Bosch’s Hellmouth



I don’t wish to exaggerate, nor am I doing so – but one always knows when one is in the presence of a perfect short story writer, and this story makes me wonder, not for the first time, why this author Steve Duffy is not more famous and fêted in literary circles. Perhaps he is, for all I know. From The Lion’s Den to The Psychomanteum, this author often wows me.

Full context of the above:



The Swords Syndrome

“It was as if her brain were being penetrated by a dozen swords, entering from all directions at once. It was at least as much a torment as a revelation.”

…indeed as is this whole section, a single section of text that perhaps you should read in this book, even if you read nothing else of it. Particularly if you are interested in the Aickman canon as gestalt. Also as a depiction of today’s covivid dreams.

“Once again: it was and it was not.”

Above is from my review of THE MODEL by Robert Aickman here:

Also see:

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Gambier by Oliver Onions, shall we blame its publisher?


This work needs investigation or triangulation by as many others as possible interested in such literature, literature that is also beyond labels such as ‘folk-horror’. Onions deserves to be well-known for this work alone or, at least, as well as for some of his more ‘famous’ strange stories we have long loved.

Shall we blame this new Tartarus Press publication for bringing Gambier alive after his many years of lurking somewhere else? Or shall we simply pray for its narrator, and hope for the best?

I have finished my review of this novelette:

The Aickman Absolution

The final reaction against the reactionary inside himself?

From sought provender to assuage hunger to a necessary Grubb…


A necessary coda to this book if not this whole series – where the coffee face in the Riddell becomes that of the NUMA, now a new word for nullimmortalis, where the oppressed does box up the oppressor in the shape of a golden-eyed white girl, as it were. The tension released? In-denial assuaged. The Gluey Zenoism at its transcendent still point? Whatever the authorial intentions.
On another level, a charmingly written story of childhood, in the New Orleans river steamer fields of yore, whereby a girl receives a dark doll amid an argument with her guardian aunt about the imaginary friends with whom the girl purports to play and speak. A domestic world with black servants. Naive and disarming, of its age, and with an inner truth that we can all now see via such gestalt scrutiny? From hubris to nirvana, from fear of the self’s ghosts to perfect numa. From horror to catharsis. A purging by or for Aickman? The ache in man.

These Aickman Fontana books have now all been duly read and reviewed, by guided chance choice, in this order: 2, 4, 6, 8, 1, 3, 5 and finally this one: 7.

Full context of above here:

My other on-line Robert Aickman references linked from here:




Two stories chosen by Robert Aickman for Fontana Great Ghost Stories…

THE CASE OF MR. LUCRAFT by Sir Walter Besant and James Rice

“Then I became a cabin-boy, but only for a single voyage, on board a collier. The ship belonged to a philanthropist, who was too much occupied with the wrongs of the West Indian ni**ers to think about the rights of his own sailors;…”

The ship, the ‘Spanking Sally’, sank soon after the Narrator, LUCRAFT, had run away… but its West Indians may have evoked creation of the infernally CLUCK-CLUCKING Boule-de-Neige character later in his story! There are many other wildly and unforgivably impolitical references here, but no doubt the work’s overwhelming themes of overeating and overlarge meals influenced some of Aickman’s own fiction, as well as influencing the latter’s sporadically obsessional or long-covividly attritional strains of literary absurdism.
Ever food-hungry and penniless, Lucraft tells us a truly remarkable tale, stemming from his time as a strolling actor and his unrequited love affair with young Juliet. Then when, spurned by her father, Lucraft moves to London, he faces us with some of the most incredible descriptions of food and unappeased appetite events ever written in literature, as well as describing his Faustian pact with a larger than life man whose name is always just beyond the tip of Lucraft’s tongue, a Rabelaisian man whose speech is disruptively peppered with incessant GRUNTS — a pact of transferring to this man the gargantuan appetite of young Lucraft for food and drink. With all the repercussions that such a pact entails!!! Replete with “green fat”, underdone mutton, “calipash and calipee” and much much else — and “Like an ostrich, as you say. Ho ho! Ha! Ha! like an ostrich!”

I cannot stress enough how literally overwhelming this obsessional and attritional text is upon the reader. And I wonder if the two authors knew what LOO would mean later in linguistic history or simply prophesied its meaning through the magic of fiction. But the story reeks and tastes of LOOCRAFT to me!
Ebenezer GRUMBELOW, too, eventually the tantalising missing name regained as GRUNTS BELOW, I suggest!!
SPOILER — Luke Lucraft’s own new ship called LOVECRAFT, I infer, with Juliet aboard eventually comes to harbour, but I will not here give you all the twists and turns of plot leading to that finale of a romantic event.

“For, as I discovered, man is one and inseparable; you cannot split him up;…”


“His imperturbability was amazing, his absolute stillness terrifying.”

It is somehow appropriate that the author’s initials are an expendable vessel for gorgeable food as WC and his surname an ever Morrow as tomorrow in perpetuity, an ever-tantalising tension between greed (or, say, in other stories, lust or filthy lucre or filthy luck) and self-restraint, between chance (of, say, a dice throw) and certainty, between self-knowledge and ‘in-denial’, so fitting for this Aickman Fontana book series wherein an earlier Lucraft (or Loocraft!) tempted another starving innocent young man in the city with gorgings of food as now listed again by these words, in a story so fitting of another writer like O Henry whose stories I have also been reviewing in recent months…
A tension between life and death or even death and death: this series’ nullimmortalis. A tension, too, between disguise and display, between absinthe and an “absent-minded” stroking of a bank-robber’s newly shaved-off beard.

Full context of the Morrow story:


My own historical Toilet Mythos:


Having just read the next story below, I thought, as a writer of stories published in the early 1990s within what I called the Toilet Mythos, I thought I would first deploy where I am coming from – with regard to some of my views, including Ligotti, Lovecraft and, now, today, what I have just learned about the wonderful Cioran… (links to my marathon gestalt real-time review of most of Ligotti’s stories) (my story ALUM CHINE published in 1993) (my views on Lovecraft and the Lavatory)


“And then there are the particles that they often leave behind in the toilet’s bowl.”

Note ‘particles’, that instable glitch heretofore, and this is the most wonderful story written within (probably unintentionally) the cosmic-terrifying Toilet Mythos, as well as within Ligotti’s diseased-bellyache Office lavatories. Better than anything I ever did. It is absolutely hilarious but always philosophically thoughtful in the backdrop. Eschatology and Scatology uniquely fused. I won’t give it away, but its ventriloquo-infusorium theme is also possibly transgender with the virgin birth of the God Particle (I first identified above on Christmas Day) stopping up the toilet itself like shit? The ‘Nonsense’ of social media etc., notwithstanding.
A fine ovation to what Cioran, Ligotti and Lovecraft represent to me: disturbing, serious, cosmic-terrifying, yet with hilarity coaxed from hoax.

Old Mrs Jones

OLD MRS JONES by Mrs Riddell

It is as if one Mrs becomes a riddle of another… see the end of this review entry.
This is disarmingly even more disturbing than it seems to be on a single surface reading. The house where a cab man Mr Tippens and his wife and children and horse, with various lodgers now again upstairs, start to live, with honest endeavour, “gettings” to earn, and “flittings” of lodgers. But overtaken by the reputed haunting by a Mrs Jones whom it is generally suspected was murdered in the house by her husband Dr Jones, a doctor with not just one demon inside but a legion of them. And, then, we also gradually accrete information and, thus, dread of Mrs Jones herself, not necessarily as an explicitly described “blackamoor”, if more brown than black, as her endemic complexion, but with more acceptable perceived ‘evils’ to dread than face colour, I suspect Aickman not only loved this story for its other intensely disturbing qualities but also included it here as a resonance with the brown-a-Moors, as it were, in the above Irving story, and as an echo with that story’s pent-up caverns housing the lurking Moors, and this story’s Pendell lodgers who “pell-mell” came down the stairs in echo of the harum-scarum or hurry-scurry in the Irving work, come down in fear from the upper part of the house, in contrast to, in the Riddell, “those underground regions Mr Tippens well described as caverns.” The coincidences become too many to ignore.
Genuinely creepy, as there grows the haunting upon the characters and upon us by our knowledge also growing of the Joneses, and by the arrival of a young woman to stay in the house with them, a woman who is first cousin of Mr Tippens. Her eventual dream is explicitly described as “just like a reality”, an intrinsic type of co-vivid dream quality we all now understand more about. Later, a visitor to the house comments upon this cousin’s cataplectic faraway look and the nature of her face: “and what a thick white complexion, if I may use the term.” Those words, as dialogue, seem slipped into the text surreptitiously or even inadvertently by dint of some secret riddle, a riddle of what or whom this first cousin is actually becoming piecemeal and trying to disguise her transformation. When read thus closely, there is much else that makes this one of the most frightening stories you are ever likely to read, as if it holds further secrets or riddles that a second reading, if you dare, might reveal…

Full context of above:

Thanks to Charles Schneider for the above images creatively based on my wife’s now famous quilted stars!