Review: The Monster Club / Author: R. Chetwynd-Hayes / Publisher: Valancourt Books / Release Date: Out Now
R. Chetwynd-Hayes is fondly remembered for his spooky yet witty tales of horror. The Monster Club (filmed in 1981 with Vincent Price and Donald Pleasance) is at the lighter end of his oeuvre – a collection of playfully tongue-in-cheek short stories presented as a series of anecdotes told to an unfortunate human who finds his way by accident to the club of the title.
The best of the stories are firmly on the side of the monsters. The Werewolf and the Vampire recounts the courtship and marriage of two meek, well-meaning supernaturals who end up suffering at the hands of a zealous vicar and a sadistic schoolboy. Meanwhile, the big-eared, pointy-toothed narrator of The Mock gradually moves from bewilderment and disgust at his bafflingly complex monster heritage to the realization that it can be a source of pride and strength. Funny, disturbing and brilliantly imaginative, this story is the highlight of the book and well worth the price of admission alone.
Even in the more conventional, less monster-centric tales, the human characters tend to be depicted with an acid pen. In The Shadmock, a ghastly nouveau riche businessman and his trophy wife find themselves held prisoner in their own stately mansion by a staff of grotesques (“Will it be convenient for madam to be drained at eight O'clock?”), while the titular bat-like demon of The Fly-by-Night draws out the underlying tension between an apparently contented father and daughter. At times the tone and prose style are almost Harry Potter-ish to modern ears, but the edginess of the themes makes for a far from cosy read. This long-overdue paperback reissue comes with a useful introduction by Stephen Jones and a suitably lurid wraparound cover by John Bolton.