R. Chetwynd-Hayes – The Monster Club (Nel, March 1976: 1981)
The Werewolf And The Vampire
Monster Club Interlude: 1
Monster Club Interlude: 2
Monster Club Interlude: 3
Monster Club Interlude: 4
EpilogueDark and deep beneath the pavements of London’s Swallow Street, is the dark and dreadful place known as the monster club. Vampires and ghouls, Mocks and Shadmocks mingle with the macabre membership, lurking in the dark places, waiting to pounce on all that lives in the night …
A little man in a dirty raincoat faints in Charing Cross Road. When kindly Donald McCloud helps him to his feet, he complains of being famished. Donald takes him back to his flat for something to eat, but the old guy isn’t up for hot pot. He sinks his fangs into the young man’s jugular instead …
When he comes to, Donald finds the vampire has wrapped a towel around his neck to stop the flow of blood. The fellow’s name is Erasmus, and he’s a patron of the Monster Club: “Let me take you along as a guest, and if you like, I’ll put you up to the committee as a prospective member.” Donald isn’t so sure he’ll fit in, but soon finds himself ushered into a very happening dive. All the faces are there; the Bride of Frankenstein, assorted vampires, ghouls, aliens …
Erasmus introduces him to a miserable git named Manfred, a werevamp, who needs little encouragement to relate the sob story of how he came into being …
The Werewolf And The Vampire
They meet at Hampton Court:
“Suddenly his attention was captured by a figure approaching over the long carpet. It was that of a girl in a black dress; she was a beautiful study in black and white. Black hair, white face and hands, black dress. Not that there was anything sinister about her, for as she drew nearer he could see the look of indescribable sadness in the large black eyes and the almost timid way she looked around each room. Her appearance was astounding, so vivid, like a black and white photograph that had come to life.”
Not that George Hardcastle doesn’t have problems of his own. He’s recently been bitten by a werewolf in the Greensand Hills, though as yet he’s unaware of his condition. Anyhow, George and Carola hit it off from the first and one whirlwind romance later – during which time he makes his first metamorphosis – they marry with the consent of her parents, two Geordie vampires who holiday at Clacton, call a spade a spade and generally behave as working class characters do in RCH’s stories (they’re not a strong point of his). Enter the serpent in their Paradise, the Rev. John Cole. While George is out the Cleric calls on his bride with a view to press-ganging her into the young wives’ altar-dressing committee. When she shrinks from the Bible and runs shrieking from his crucifix, George bursts in and has a furious argument with Cole.
Outrageous Spoiler: Don’t read on if you’re thinking of trying The Monster Club yourself.
“One night, when the moon was full, turning the graveyard into a gothic wonderland, the Reverend John Cole met something that robbed him of his speech for nigh on twelve hours. It walked on bent hind legs, and had two very long arms which terminated in talons that seemed hungry for the ecclesiastical throat, and a nightmare face whose predominant feature was a long, slavering snout.”
George, of course. And while he’s chasing the Reverend to the church, Carola is helping herself to a drop or two of Mrs. Cole’s blood.
Soon afterward, Manfred is born, and having been attacked by the child, Cole – by now half-demented – recruits Willie Mitcham, a local youth obsessed with monsters. Willie’s seen The Werewolf Of Hackney Wick at the cinema, and instructs the Rev. in how to dispose of the problem family. In a gory climax, Carola is staked and half-decapitated and George is offed with a silver bullet. Cole is put away in a mental home, while the Hardcastle’s are laid to rest in the local cemetery. Until the next full moon, when the final act of the drama is played out …
This story really irritated when I first read it. I must have mellowed some since ’91 because this time I quite enjoyed the experience.
“We ‘ad smashing time in Clacton. Ee, the weather was summat greet. Two weeks of thick fog – couldn’t see ‘and in front of face.”
Back in Swallow Street and Donald has been collared by a stunted old bloke, pretty much the club bore. Of course, he’s far too polite to decline the fellows invitation to hear his tale of woe. Erasmus, meanwhile, goes into coma at the prospect.
All monsters have a gimmick; vampires suck blood, ghouls dine on human flesh and mocks blow.
The unnamed narrator doesn’t find out he’s a Mock until after beautiful Sheila Benson spurns his proposal of marriage on the grounds that he’s “so ugly” and goes on to list his several physical imperfections in crushing detail. To celebrate his transformation, his parents – Mother and, God help us, Shaddy-Daddy – throw a party to commemorate his ‘Rising Dad’. All the Monster Club regulars are invited as is one solitary human, Sheila. When she comes on nasty, slapping his face and telling him how much she loathes him, the fledgling Mock blows his cool for the first time, and its farewell Sheila’s good looks.
We end with the Mock tormenting the girl about how hideous she is.
The Mock is followed by The Humgoo which, obligatory off-putting title aside, is one of his finest stories. For those who’ve seen the movie, this one provided the basis for the final story and for once he plays it straight.
Gerald Mansfield is hopelessly lost en route to Portsmouth. Eventually he arrives at a tiny village and stops to ask directions.
At first glance Loughville looked promising. A narrow main street lined on either side by terraced houses, and what appeared to be a pub, backed by an old church at the far end.”
Mansfield calls in at The Lough Inn and is soon joined by the rest of the community, a monosyllabic inbred mob in dirty ‘nightwear’ who are entirely isolated from the outside world. His car having been sabotaged while he rushed down a half, Gerald is forced to spend a night at the Inn and is given a room with a cheering view of the cemetery. The landlord’s daughter, is relatively normal and comely to the eye, and she immediately takes a shine to the stranger. Gradually he learns from her that the community are overlooked by ‘The Elders’ who only put in an appearance of “The Great Eating.” The elders provide the villages with the boxes from which they scavenge their shabby clothes, furniture wood and meat. Gerald takes a look out of the window and notes with horror that all the graves have been dug up ….
Humgoo builds to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion – it really is one of his finest – there’s an inconsequential interlude and then the monsters settle down to view a horror film which turns out to be The Shadmock.
When it came to the Amicus movie, Subotsky made only minor variations to RCH’s Humgoo story, but when it came to The Shadmock he dispensed with everything bar the creature’s lethal whistle. In Subotsky’s version, George and Angela are a pair of schemers who target the homes of the rich. Once Angela has gained employment as a maid, the pair bide their time until they have opportunity to steal the family valuables. This time, they pick on the wrong fellow – the entirely sympathetic Shadmock – and, to make matters worse, he who must never be provoked into whistling falls madly in love with her.
The Chetwynd-Hayes original involves a different couple, obnoxious Sheridan Croxley and his feisty wife Caroline. Their mutual loathing reaches its head when he acquires Withering Grange. Among the family of mutant servants he inherits with his Lord of the Manor status is the unutterably handsome Marvin, ostensibly the only normal one among them, toward whom Caroline is soon directing her ample bosom. All he requires from a relationship is somebody to help him in the garden where he’s forever planting the victims of his kin and nurturing them to full hideousness. Meanwhile, Sheridan unwisely decides to show the staff who’s boss …
After The Shadmock we have another club interlude. The guest of honour is the producer of the night’s two movies, Linton Busotsky (ho ho). Linton, as far as I can make out, is human so that kind of queers things – I thought Donald was only invited along for his novelty value (the only other mortals in attendance are the vampires’ voluntary donors)? Whatever, Linton goes down a storm with his mutant audience and introduces one of his earlier works, The Fly-By-Night, one of Chetwynd-Hayes’ better novellas and set in (or around) his favourite fictional village, Clavering in Kent. Tobias the cat is forever leaving presents on the carpet for owners Newton Hatfield and his daughter Celia. One evening they return home to find an odd creature, ‘pretty’, fanged and leathery of wing which Celia adopts although Newton is far from keen. The Fly-by-night feeds on extreme human emotion of the darkest hue, and when Newton comes close to murdering his daughter in an argument, he realises it’s time to destroy it. Problem is, the creature has grown considerably by now and he’s also gotten around to ravishing Celia.
In the epilogue, we return to the club where Donald is granted membership on the grounds that human beings are the most evil creatures ever to walk the planet. Everything’s gone well for him up until now, but that changes when he’s asked to settle up his subs. Oh, and Milton Subotsky is revealed to be some kind of fanged entity, so apologies for accusing him of being human. …
For more Chetwynd-Hayes see the Loughville forum …. even if it has died due to lack of RCH fans ! So you might as well stick with Vault, ’cause i’ve shifted all the posts on there anyhow.