32 thoughts on “The Night Comes On – Steve Duffy


    “…mummies, mummies by the bushel, and not just any ordinary mummies, either.”

    This is a companion piece — or cause to its effect — of God of Storage Options, the previous work by this author I happened to read (HERE) only a few days ago! Spooky! Explanation of how our own memories of past selves are swaddled for re-emergence, if not darkly ancient Egyptian entities also stored or preserved! Translated from one special pagan occasion to another.
    This story’s climax follows an attritional preamble, too, worthy of the constructively long-winded narrative techniques of Aickman’s Residents Committee? — a preamble about a newspaper man optimising the slack window of opportunity for news during a hot summer in 1931, and various other characters and names and ancient artefact smuggling conspiracies that deliciously defeated me. Including a villain called the Fiery Lucifer. Also something about getting stuck in a predictably dodgy lift at the storage depot.

  2. Out of the Water, Out of the Earth

    “Take the example of my contemporary, Professor Westhall, who some years ago had cause to travel to Rome, there to carry out sundry researches in the Vatican Library concerning the dealings between King Henry VIII and Pope Clement.”

    I just read (here), an hour ago, by chance, a Fragment of Thucydides by Reggie Oliver and this elegantly written Duffy now seems to remind me that both these authors are as wonderful as each other, although I think Duffy came first, if not in life but certainly in publishing dates of their otherwise equally competing haunted and haunting stories. They write with fragments from the same soul, I guess. This particular Duffy, written when he must have been quite young, is of a Professor who leaves Rome to convalesce, after food poisoning, on a scenic, beautifully conjured Italian island, in a Villa, wrapped round with Romishness as well as legends of a hermit and a water well, involving Temptations of St Anthony, Bosch visions et al. It is something to soak one’s susceptible reading-soul within. A treasure.

  3. The Close at Chadminster

    “‘Time seems to pass at a slower, less frantic rate in such places, don’t you find?’”

    A discussion at Christmas by house guests, about the best Cathedral architecture (my own favourite cathedral is Ely), leads to a story from a Professor whom they had almost forgotten was there, a story of his time at the eponymous Minster, beautifully described with churchy details, and of his own foolhardy and often literal unearthing of a story of conspiracy, murdered Jews and a single boy’s death, while helping with the construction of a memorial to the recent war dead to replace the existing triptych et al to the single dead one in that legend. The frisson I received — with the shifting figures and the conundrum of footsteps in the snow, or not, as well as dozy or arthritic clerics, and the storyteller’s own instinctive catalytic power for wrongs to be righted — was a frisson just as strong, or even stronger, than any frisson gifted to me by the best of M.R. James. Seriously.

    “‘It were black, and crooked, and it moved too fast,’…”

  4. Pingback: Today’s passions of the moment | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  5. The Last of the Scarisfields

    “Those volumes indispensable to the telling of my story I will of course introduce at the appropriate juncture: as for the rest, suffice it to say…”

    …that the reader feels as if guided by an affable soul, perhaps with a tongue in their cheek about the acceptably dark ‘cosy’ nature of the tale being told, a beautifully, if archetypally written story of a Lakeland house, with an eyesore of a folly next to an evil oak tree, and two academic men who rivalled each other to sort out its massive library, but end up together chewing the fat over the dire deeds in the past of someone who was responsible for another young boy, like the one in the previous story, being killed after keeping a darksome diary, then bearing in mind that a scion or two in that house’s past were evidentially interested in books on the black arts. Even an echo of mysterious sayings about owls that this officiating affable soul haunts us with…

    “…and owls shall answer one another there; and the hairy ones shall dance there,…”

  6. Pingback: “…and owls shall answer one another there; and the hairy ones shall dance there,…” | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  7. The Hunter and His Quarry

    “…it is no place, but a place of the head, of the mind, a place that is dreamed of to scare those foolish souls who in darkness look for dark things.”

    Hunter of darkness or dark hunter, I wonder whether the one I earlier assumed has an affable soul guiding these stories, is not quite so cosy as I imagine, with degrees of deviousness or mischief, if harmlessly so? The blatantly admitted disguising of names of people and places, and making us believe the coincidence that the central event in this story happened to take place on a date crucial to the legend depicted, that is, the last day of April. Yet I can forgive anything, because this otherwise affable mover and shifter of what we read has an exquisite style of narration, bookishness and churchly equivalent manners, especially when here evocatively conjuring places such as this desolate, sparsely populated land on the Baltic shore, its churches and one particular island which, against strong advice, our would-be protagonist ‘Crusoe’ visits to check out an intriguing plaque he saw in a church. A Crusoe tempting a later close-hugging, hunting fate chasing across lands alongside the train he travels home in. A concept that will now haunt as well as hunt me, I guess. And that is true even though I have denied so far any factoring of that concept into vague memories from this story of babies and small children being sacrificed…


    “Can Mr Metfield be blamed for imagining the missing skeleton restored to its corner as before, inert, unmoving—and then all of a sudden twitching? Stiffening? Flexing its bony fingers on the shaft of its scythe?”

    So asks our ever affable soul.
    I’ve never read of so many bones in a crypt, evocatively sorted into parts, and others as whole skeletons, on this crucial Good Friday whose Danse Macabre pageant opportunely makes these bones and their later chilling comings and goings inside and outside the crypt, dry inside, damp out, chilling everywhere — as located in and around the genius loci of this provincial church in France, and its Anglican visitor Mr M who is bombarded with Catholic propaganda by his guides as well as by his own witnessings and researches….
    The affable soul officiating this story actually turns up at the end in person! He is getting closer to me, I sense…


    “my flesh crawls now as it crawled then”

    A story of my train line from Liverpool Street, here with a story told to another passenger about a Norfolk halt, if not Holt, a tale of Aickman-like proportions and, can there be a greater compliment for me to give than to say that many aspects of it mean that a lost Aickman-type story has shape-shifted into this quite original new one. Not a pastiche but a re-toothing. It needs to haunt many more readers with its lingering absurdism, a dream that still feels oh so real!

  10. Pingback: “my flesh crawls now as it crawled then” | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  11. ONE OVER

    “How the Darkness makes children of us all!”

    “…it’s reckoned round these parts that there ain’t no good comes of a low tide in Rushwold; no good at all, sir, no good at all.”

    A honest-to-goodness tale told by one man to another over cosy comestibles and intoxicating drinks one New Year’s Eve atop a Cambridge bookshop of yore, about a dishonest-to-badness haunting of a would-be Suffolk Dunwich where tides at their bottom-ebb produce the direst ‘one over’ possible, the one leftover as a buried body not reburied in a land’s church but left to its own deep encroaching tides till such tides are intermittently but a ‘muddy estuary’. A pestilence or plague to those it gets near, young as well as old, this lug-worm.
    Making the explicit tides of sleep less deep.
    As from one man to another, like I said. No margins for cosy embroidery, this is just what happens, no more, no less, with words telling the barest truth of horror as stitched by instinctive expression by those who know — such as the affable soul who contextualises and narrates with words from outset, this being a freehold narration that is subsequently told by its leaseholder in deploying a truthful tenant’s diary about staying within the ironic hospitality of another ‘One Over’ of yore whereunder all us others usually have our varying intoxicants to mix.

  12. Figures on a Hillside

    “…a swarm of cabbalists, table-tappers, and fake mediums to […] this irregular animal chorus was augmented still further by the frenzied and (to the Cantabrigian, collegiate ears of Mr Fielding) peculiarly irritating bleating of sheep; with an all-embracing curse on the entire animal kingdom,…”

    The Cerne Abbas giant and its ilk become the essence of the HARDON COLLIDER of CERN Zoo, a dowsing with steel rods of another chalk man in Dorset by two gentlemen, and releasing its dark companion, then shuttling between mayhem and worse! Loved it.


    The first half of this whole printed story is the most delightful work, a sheer ‘strange story’ classic in itself, discrete and uncluttered by the second half’s more strident, but still beautifully written, horrors when the scene in the first half is returned to by the protagonist. It is as if the second half seeks to redact the first half.

    I shall only carry memory of the first half, the ‘uncontested’ country roads of Suffolk, the car-driving protagonist getting lost without signposts, finding a library with exquisite books in an unexpected country house, including the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, the inscrutable bargain made with its supercilious owner, and later discoveries, back in his hotel, as to that book, and its contents. A tantalising overhanging conclusion to the discrete first half that is also seasoned by a passing reference to a bookseller on East Hill, Colchester that I know very well.

    I redact the rest.

  14. The Story of a Malediction

    “London was a great growling furnace that day;”

    As it is no doubt today in the current heatwave.
    Our affable soul of a host does not like London, even in those days when Clapham Common housed a golf course. But it takes us into the realms of this oasis in the hope of spiritual balm, I guess. So, the implications of such civilising being disrupted by pre-Brexit heathen nations and their legends and artefacts found on the golf course, and stalking crossword puzzle clues, and entities disguised as squirrel-like creatures on London transport intent on retribution upon academics and golf club officials alike make for a creepy experience. A potentially revelatory conundrum or puzzle for our times, too?

  15. The Vicar of Wryde St Luke

    “—but the several small yet significant discrepancies from the norm combined to give the whole a curious and quite indescribable aspect, which Burnage sought in vain to define to his own satisfaction, and which, as a consequence, I naturally despair of communicating to you, my patient audience.”

    We are the affable soul’s patient audience and we learn from him or her or it today about two gentlemen of yore, with cosy habits, one who studies church architecture, the other church books or books about churches or, as here, a book or grimoire IN a particular church, a now effectively and deliberately unconsecrated church that has been bypassed for many years because of the flagitious one who had reigned there as vicar and we learn what dire things that are now brought into being, brought into and beyond our patient eyes, too, in full fledged horror. Can a reader be cut to ribbons, too? Attacked by rats or whatever?
    Attempts to outdo MR James again? The so-called affable soul who here mock-suggests that he has airbrushed some of his suggestions for dubious reasons ….but has also released what lurks in the church, be it book or beast? Or both.
    Released to our patient eyes, and what can be read by them between the lines…

    “…thanks for the good fortune of the book having been sheltered from the worst of the general decay inside the church. The more he pondered the matter, the more miraculous the book’s escape seemed to him; and suddenly, he was seized with an illogical, unreasoning, yet none the less compelling desire…”

  16. I read and reviewed the next story in 2012 here: https://conezero.wordpress.com/228-2/ and below is what I then wrote about it in that context…


    The Marsh Warden
    “… A faint trail of greenish-black slime, such as may form on the margins of a stagnant woodland pond,…”
    I am of course familiar with the Essex marshes. The story’s eponymous public house is thus a handy stay-over for the gentleman seeking “sundry avian miscellanea” until unwelcome smells impinging on food and even upon the beer within casks arrive from the pub’s accidentally acquired contiguous land, as it were, like a form of riparian law, but here it’s supposedly static ground not a sinuous or even sluggish flow. And internal stories — less salubrious than the evident gentleman narrating the main story whence they emerge — tell of a flow of curses from legends that are shape-shifting like Bestwick’s ‘monster’ but here it’s the ‘genius loci’ itself that shifts its shape into decomposing quicksands of horror, often with stomach-turning force of narrative current. As in the Johnson story, there is a gentlemanly protagonist but, here, he is in turn narrated by what seems to be an even more gentlemanly narrator (not Duffy) who becomes an over-arching character all in himself (definitely male) with his words like ‘juncture’ and ‘commodious’, a narrator  who has escaped Duffy’s pen to roll out his own decidedly convivial story about the bird-watching protagonist and the encroaching smells, it seems to me, and to try to reclaim the ‘warm and comfortable terror’ that I’ve noticed in this book before… like unto its own riparian law or audit trail of leitmotifs TOWARDS gestalt, beyond even the editor’s control? Yet, surely Duffy finally wins out with a residual aftertaste generated by a disturbing quality in this story of infiltratative seepage from the vital points within the body-soul, a factor that is also evident in the Bestwick, reaching further in and further out TOWARDS the parts even cask beer cannot reach. “…drawing him inexorably to the mouth of some soft and unimaginable pit, where but seconds ago had been cold flagstone and the promise of security.” [tab needed before ‘With a frantic effort’ on p90; ‘mSatter’ should be ‘matter’ on p93.] (15 Oct 12 – 3.20 pm bst)

  17. The Return Journey

    “; and a very good thing, too.”

    The rest of the story was recited to me retroactively by hired mutes. Based on someone else’s crabby handwriting.
    While the above topping and tailing of it were already imparted by the person crucial to its related funeral, someone, that is, who had pre-booked the eponymously open-ended journey back in the hearse. In whatever opposite direction of time the medicine worked, I guess.


    “I turned up at the hour specified, and was shown into an agreeable and commodious set of rooms, whose principal adornments consisted of a set of engravings, Flemish to my untutored eye, on the theme of the seven Deadly Sins. Colville noticed my interest in these, and said, smiling a little, ‘So, Burnage was right: you do have an eye for the telling detail.’”

    Enticed again by the affable soul’s telling details, the soul who facilitated the earlier Burnage story. And this its sequel. Oh wonder why so many stories of evil are passed through this soul’s hands and why I come back for more. This is another story where a character is warned not to do certain things, justified warnings. And the warnings are ignored! I will not issue such warnings, myself, because I know that will only encourage you further to delve into this book, despite its tricky tides that threaten to cut you off. Here is no exception, with a story of Alchemy and Avarice, one feeding off the other. Where even the word ‘Alchemist’ itself is transmuted! Telling of buried treasure under a flagstone that you might find if you dare plumb further into these words. I don’t think I have read so much about and understood more about Alchemy in any work before. A story that proves yet again that the affable soul has a good line in chase stories that approach the Zeno’s Paradox of dark shapes hugging your path. I beg for forgiveness from this affable soul for quoting so much below from this story, but as this dark treasure has so long lain fallow, away from readership, perhaps even since that great war featured here, I thought I would give you this temptation of quotations in the hope you withstand such temptation! By having your reading appetite thus assuaged? A temptation itself, you see, is stronger than any warning against it when transmuted into an even stronger warning against it! And, so, we need the name for another different Paradox!

    “The alchemist’s quest: it was a foolish preoccupation, from a foolish time. Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice: this is not a wise dream, or a healthy dream, and men have gone beggars to their deathbeds over it—“

    “All this play with salts and crucibles and the alkahest of Paracelsus; it is a game with them, a disguise for what is real. There is only nigredo, and albedo: the foulness and corruption of the base matter, and the final refinement of the gold. To work through these stages, one to the other, it is an exercise of the will;”

    “…he ran pell-mell through copse and marram-grass, across sand-dunes and foreshore, with that ghastly figure always looming behind through the mist, neither gaining nor falling back appreciably, waving and sawing at him whenever he looked back.”

    “Remember what I have said to you, that impurity may outlast purity, and that what remains of an evil deed must in itself be evil.”

  19. Pingback: A New Paradox | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  20. 68ABF7C2-C82D-48D7-B335-D2861A1084CA 6D1CE537-A69E-4F8F-AFCA-B4F65D161B3A


    “…though I ran faster and faster, I seemed to be making less and less ground,…”

    “…all bound up with the idea of object and subject, and this was beyond all that.”

    And earlier this morning, before reading this story, I read by chance here: “‘Yes.’ I grinned. ‘But didn’t Braque say that the subject was not the object?’”

    The first half of this story is a genuine childhood classic that deserves a huge and enduring audience over generations, with some perhaps simple, if inscrutable, sentence to end its endless passing on over the ‘ground’ of later adults’ acts of mambo jumbo or theosophy that actually do end it — a simple inscrutable ending that perhaps even I could supply, if the author was unwilling to do so.
    It is, if it becomes that envisaged shorter story, a classic fiction of a boy enticed by the apparent voices of two hidden girls who apparently live in the eponymously named house, the house next door to where, in convalescence, he can view the Thames near Teddington, with the added sounds of idiots on skiffs, and it is reminiscent of Sarban, E. Nesbit , C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and more… if not reminiscent of Walpole’s Otranto as the story itself claims (although the eponymous house may have been thus reminiscent of such a castle or even structures like the erstwhile Titanic?)

    The story is told by a man on a ship to another passenger to convince this stranger that strange things can happen… a man who starts by saying…

    “And yet . . . I sometimes wonder whether quite a lot of people, somewhere in their lives, mightn’t have come across something that was—well, a little harder to explain away. Do you see what I mean? Something that didn’t fit in with how they imagined the world to be run: that made them think twice about even their most basic assumptions—well, perhaps not. You don’t appear particularly convinced.”

    And I was easily convinced straight from the start, because strange, even miraculous things can also happen when gestalt real-time reviewing the next door houses of literature, as I have found repeatedly over the years.

    The next time I read this story I shall play Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder as backdrop to such a reading.

    Apocryphal quotes from this work’s second half….

    “…the soul is like a book, that can be opened in the trance, and read:…”

    “‘It was Serena,’ I broke in; ‘Serena’s white rose, that she gave me——’ I stopped, looking at what my aunt held in her hand.”


    “I’ve always thought it was unrealistic to hope that bad times would bring forth good men, when even the best of times seem to bring forth so many bad ’uns. If there were heroes then, so, there were plenty of villains as well—and foolish men enough to outnumber both of ’em, certainly.”

    Let me lay my cards on the table, this author, this creator of the affable soul, is not only worth reading for the frissons of his plots, but the beautifully immaculate prose conveying them. Do I dare say – second to none? Well, I just said it. At least scandalously underrated.
    This tale by one of the good men, a religious man, about the troubles of Ireland in 1917, and a woman as bait, a woman whom a bad mam (a British soldier) ‘sees’ regularly at night on the dunes, and of what literally hungry forces of retribution lurk within those dunes… well, this tale actually instigated what I just said above in the previous paragraph. (And I hope to deal with this author’s Moment of Panic collection in due course.)

  22. The Lady of the Flowers

    “Mindful of my duties as narrator, I have attempted to shape it more traditionally, and recast it in the third person.”

    I feel there is reincarnation involved with this book’s affable soul. The stories are as if written immaculately from the past. Blending old noted authors and someone or other devious in the present, even something traditional from the future? And the description of the old photo in this story should be factored into these ramblings of mine. A story of hotels, big and small, in Snowdonia, amid the gloomy slate. Particularly one large hotel Hall. A week leapfrogged by this hotel to avoid the annual return of the owls and flowers and madness and feathers and fire. Fire not walk with me, but hunt from above. Of three coquettish sisters. And the one who survived. Mabinogion merged. Dreams and realities of the protagonist being chased like an animal in the undergrowth … “splendidly melodramatic a tale” and more.

    “(I am sorry to introduce still another Jones to this story, but the fault is perhaps more the locality’s than mine).”

  23. Widdershins the Barrow Round

    “They’re like mud-puddings, blast ’em!”

    An engaging filmic farce, almost, with someone we shall call Tunstall from some college whose rightful name only the affable host knows, meeting gauche and ill-booted Bainbridge, otherwise a stranger, and later, due to some quicksandery and other dirty gentlemanly japes, they share a bedroom at the hotel, fens around Ely, even dreams of black eels, and Norman soldiers, and the latter may have been real not dreams at all! Talk of Hereward, too. School kids and squealing pigs. Which way round this story you go, is up to you to interpret.

    “…he was forced to surrender the moral high ground in the battle of the bedroom… […] …dreams of dead men rising from the fens, and seizing the dreamers;…”


    “connections whose existence had now become entirely notional, mere fictions”

    Train connections, that is, in and out of Liverpool Street Station, my own London terminus when I go there, as I shall inevitably do again one day, to check out this story and the nature of termini. In fact, I wonder whether the story’s reference to ‘Thorpe Station’ here is to that of Thorpe Le Soken, a station, with a vast derelict warehouse nearby that has been derelict it seems for many decades, a station that I would pass through on the way to Liverpool Street, and would do so again, if indeed I ever made such a journey again.
    Seriously, utterly seriously, this is a gem of a strange story that perhaps even Aickman could not aspire to. Dealing with the no man’s land where the train approaches the Liverpool Street platforms, and where one halts fitfully, seeing, from the train window, storage sheds and oblique signposts and labels in a dreary, often over-skied, tunnel of dusty walls and steppery. Working out what the signs might mean. Overcast and redolent with something I can’t quite define.
    And someone who haunts this book allows me to eavesdrop on a traveller talking to another about what he and another saw during those halting last throes of a journey towards Liverpool Street Station, of windows and faces, or a window with one face looking at them. Or something like that.
    As a fine coda to this book, I shall never forget being thus “Off The Tracks” and I am determined to make at least one more journey to London from here, my Holihaven, my Holland Haven, on the North Essex coast, just to check it all out.

    “It wasn’t random, if you know what I mean: it was clearly a design that would mean something, if you only knew how to work it out.”


  25. Pingback: Off The Tracks | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  26. Pingback: Un-Space | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s