Tuesday, 20 December 2016

'Night in the Pink House'

In this story from his new collection Charles Wilkinson continues to play with genre expectations and style. Told in the first person, this is the story of a rather dapper young man called Topcliffe who obtains an unusual post with a wealthy, blind eccentric. History buffs may recognise the name Topcliffe as one a famous torturer in Tudor times. The employer is obsessed with torture, and requires his new servant to provide taped evidence of the agony he has put young women through. Topcliffe provides this evidence, albeit by perfectly legal means.

All of which might be the setup for a fairly conventional horror story. But instead of ending in a bloodbath, the story explores the odd by-roads of symbolism and psychology. The title refers to the fact that the rich man's seaside home is literally filled with blood, and that Topcliffe is merely the latest in a long line of 'house torturers' to have been employed. Even better, the framing narrative makes it clear that, having faked torture in the past, the narrator is quite capable of the real thing now.

A hard one to classify, this, and perhaps an example of the 'new weird'. Fortunately for some of us it suggests violence rather than depicting it. Perhaps for this reason it is disturbing and lingers like a rather unusual scar.

A Twist in the Eye

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