Natterjack and Nark


I was long ago inspired by the next author’s The Smoking Leg and The Feasting Dead, regarding both of which works I now feel the need to revisit, but I can’t remember reading his Nightmare Jack before, although I probably did and have forgotten or made myself forget…

NIGHTMARE JACK by John Metcalfe

“Only in his little wicked eyes did the old, evil light yet creep and flicker, and the succulent sin seem still to well and ooze.”

“You of all men, you Nurse, you mother’s plague, you man-stealer!”

“It was something like vaccination, and ‘took’ better with some than others.” 


This otherwise old-fashioned seeming Limehouse tale can only be read properly today in the light of recent events — a tale of evil and retribution and greed creeping and flickering back along with Chambers’ Yellow Sign of a seeping God (now stigmata on crooked cheeks and crazed by recurrent finger pointing) with East London smells and stretching stuckness of the headily atmospheric river, sheathed claws, crooks and neerdowells, their cursed rubies stolen from Burmah. And its importance as a prophetic work is now assured. Welcome or unwelcome as a catharsis, you must decide for yourself. The eponymous dying frizzled man behind the “locked door” and we grizzlers who crowd and listen to his eluded or elided words. The dreams that outlast covividly their own dreams’ dreams; Pongo the cat to symbolise ironically a yearned for loss of smell, the most evil of the evil men also ironically christened — by the eponymous natterjack or Nark — with the name Nurse. For God’s sake, don’t look behind you! This story points at you!, as you recall “windows drummed like blood against the brain.” That dry, brown face haunted and haunting, ‘giggling like a girl.’ This work surely outdoes even the insidious book of King in Yellow with, now, an otherwise inscrutable “mythos of the Web and Loaf, and the faded terror of the Triple Scum.” The rubies’ juice, those blood clots, making you describe your nightmares parrot fashion or like a schoolboy in rote.

Save me; save me from their bloody Nark . . . The man ’oo speaks like a girl an’ smells like a goat . . . the cat ‘as . . .

The full context of this review here:

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