Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Temple

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Hutchinson's Magazine, November 1924
Collected in Spook Stories (1928)
6,655 words
(First read 30/10/2012) 

A distinctly long, leisurely, rambling journey into the wilds of northern Cornwall, not far at all from Ravens' Brood and The Inheritor country.  Unnamed Narrator, who's a writer, and his chum Frank Ingleton, who's an archaeologist, tip up in the village of St Caradoc's for one of those work-cum-golf-cum-piquet holidays of which U.N. was such a fan, provided he could find the right chap to accompany him.  Anyway, they eventually stumble across a vacant cottage; they rent it so as to avoid the hotel crowds; they discover it stands in the centre of a prehistoric stone circle (the temple of the title), and that it and the house come with one of those barmy curses Benson specialized in.  Still, it all ends happily.
Though the idea at the heart of The Temple is singularly gruesome (the yarn is more 'horror' than 'spook'), the story itself sadly contains about as much tension as a pan of spaghetti you've accidentally left on the boil for an hour and three quarters.
It's available online here.

There is, I feel, a certain air of unseemly relish in U.N.'s description of the temple's sacrificial stone:
It was on that stone that young boys and maidens, torn from their mother's arms and bound hand and foot, were laid, while the priest, with one hand over the victim's eyes, plunged the flint knife into the smooth, white throat, sawing through the tissue till the blood spurted from the severed artery ... 
"Does it come with chips?"

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, September 1924
(Collected in Spook Stories, 1928)
5,315 words
(First read 07/10/2012) 

EFB makes one of his exceedingly rare forays into the world of the North of England ~ Yorkshire, to be precise.  His Yorkshire has towns with names like 'Corstophine' and 'Helyat', but is otherwise more or less fairly authentic-ish.  Our Unnamed Narrator's pal Fred Bennet tells the tale of a vision he had of himself stranded for an hour between trains in a backwoodsy Northern town: the place is totally without any sign of life (other than the station porter) but he goes for a stroll which ends in a cemetery at a certain recent grave.  I'll not give the plot away, though it's pretty guessable for anyone who's ever read one of EFB's vision yarns.
On the plus side: the description of the 'netherworld' Yorkshire town is very nicely done.  On the other side: the story is far too long ~ there's really only enough material for a story half this length; too much of it is repetition; the plot is 'corseted' into the idea rather than flowing out of it; and the final 'sewing-up' robs it of all its power, as well as being a tad on the incoherent side.  Verdict: good stab, wide miss.
It's available online here.  TIP: read as far as "He paused, and I supposed the story was over" then stop.   Nah, just kidding.

What is the use of communications between this world and some other world inaccessible to the ordinary perceptions of mankind if these communications contain nothing that is of value or interest?

P.S. Fans of the Titanic might enjoy EFB's references to that ship in Corstophine.