Last year, writer and all-around good guy Mark West curated a blog called King For A Year in which writers and readers went back and reread (or in some cases, read for the first time) a book by Stephen King and wrote about the experience. It was great fun for all involved, seeing what was up each week, and I went back to Carrie, a book I hadn’t read since I was a teenager. So, needless to say, when Mark got in touch with me proposing a much smaller project, I leapt at the chance to join in.
This would be a single blog post: The Brit Horror Mixtape. Mark asked each of us to contribute a few words about a favorite (maybe I should make that favourite) British short horror story.
Just a single story! Harder than it looks! Would I choose something by Robert Aickman, Daphne Du Maurier, Arthur Machen, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle? What about Oliver Onions’s “The Beckoning Fair One”? I narrowed the field down by deciding I wanted to choose something by a writer who was still living, then I eliminated writers whose body of work was more influential for me than any single short story.
The choice then was pretty clear. Not that the writer I chose isn’t one who has other work that has also affected me deeply, but if you asked me to name single stories (I’m not going to pick a number, because numbers are arbitrary and silly) that had profoundly affected me as a writer both stylistically and thematically but also changed, in some small way, the way that I see the world, this one would be one of the top ones on the list.
There are lots of other great choices on there as well–I was glad to see both Arthur Machen’s “The White People” and Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds” on there as well as double honors for Angela Carter along with two classic chillers, M.R. James’s “The Mezzotint” and W.W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw.” It’s actually a damn good list, a wonderful starting point for exploring British horror fiction, and you should check it out.