Thursday, 26 January 2012

Negotium Perambulans

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, November 1922
Collected in Visible and Invisible (1923)*
6,160 words
(First read 26/01/2012) 

In a remote and isolated Cornish fishing-village some unspeakably horrid thing has lurked for centuries, feeding on the flesh and blood of sinners.
More horror than spook story, Negotium Perambulans ('walking pestilence') suffers from the same drawback as so many EFB yarns: about a quarter of the way through he tells you what the horror is, then a bit later he gives you an example of it at work, then another, and at the end yet another ... and each time it gets just a shade more humdrum.  The only difference with the last occurrence is that our Unidentified Narrator (a retired lawyer, for a change) actually witnesses it himself.
Still, the descriptions of the village, of the narrator's childhood there and nostalgia for the old place, are rather nice.  You can read it online here

* The term 'visible and invisible' features in this very story, when the narrator is talking about the natives of the village, Polearn:
 [...] it is as if they had all been initiated into some ancient rite, inspired and framed by forces visible and invisible.
For more of this kind of thing see Ravens' Brood (1934).  I've often wondered if EFB genuinely believed that Cornish village-folk had some kind of mystical knowledge denied to the rest of us, or if it was all just a literary conceit.

Monday, 23 January 2012

How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery

Fiction ~ short story
Published December 1911
5,850 words
(First read 23/01/2012)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Mrs Amworth

Fiction ~ short story
Published June 1922
5,975 words
(Last read 18/01/2012)  

This story was once adapted into a short film.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Gavon's Eve

No excuse needed ...
Fiction ~ short story
First published in Illustrated London News, 13th January 1906
Collected in The Room in the Tower (1912)
4,305 words
(First read 06/01/2012) 

One of EFB's curiously 'back-to-front' supernatural stories: he tells you what to expect later in the yarn ~ then tells you it.  This one takes place in a part of Scotland I've actually been to very recently ~ in fact, purely by coincidence, I've been to the exact area of the setting, near the village of Helmsdale in Sutherland.  Anyway, it deals with a witch, a 'strapping Viking adonis' of a gillie, a mysterious death, Satanic ritual, and the ever-trusty presence of Hugh Grainger (here transmogrified for no good reason into Hugh Graham).  All in all, not bad, as long as you don't mind hoary old twaddle.  It's available online here.