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Posts tagged John Metcalfe

From the flaps of Nightmare Jack and Other Tales (Ash-Tree Press, 1998)

Writing about John Metcalfe (1891–1965) in The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, T. E. D. Klein said that the author’s work “is marked by a rare artistry, wit, and intelligence—and by a restraint too often lacking in the genre”… E.F. Bleiler, in his Guide to Supernatural Fiction, refers to them as “tense, cryptic stories of brooding supernaturalism” which are now “unjustly forgotten.”

John Metcalfe's tales of the macabre and the supernatural are amongst the finest in the genre, and are comparable to the stories of such authors as Walter de la Mare, L. P. Hartley, and Robert Aickman. The horrors in his stories are insidious and unnerving, frightening by stealth rather than violence as they intrude into the quiet lives of ordinary people, who find their worlds shaken by forces they can neither understand nor control. Like the best horror tales of Poe and Le Fanu, Metcalfe's narratives are often disturbing accounts of  excursions into the “bad lands” of the subconscious mind.

This volume collects seventeen stories, a biography, and an afterword by Maldoror translator, novelist (no one reads?), and Jean Rhys-chronicler Alexis Lykiard (Metcalfe’s wife Evelyn Scott was among Jean’s earliest supporters). Grimness from his afterword:

The sparse details of this singular author’s sad decline are as grim and affecting as anything he himself wrote. Widowed and virtually helpless, he collapsed, was committed to a New York mental hospital and, through friends’ efforts, finally discharged and repatriated to England. Alcohol, tranquilizers, and a fall down the stairs of a shabby London boarding-house saw him out. It was not long before Metcalfe’s books and papers too were disposed of piecemeal.  This occurred when his drinking crony and, alas, literary executor, John Gawsworth, met an even more destitute alcoholic end.

Image: cover by Douglas Walters for Nightmare Jack and Other Tales 

[I must have bought this when it came out. It’s already going for big bucks, sorry to say. Eventually the napster of books will spread it around.]