Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Basil Copper

A few words about an author who is, in my opinion one of the unsung geniuses of English weird fiction: Mr Basil Copper


Basil is a writer, former journalist, newspaper editor and all round good egg who’s written over 50 odd books in his lifetime. He’s probably best known as the writer of the cod-Holmesian Solar Pons stories continuing the character created by notorious Lovecraft botherer, August Derleth. He also wrote a shed load of hard-boiled stories about a dick called Mike Faraday but I confess not to have read any of those. What will be of interest to Found Object readers though - is his weird fiction.

I first came across Basil in Ramsay Campell’s marvellous anthology ‘New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos’. His story ‘Shaft Number 247’ is la crème de la crème. In it everything is implied, never explicit. He somehow manages to make something as incongruous as water on a corridor floor blood curdling. There is no direct reference to the Mythos but the atmosphere of slowly building dread and paranoia is wholly worthy of Lovecraft. The last two pages fill your mind with dozens of images that are both nerve tangling and strangely beautiful.

To my surprise he then cropped up in a couple of the Pan Book Of Horror Stories: The Spider (volume 5), Camera Obscura (volume 6), and The Janissaries of Emilion (volume 8). I started to read The Spider without really paying much attention to who had written it – after a while the PBOHS do that to you don’t they? As soon as I was a couple of pages in it was clear that this was another cracking Basil story. If you have any of the above, take them off the shelf and re-read them. You won’t be sorry. Incidentally Camera Obscura, about a heartless moneylender, was filmed for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Which again took me unawares years later as ten minutes into watching it I began to recognise the story.

In the pre-internet days - when I would remember, I’d have a quick look over the horror section in WHSmiths or Blackwells in Oxford looking for a hint of Basil to no avail and had all but forgotten him until one day his science fiction/horror novella ‘The Great White Space’ popped it’s head up on a pile of second hand books in Charmister in Bournemouth. I devoured it with barely containable relish. What a real treat it was. Concerning a chap possessed by a monstrous entity from a higher dimension of existence. There’s also a brief mention of the odd Great Old One to keep us Mythos freaks happy. The very title of the book alone is enough to send you into agoraphobic palpitations.

Finally, I happened across his short story collection ‘Here be Daemons: Tales of Horror and the Uneasy’ and I’d hit the mother lode. Every story is a joy from start to finish. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Beg, borrow or steal a copy if you can.

‘In this spine-chilling collection of tales, Basil Copper offers a diabolical vision of Evil at work. There's the elderly Mrs Cartwright who discovers the hideous truth about her sweet young nephew - too late; the successful stockbroker who pays a suitably satanic price to eliminate his rival; the wealthy widow who exacts a hair-raising, horrific revenge upon her callous lover; and the sect which invokes an unholy abomination beyond man's wildest nightmares.’

How can any right thinking person not want to read it?

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