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David Gurney – The Necrophiles

Posted by demonik on June 16, 2009

David Gurney [Patrick Bair] – The Necrophiles: A Modern Essay In The Macabre (New English Library, 1969) [Hardcover]


Nope, i’ve still not got hold of a copy and my knowledge of Mr. ‘Gurney’s censor-baiting follow up to The F-Certificate is gleaned entirely from fleeting references in Paperback Fanatic and this note, posted by Steve on Vault MK 1 (who may or may not have provided the cover scan – i’m no longer sure!).

“It looks like Necrophiles was published by New English Library in 1969, 222 pp. A “Macabre tale of necrophilia and sordid debauchery” I’m informed.

A description I found of a later Pyramid edition mentions; “Orgies, incest, drugs, homosexuality. All the spicy things in culture.”

One bookseller describes it thus: “A group of English kids start exploring their sexuality in the woods, only to take a perverse turn that involves raiding mortuaries. It just gets more bizarre from there!”

Form an orderly queue please gents…”

Like he said.

Posted in David Gurney, Horror Fiction, NEL, Novel, steve goodwin | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

John Farris – The Captors

Posted by demonik on May 18, 2009

John Farris – The Captors (NEL, August 1971)

First published in the USA by Trident Press, 1969
First NEL hardback edition 1970
First NEL paperback edition August 1971

John Farris - The Captors

John Farris - The Captors

Love this cover for some reason.

Some uncertainty initially as to whether The Captors should, strictly speaking, be included on the list of NEL Horrors. The back cover describes it as “an original spine-tingler” – “The story concerns the abduction of Carol Watterson. What was the point of the kidnapping? Was it someone’s idea of a joke? As the reader will find out to his horror, the outcome of this chilling new suspense novel is no laughing matter.”

Hmm, mystery & suspense..?

If in doubt, let’s have a look at an extract…

“He sat up with a gruesome strained elegance like an aged man welcoming sickroom visitors. The rain had partly cleansed his face but there were dark gobbets of blood everywhere. Blood had come from the ear suspended Dali-like and obscenely auditory by a scrap of tough gristle; from the steep gash which exposed pearly teeth deep in his jaw; from multiple stab wounds and a cut throat. He tried valiantly to speak to her. But obviously his vocal cords had been severely damaged, or sliced in two…”

Spine-tingling horror… ears suspended by scraps of gristle… severed vocal cords…

…sounds OK to me.

Steve Goodwin

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Ryder Brady – Instar

Posted by demonik on May 16, 2009

Ryder Brady – Instar (Nel, 1978)

Cover art by Tony Masero

Cover art by Tony Masero

First published in the USA by Doubleday & Co. Inc, 1976
First published in Great Britain by New English Library, 1977
First NEL paperback edition April 1978



Then the screams began – terrible human screams in the night and mysterious animal whimperings.

Hugh Murray decided to investigate – and that was his first mistake. When he took a maltreated dog into his home that was his second mistake. For the dog had peculiar powers, and soon the screams in the night were replaced by a new hysteria – his own, as he struggled to resist the evil that threatened to destroy him.

Don’t be fooled by the Lassie Come Home cover (look at those eyes…), this is clearly marked HORROR & SUPERNATURAL on the spine lest there be any doubt. The term ‘instar’, by the way, relates to molting in insects – shedding the exoskeleton in order to metamorphose into a new form.


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Edgar Allan Poe – Fantastic Tales

Posted by demonik on May 15, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe –  Fantastic Tales (“Special NEL edition”, March 1969)

Poe's Fantastic Tales

Poe's Fantastic Tales

William Wilson
Toby Dammit (“Never Bet The Devil Your Head”)
The Oblong Box
The Gold-Bug

Review and cover scans by Steve Goodwin

Something of a curio this one. A three-way tie-in with a (unrelated) “series of spellbinding films” based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe – one of which was never actually made.

There was nothing unusual about a Poe movie “adaptation” in the ’60s of course – films either based on stories by Poe, very loosely based on stories by Poe, or not even vaguely based on stories by Poe but availing themselves of his name or one of his titles anyway.

Quite why NEL should have produced a tie-in edition for the 1968 French/Italian Poe anthology film, Histoires Extraordinaires (AKA Spirits of the Dead/Tales of Mystery and Imagination) though, I’m not too sure.

The back cover credits Roger Vadim as director, in fact Vadim only directed the “Metzengerstein” segment with Jane Fonda. Even if it is more Barbarella than Berenice, the cover photo of Fonda is certainly… well, you can provide your own adjectives…
The “William Wilson” sequence with Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon was directed by Louis Malle, and “Toby Dammit” (based on Poe’s “Never Bet The Devil Your Head”) was by Federico Fellini and starred Terence Stamp.

AIP’s 1969 production of The Oblong Box brought together Vincent Price and Christopher Lee but forgot to bring along much of Poe’s original story beyond the title. Michael Reeves (what was that other film he did? Oh yeah, Edgar Allan Poe’s Conqueror Worm… ) was originally up for this one but he was replaced and, as I’m sure we all know only too well, very sadly passed away the same year. As well as Price, Hilary Dwyer and Rupert Davies also reappear from Reeves’ er… earlier “Poe film”.

Having little or no shame whatsoever, AIP also planned an “adaptation” of Poe’s, “The Gold-Bug”. The fact that Poe’s original isn’t a horror story doesn’t seem to have phased Roger Corman overmuch – I mean, if you can get Vincent Price and Peter Lorre again and just recycle a few elements from The Little Shop of Horrors and A Bucket of Blood, who needs Edgar Allan Poe?
Well if you do, this book’s a nice little addition to any Poe collection (admittedly Jane Fonda’s Gothic swim-suit lends it a certain something…)

Fantastic Tales back cover

Fantastic Tales back cover

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Brian Ball – The Venomous Serpent

Posted by demonik on May 13, 2009

Brian Ball – The Venomous Serpent (Horror No. 3) ( July 1974)

The Venomous Serpent

The Venomous Serpent

The brass in the little-used Derbyshire village church has such delicate detail. Sir Jocelyn and Elizabeth Fitzalan stand together, at the side of the man a lion, and beside Elizabeth – a fanged dog. And the face of Elizabeth, is obliterated, despite the clear detail elsewhere. But Young Sal takes a rubbing none the less.

She hangs it in the bedroom, but at night the moonlight makes the straightforward take on other meanings, and static objects begin to move – and writhe. The simple rubbing begins to take on a life of its own, and to do so it must suck the life force from elsewhere. Life becomes a nightmare, and Sal is powerless to stop the evil that has grown from such innocent beginnings.

Review by Steve Goodwin

It was a dark and stormy night…

It was also the first time the priest of the little parish church at Stymead had ever seen a woman naked – the ivory skin, the deep black hair, the red lips, the sensuous curves, the exquisite breasts, the taloned fingers… the fangs.

So, exquisite breasts or not, it was probably best that the priest wasn’t alone with the Lady of Stymead, beautiful but venomous wife of the gallant knight Lord Humphrey. Probably best that some stout-hearted men of Stymead – masons, smiths & carpenters to entomb her and ensure she stayed entombed, the swine-killer with his broad-bladed knife… were also in attendance.

And something else… some small, sleeping thing curled at his lady’s feet beneath the grave-wrappings.

The lapdog.

The night creature.

And the next thing you know it’s 1974.

Sally and Andy are art school drop-outs living in a converted barn in the Peak District with a large mongrel dog and two fluffy little kittens. They have a craft shop that does a reasonably brisk trade in garish candles, reclaimed Victorian scrap, one-guinea watercolours and garden gnomes, and an ovine local farmer for a landlord who wants them off his land – not taking too kindly to their co-habiting, tinned spaghetti-eating, beardy ways.

If they’d stuck to the plaster gnomes everything may have been OK, but Sally makes a fateful error – she dabbles in one of the black arts… brass rubbing.

Soon faceless, beckoning spectres are forming in the moonlight. Sheep and various small, furry animals are being found completely drained of blood. Mysterious dank-haired men with bad skin take to hanging around the craft shop full of ominous foreboding. And Sally’s not quite herself.

I enjoyed The Venomous Serpent so much that I read it in just two sittings (and I’d have probably finished it in one go, if it wasn’t for annoying distractions such as work). This is unusual for me – even for a hundred and twenty-odd pager – as being both fickle and easily distracted, I’ll almost inevitably have my head turned by some other eye-catching cover or well-turned blurb…

While not exactly a page turner, I still found myself well and truly drawn into this tale of diabolical Derbyshire which reads almost like a long short story (most of which takes place either in the converted barn, the ruined church or the brooding High Peak village of Stymead – “like a village underwater”).

The characters for the most part are fairly stock, but there are a few colourful extras brought in to considerably liven up the proceedings. Foremost among them is local eccentric clergyman, I. C. J. Cunningham, M.A.

I’ll say one thing for the New English Library, they certainly gave good vicar.

Running him a close second is Arthur “sodding townies” Meggitt, toothless, large-trousered landlord of Stymead’s only pub, ‘The Black Nigget’ (it’s an Old English word for a witch’s familiar in case you were wondering).

“I’ll have a pint of shandy.”

“Bloody fancy town drinks!”

As is usually the case with these things, the 70s period detail adds much – I was particularly struck by how much of his time our woolly-jumpered protagonist Andy spends drinking and driving.

Eerie rather than blood-spattered, I was strangely unsettled by some passages for reasons I couldn’t begin to explain;

She looked down at the kitten on the duvet and poked it with her finger.

It looked at her, mewed and then, quite deliberately, spat in her face.

This is good old-fashioned seventies British horror. Where else would you find a couple who, facing nameless nightcrawling terror – their mortal souls in imminent peril of eternal damnation, would decide that their best course of action was a pie and a pint in the local pub?

Maybe it’s a Derbyshire thing.

The book also references both of Brian Ball’s other NEL horrors of the time, Lesson For The Damned and Devil’s Peak.

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