Wednesday, 25 July 2018

'Wild Wales'

'Decades have passed since the event I recount in the following pages - if it did, indeed, occur, at least in the form I remember.'

Thus begins Peter Bell's tribute to Aickman, complete with a quote from the man himself as epigraph. The story concerns a charitable trust - not the National Trust, just something very like it - of the sort that appears in many of grumpy Bob's stories. Just after World War 2 the young protagonist is sent to the wilds of Wales to report on a possible acquisition, a remote manor house owned by a wealthy, eccentric widow. When he arrives he gets more than he bargained for.

This is a fun story, replete with the spirit of place that both Bell and Aickman evoke so well. The country house turns out to be full of Egyptian relics, and the chatelaine claims to be descended from the pharaohs. During the night the young man gets lost after going for a pee and enters the wrong room, where he finds a strange, horrible creature. Enter his hostess, engaged in bizarre antics. Cue the hasty flight and a drive through unknown country in a tinny little car.

Aickman, with his dream-transcription approach, would have left it there. Bell offers an explanation that puts 'Wild Wales' into the same category as his other ghostly tales. As an Aickman fan I enjoyed the story, though, and that's what counts.

More from Revenants and Maledictions very soon, I hope!

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