So far in my life there have only been three writers whose work has actually left me scared. M.R.James, H.P. Lovecraft and Adam Nevill. Considering the amount of horror I’ve read and enjoyed you’d think there would be more than just three writers who have scared me. Not to denigrate other horror writers but the fear response may be due to circumstance. Adam Nevill’s novel Last Days is brilliantly written and he knows how to create tension but at the moment I’m reading it in winter and I’m living alone in a four bedroom house. (Not because I’m rich, I’m not. My missus is working away and my lodger spends every night at his girlfriends. He still pays me rent as all his stuff in here, making my house the most expensive storage locker in the Northamptonshire area)
When a book or a film scares me enough to make me jump or gasp I mentally give credit to the writer of director because they’ve managed to scare me. Well done. The other thing is that I enjoy this fear, it gives me a thrill. It’s not unpleasant. You become afraid because of fictional events. This is the side of fear I like. Funfear I call it.
Me and fear, we’re like that (crosses fingers). Funfear is fine but most of the fear I feel comes from reality. This is genuine and unpleasant. One of my biggest fears is going to the cash machine and checking my bank balance. I even break out in a cold sweat just looking at the screen when passing a hole in the wall or hearing the bleep of the keyboard. I do have another fear, though. A new fear. My new fear is opening the post.
‘Dear Mr Melhuish, you have defaulted on your mortgage repayments…Dear Mr Melhuish, you owe us, Northampton Borough Council, three billion quid for an unpaid parking fine stretching back to 1988….
All manner of horror lies in wait in the post. I’ve got a skyscraper of unopened mail tottering in the hallway. Its not creaky stairs or wind outside that keeps me awake at night but the contents, or lack of, in my bank account and how I’m going to pay bills etc.
So here I am in a four bed roomed house on my own (which at the time of writing is on the market for £219,000 if any body’s interested in a detached house in the Northamptonshire area. Single garage, Tesco express at the bottom of the road, close to the M1).
So when I’m not avoiding the mundane fear of reality, I’m embracing the fear of nothing, of fictional events, by reading scary literature and watching scary films (note, I do not include Carry on Screaming in this list). Just lately I’ve taken to scaring myself without the help of other people’s fiction. I’m writing a horror novel at the moment set in a village that the military occupied for training then abandoned after the Second World War. A property developer buys this village and renovates the houses not knowing there is a strong supernatural presence in this village.
At one point in the story the protagonist enters a dust-covered room in one of the houses. He walks around the room, stopping to look inside a wardrobe in the left hand corner before walking to the window. After looking out of the window at the empty village below he turns to leave. In the dust is a second pair of footprints that weren’t there before, crossing the middle of the room towards him. They end right before him. (Note, he’s alone in a village that hasn’t been touched for sixty years)
I managed to scare myself with that one. And I still enjoyed it.
So, pretty soon I’ll be moving to a smaller, less creepy house but until then I’ve got Mark West’s The Mill to read and cause me to look out of the window and periodically to wonder what the hell that noise in the back garden was and a wicked little anthology called Fogbound From Five edited by Peter Mark May to make me ask myself if that sound in the attic above was footsteps or not.
Real fear will provided by HSBC, Nationwide, Northampton Borough Council and my own incompetence at dealing with reality. The rest of the time I’ll just relax.