...Southern Ireland: standing derelict in a field, the remains of a gloomy mansion with a terrifying secret ... In a North London antique shop a criminal finds something we'd all like to see, which turns out to be the last thing he wants ... When an alien experiment goes wrong, the outcome is apocalyptic ... and a visit to Lapland reveals that Father Christmas isn't what you think he is...
Personally, I find there's nothing better than putting your feet up in front of an open fire on a winter's night, a glass of Chardonnay in one hand, a book in the other. Outside, blistering rain pelts the windows, a howling wind rushes in and out of doorways: inside, the television is off, the stereo is low, the building is warm and, you're alone with your book.
Welcome, then, to A Devil's Dozen, an anthology of short stories covering a range of themes, each with an introduction explaining its origin. The paragraph above defines how the collection eventually came to life.
I once spent a week in a log cabin in a remote part of Southern Wales with a group of friends. During a torrential storm we took refuge by the fire with a table full of food and wine and beer. Given the fact that we were all budding authors and avid readers it wasn't long before the subject of ghosts reared its ugly head. Everyone recited a favorite story. None of them are in the anthology - except of course, my own - One Rainy Night.
So if you're reading now, it's time to grab the wine, switch off the TV, dim the lights and prepare to absorb yourself in a world of ghosts, myths and legends. Whether it's folklore, the supernatural, or even a tearjerker you're after, they're all here somewhere; and they've been written with one thing in mind, your entertainment. So, please, turn the page ... go on ... you know you want to.
...One Rainy Night...
Almost every author, either living or dead, has written a ghost story connected to the railway. Despite most employing desolate country stations as their setting, with openings which describe how despicable the weather is, featuring a mysterious old gentleman in a cape and a peaked cap, bearing a lantern, trying to frighten everyone witless with his tales of specters, you cannot help but read on.
My favorite stories include Charles Dickens' The Signalman, and an absolute classic penned by Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho, entitled, The Hell Bound Train.
Two things started it all for me: firstly, the old Arthur Askey movie, The Ghost Train, which was in fact written by Arnold Ridley, who played Private Godfrey in the classic British TV sitcom, Dad's Army. The atmosphere, the pace of the plot, and even the cast themselves - including the idiot who was trying to make light of a bad situation - were all perfectly played.
Another very obvious reason was being station-bound one night, out in the sticks in Cornwall, where the trains passed through about as often as a total eclipse, and not after six o' clock in the evening. I, too, had an old stationmaster, working in unison with the transport (i.e. not very often) gesticulating tales of ill will. So, there I was, stuck in the old fashioned waiting room with a book, a blanket, a fire, and an imagination...
If you prick us, do we not bleed?If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
Shakespeare, William (1564 - 1616).