narrative here?


Undoubtedly. Max Saunders has recently coined an ugly but helpful term, ‘autobiografiction’, which seems well suited to Symons’ approach in this story. ‘A Prelude to Life’ reconstructs Symons’ early days from the point of view of the mature aesthete; essentially, it’s a teleological account which seeks to explain how a shy boy in a devout Methodist household became a poet and connoisseur of human experience. The ‘I’ of the story is both Symons and his fictional avatar, so a lot of ‘Prelude’ is based on fact, though fact filtered through the memory and consciousness of an adult writer who is careful not to give too much away. Symons is constructing a version of himself here – perhaps the ‘Symons’ familiar to his readers rather than his family and friends. He is at times misleading as a consequence. His father in particular was far more willing to encourage his literary work than ‘Prelude’ suggests.

Several of the stories express an aesthetic consciousness, a heightened attention to fleeting impressions. Is the book as much about Sensual Adventures as Spiritual? What did Symons mean by Spiritual?

I think that Symons used ‘spiritual’ to as a catch-all word for the soul, the personality, and the imaginative life of the artist, rather than because of its religious associations. Symons is very much a sensual writer, but his reaction to the world is overwhelmingly visual. He rarely listens to anything but music or smells anything but perfume. He was happy to discuss taste, but with regard to aesthetic choice rather than food, and even his love poetry tends to put him at a remove from the world, leaving him looking at it instead of touching.

The stories seem to draw on the new French realism – they are precise, fully-imagined depictions of lives often in quiet crises. But they also often have a fateful, melancholy air. Do you see the stories as in any sense otherworldly, unearthly?

Very much so. In part, it comes from the sense that art and life are incompatible, but it also emerges from the artist’s heightened perceptions. Just as dogs can hear sounds that humans cannot, so Symons’ artists, musicians, writers, and painters seem able to detect higher frequencies of experience which they struggle to communicate to those who are not similarly attuned. There is also a preoccupation with madness – throughout the book there are many uncanny foretellings of the catastrophic breakdown Symons would suffer three years later – and with what Machen called ‘ecstasy’, the sense that exposure to certain experiences (or great art) places a person somehow outside themselves. Once someone has experienced this ecstasy, they are changed forever and can never be re-integrated into the social processes and obligations of everyday life. It’s very like what happens when you read an issue of Wormwood.

Mark Valentine

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Terrors of Dr Treviles - Peter Redgrove & Penelope Shuttle


In the previous post, I mentioned a book that had puzzled me as a youthful reader looking for anything mystical and strange: The Terrors of Dr Treviles (1974) by Peter Redgrove & Penelope Shuttle, a tale of Cornish sex-magic. I was attracted to the splendid title, which perhaps offered something in the Machenesque tradition of mad diabolic doctors, as in The Great God Pan, or the sinister Dr Lipsius of The Three Impostors. The dustjacket of the original edition was also alluring, full of vivid psychedelic smears in which images of haunted trees, flowing red hair, mythic beasts and naked limbs could excitingly be discerned.

I was in those years a frequent visitor to West Penwith, the final far reaches of Cornwall, where I explored with friends the romantic cliff-edge ruins of the tin mines, crumbling and ivy-covered, which looked, with their hollow windows and tapering chimney towers, like lost chapels. I also sought out the secret niches of little-known holy wells, the prehistoric hill-settlements covered in bracken and gorse, with their bitter smell in the salt-riddled summer air, and the ancient, lichen-coated stones. I was ready for any work that might capture some of the witchery and sorcery of this land.

When I read the book, however, I discovered it was in a prose quite different to the rich, resonant lyricism of Machen. It seemed to jump about quite a lot. It was not always obvious what was going on. Quite a bit of mud and blood was thrown about. Escapades, exclamations and emissions of various sorts surged through the pages. Peculiar ideas flared up like fireworks, followed by passages of expectant darkness. I was a bit bewildered, but I recognised this was the work of two fervent imaginations, and vaguely understood we were in a world of dream and nightmare, vision and ritual. The book opened up for me the idea of an utterly different type of writing. I wasn't quite sure I liked it, but I thought it was exciting.

The Terrors of Dr Treviles, "a romance of Science and the Supernatural", was reprinted in paperback in 2006 by Stride Publications, distributed by Shearsman Books. Here's their excellent description:

"The Terrors of Dr Treviles is the story of a vocation and a quest. The hero, Gregory Treviles, is a doctor whose healing gift is a terrifying and vivid imagination. His quest is to explore wherever his images lead and to discover in so doing the real use of these bizarre energies; the question he asks himself is 'And whom does this Grail serve?' His quest becomes entwined with the lives of his brilliant red-headed stepdaughter Robyn, a molecular biologist who is also a witch; of another doctor, Brid Hare, who hides a secret she believes is shameful; and the deathly life of Trevile's deceased wife, Mamie. The energy liberated by Trevile's imagination changes all these lives, and involves a foolish saintly clergyman, Alex Bodkin, and many other creatures, such as blood-magic, slapstick comedy, Laurel and Hardy, Satan, and the University of Cornwall."

Who could possibly resist?


Mark Valentine