Cold Hand In Mine
by Robert Aickman
Awards: World Fantasy Award for Pages From a Young Girl's Journal, included in this collection
"It has become exceedingly cold, almost icy…
I doubt if I shall write any more. I do not think I shall have any
more to say."
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Aickman defined his unsettling and puzzling tales "strange
stories", avoiding the terms "ghost" or "supernatural"
because his literary enigmas were usually well rooted into reality,
although often one of unfathomable and deceiving nature. His short
fiction is collected in eight volumes, most of which are by now
virtually unobtainable or items for a few wealthy collectors. o
the delight of the numerous fans of that cult writer, UK-based
Tartarus Press is gradually reprinting all the Aickman collections in
elegant hardcover editions.
Hand in Mine, which originally appeared
in 1975, is one of the author’s best known books, featuring eight
classy stories which offer a fascinating showcase of Aickman’s
cryptic but enticing narrative style.
opening piece, The Swords
is one of the most typical and famous Aickmanesque tales, inscrutable
and disquieting, blending eroticism, weirdness and the disturbing
feeling that something terrible lurks behind our trivial daily
she did everything I asked.... To me she still felt queer and
disappointing – flabby might almost be the word – and certainly
quite different from what I had always fancied a woman’s body would
the melancholy The Real Road to the
Church Aickman, in his customary
oblique way, tries to probe into the mystery of the supernatural,
intended in a religious sense, seeking the meaning of life and death
in a world where God remains inexplicable and unreachable.
am I ?" whispered Rosa. "And who are you?"
Hospice is yet another puzzling tale
featuring a lost motorist who finds shelter in an odd "hotel"
where guests are encouraged to overeat and where much more than meets
the eye is actually going on. Atmospheric and eerie, the story
triggers a lingering feeling of deep unease.
am your soul," replied a remote voice she did not know.
cried Rosa, "where then are you going?"
the church. Where else should a soul go?"
from a Young Girl’s Journal stands
out as a clever but traditional, straightforward vampire story, by no
means a typical Aickmanesque piece. Although winner of the World
Fantasy Award, it never struck me as one of the best among the
author’s stories, due to the lack of his trademark subtlety and
contrast The Same Dog, an apparently realistic yet elusive piece, is endowed with an
astonishing ending as Aickman’s unmistakable signature.
Hilary. Dogs don’t live twenty years." But he wasn’t quite
sure of that.
long Meeting Mr. Millar,
in which a mysterious firm of accountants disrupts the quiet routine
of the tenants of an apartment building, needless to say is open to
different interpretations. Strange doings of dubious nature take
place in the premises, all the activities revolving around the
inscrutable character of Mr Millar. A truly engrossing story,
although somehow slightly unaccomplished.
the grotesque The Clock Watcher
a British man marries a girl from Germany’s Black Forest, whose
bond with clocks goes beyond a simple obsession to become the source
of her health and her very existence.
was as if Mrs Richardson had to fight with the clocks. As if they
just didn’t want to go. And all the time the man just stood there
watching her struggle.
contemporary dark fiction should not miss this splendid book, a fully
enjoyable , unique reading experience providing full evidence that
life’s dark corners are much more scary than monsters, zombies and