Thursday, 14 July 2011

Cold Hand in Mine



If I had to pick a favourite book by Robert Aickman, it would be Cold Hand in Mine. I suspect it will sell rather well, even to those of us who bought the original Tartarus two-volume Aickman, back in the day.

CHIM was the first book by Aickman I'd read, and I well remember seeing the Robinson paperback edition on a shelf in WH Smith's. I pondered whether to buy it, because it seemed to be outside the normal horror genre, but not fantasy or sf. I didn't buy it, but later found a library copy and finally encountered Aickman's strange dreams of... Well, what? Life, death, truth, art.

Perhaps the secret of the man's appeal is that his stories defy analysis. That said, some stories are less baffling than others. 'The Swords', with its run-down funfair and fishnet-clad temptress called Madonna, seems to share some DNA with New Wave science fiction of the sort produced in the Seventies by M. John Harrison. 'The Same Dog', 'The Hospice' and 'Meeting Mr Millar' all struck me at the time as brilliant, particularly 'The Hospice'. Almost as impressive are 'Niemandswasser', 'The Real Road to the Church' and 'Pages from a Young Girl's Journal'. 'The Clock Watcher' is oddly memorable, too, perhaps because it seems so simple but leaves this reader baffled as to what - if anything - the reader is supposed to take from it. But that's Aickman, I suppose.

Back in the Seventies, the BBC decided to televise all of Shakespeare's plays. Tartarus Press has set itself a slightly easier task - printing all of Robert Aickman's books. But Aickman does enjoy an almost Bardic status among many modern writers and readers. Love him or resent him, there he is, one of the few writers in the horror genre (or near it) to deserve the over-used accolade 'unique'.

6 comments:

James Everington said...

Funnily enough I'm just reading this for a second time at the moment. Aickman's great, and a real influence on my own writing - to me, he's closer to someone like Kafka than a lot of the more straight-forward horror authors. 'The Swords' which kicks off this collection was the first Aickman I read and it just blew my mind at the time. I tend to read him quite slowly, as I always end up pondering just what it all might mean...

I wish someone would release a good quality Collected Stories of his, as I know I've not read them all.

Great post, anyway!

valdemar said...

Well, James, a few year ago Tartarus did issue a collected stories in two volumes, and some of us were lucky enough to nab a copy. If you're prepared to pay quite a lot you could probably get 'em.

Anonymous said...

This website is almost impossible to read. Black typeface on deep purple background is not a good idea! i was going to order some back copies of ST, but can't see the form!

valdemar said...

Sorry about that, 'Anonymous'. To me it looks like black typeface on a white ground. I'm using Google Chrome. Perhaps it looks v. different using other browsers? I'll have to explore this.

strantzas said...

It reads fine here, too. The issue is on anon.'s end.

James Everington said...

Valdemar - thanks for the tip re. Tartarus edition, will have a hunt. I suspect they may be beyond my budget at the moment!