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'.