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Episode 37: 'Lost Keep' by L.A. Lewis

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L.A. (Leslie Allin) Lewis is, like a few of the other writers we've explored on this podcast, a largely overlooked practitioner of the weird tale, in this case with a legacy confined entirely to a handful of stories published (under the title Tales of the Grotesque ) in 1934.  The work fell out of print but some of the stories would turn up in horror anthologies from time to time during the intervening years before the original collection was reprinted. It seems that Lewis, whose best stories - The Tower of Moab , The Author's Story , and this one - touch on hallucinatory visions and madness, unfortunately struggled with his own mental health, and destroyed his unpublished works during a bout of depression. A bleakness suffuses Lost Keep (note the oxymoronic title) with a central character who is seemingly condemned by the Fates to pay for the inherited crimes of his ancestors - from the moment he opens a (Pandora's?) box and finds a mysterious minature fortress and an equ

Episode 36: 'The Silver Mask' by Hugh Walpole

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    As the workload producing the podcast/YouTube channel seems to grow exponentially, I've been keeping these blog entries brief.  Biographical information is often readily available on Wikipedia and the like, and I'm not sure repeating tittle tattle about the authors' private lives adds much value here. That said, since I began EnCrypted, I've been struck by the fact that the British writers of much horror/supernatural/speculative fiction of the period this podcast usually concerns itself (roughly 1890-1930) represent a definite literary clique.  At first that seems rather obvious, that writers working in the same genre should have awareness of each other's work, correspond about it, and sometimes form friendships.  What is more surprising is that so many should be public school-educated, scholarly sons of clergymen, and either closeted homosexuals, or conspicuously celibate. One can only speculate why this particular set of circumstances should seem to engender a

Episode 35: 'The Man With No Face' by G.M. Robins

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  As I continue to forage for forgotten gems I keep turning up authors about whom I know very little and about whom very little seems to be known. I can tell you that G.M. (Gertrude Minnie) Robins (11 July 1861 — 22 November 1939) wrote over fifty novels, many of which were published under her married name, Mrs Baille Reynolds, and that she wrote chiefly in the mystery, crime and gothic genres - including macabre, strange short stories like this one. The Man With No Face  appeared in her collection The Relations and What They Related , and tells the story of a wife who has a terrifying vision that leads her to fear for her husband's safety and her own sanity. But what does the vision mean? Is it a spectre from his past, or a premonition of his future? Robins, who was active in the suffrage movement and a president of the Society of Women Journalists, writes a neat little story - a short, dark tale with a twist of the kind I appreciate and like to cover on the show sometimes.  For t

Episode 34: 'With and Without Buttons' by Mary Butts

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  Producing the EnCrypted podcast has upsides and downsides. One downside is that, since so much of my time is focused on the show, I am now exclusively reading horror/supernatural/macabre short stories. No bad thing, you might think, but the other fiction and non-fiction books I hoped to read this year now taunt me from my physical and virtual bookshelves. The upside is that I keep being introduced to writers I have never read or heard of before. One instance of this is Mary Butts, who, although a contemporary of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, May Sinclair et al, and also of the occultist Aleister Crowley (she is listed as co-author on his Magick, Book 4 ), remained something of a fringe literary figure until her death in 1937 and, for a long time, her work languished in out-of-print obscurity. Born in 1890, she died young, aged 46, having lived, nonetheless, a full life that saw her explore her bisexuality, brought her into contact with numerous writers, artists and film make

Episode 33: 'The Music of Erich Zann' by H.P. Lovecraft

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Here is a favourite H.P. Lovecraft story of mine, one I feel happy to count among my favourites since the great Robert Aickman told the great Ramsey Campbell it was the only Lovecraft story he liked, and Lovecraft himself considered it one of his most successful stories - free from the "over-explicitness" he felt to be a flaw in some of his other works. The story is The Music of Erich Zann .  Re-reading it for the show, what impresses me is the sense of mystery that Lovecraft creates (the abiding strangeness Aickman undoubtedly gravitated towards): the gloom-shrouded, decrepit Rue D'Auseil (whose actually meaningless name might yet be pidgin-French for "money" or, better still, "at the threshold"), a vanishing enclave of a nameless French city, populated by the old and debilitated and, not least, by the "paralytic" Blandot, the nameless, melancholic, sick narrator, and the hunched, "dumb" viol player Erich Zann. As this economical s

Episode 32: 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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  First, an apology.  I had promised to record The Yellow Wallpaper episodes ago, but I've been sidetracked for a couple of reasons.  One is purely commercial.  I have learned that the YouTube audience for audio horror crave novelty and that stories that haven't been readily available online draw higher views.  As such, I've been reading widely and finding obscurities and curios - and these have jumped the queue while I try and grow the channel, diverting my attention from better-known stories.  But since the podcast is the "Classic Horror Podcast" I ought to narrate some bona fide classics every so often - and The Yellow Wallpaper is in this category. There is another reason, however, and that is that, maybe more than any other story I've so far covered, The Yellow Wallpaper is an important story, and a woman's story - and I confess to some hesitancy about whether I ought to tell it.  In the end, I felt that were I to record it I should take particular

Episode 31: 'A School Story' by M.R. James

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In my blog post for Episode 30 ( The Sea Raiders ) I said that there was little point restating what I had already found perfectly stated elsewhere. With Episode 31 I find myself in the same position. Having been referring to the Fourth Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories for the text, I re-read Robert Aickman's introduction to the same volume. Stating his belief that A School Story deals with the "cosmology of the schoolboy", he expands thus: "with, that is, a world of the imagination before the prison-house has closed upon him which, if not and fostered by the grown man, brings about the man's death with its own, and be the man never so assured and apparently in social demand. To my mind, certain of M.R. James's stories contain an element of patronage: one becomes aware as one reads of the really great man, the Provost of Eton, the engineer of the inscription on the Unknown Warrior's grave, relaxing; all too consciously descending a little, to divert,

EnCrypted: The Classic Horror Podcast