Gathering her filmy draperies about her…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s colours are: melancholy mauve, rugged russet, unruly ultramarine, yelping yellow, and boorish brown.
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dscn4408Gosh!… I’m scared already!…
No no, it’s just another British pulp paperback novel from the early 1960s – it’s a Badger Book from my modest collection. As you see this one is by John E. Muller, one of the many pseudonyms of the Reverend Robert Lionel Fanthorpe M.B.I.S. who wrote almost all of the Badger science fiction and supernatural stories – he managed one every couple of weeks apparently. Shall we flip the book over and see what the blurb on the back cover has to tell us dear reader?
‘There are probably two main schools of thought (on magic). The former would maintain that demonic or occult practices are purely mental in origin – mere delusions in the mind of the susceptible. The latter would suggest that the uncanny, grotesque phenomena traditionally associated with the Black Arts, possess a reality of their own, however etheric and esoteric it may be.
Somewhere between these groups of thinkers stand the undecided, and those-who-have-reserved-their-judgement. They do not scoff at the unknown…’
Good, well that’s fairly clear – oh, and I do like that cheeky string of hyphenated words! But let’s quickly turn the book back over and examine the fine piece of painting on the front; even though it is unsigned, it is almost certainly the work of the great Henry Fox who did most of the Badger covers.
Alright then, what’s going on here? ‘The blank deathmask shrouded the pale moonlight above the altar steps’, I expect that was what H. Fox received on a slip of paper in the post from the publishers one morning; his instructions for a new Badger cover.
Well, there is the deathmask, but is it actually doing any shrouding? ‘”Shrouded the pale moonlight” sounds very good, but what does that mean?‘, thought Mr Fox as he munched his milky corn flakes one bright morning back in 1963.
‘Anyway, there are the altar steps, and a nice moon. See, the moon is a bit ‘shrouded’, that should deal with that aspect of the brief,‘ mused Mr Fox later in the day as he sat hunched over his easel.
But how about these two chaps? What are they up to? Why are they carrying what appear to be lit fireworks? I have just glanced at the first page of the story, one of these lads might be Andrew Hargreaves, not that that matters to us. Actually I have just noticed, the one on the lower steps (you know, those steps look more like pieces of wood lying on the ground rather than proper steps, but never mind…) looks like he might be changing his mind about his friend’s daredevil project, perhaps he is saying, ‘Look here Andy, I know this is fun… but I really must be going, I think I have left my best boots drying the oven… and anyway, these fireworks aren’t going to last very long are they?… What?… Alright!… Be like that!… Okay, I might see you in the pub next week then… Bah!…’
Shall we now sample the writing style by flicking at random through these yellowing and fragile pages dear reader?
(Andrew H) There was unmistakable strength of character in that battered face, particularly in the eyes. They were so dark as to be almost jet black, and there was an incalculable, imponderable depth in them. They were they eyes of a man who had looked at life too long and too deeply…
The arms hung long from the shoulders, thick as the arms of a great ape, and almost as hairy. It was as thought the hirsute covering of the scalp… had taken refuge on the arms…
And:
Gathering her filmy draperies about her, she hurried in front of him and pointed speechlessly to a dressing-room door on his left. He tried that handle; the door refused to open.
“Alina!” His voice was a spanner being ground up in the cogwheels of a marine engine.
And:
One of the hideous hybrid stone things had come away from its bas-relief; it stood; then it walked jerkily towards them like something out of a third-rate horror film… This man of stone was more than the mind could absorb, more than the intellect could combat. In a film or book it would have sounded hackneyed, corny, in fact. It would have been so impossibly incongruous that it would have provoked mirth rather than terror, but here in the Mesopotamian hills it was no laughing matter. There was nothing comical about its jerking, stony walk…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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8 Responses to Gathering her filmy draperies about her…

  1. Such a quaintness about those old book stories – the way they word things. And I think the two fellows on the cover are about to embark on a Torch Race. They have to keep within the boundaries of the marked out lanes (wooden slat things) and run like billy-oh before the torch expires and they are forever plunged into murky darkness. 🙂

    • Dave Whatt says:

      The Badger Books are at the same time really annoying, and also quite amusing to read – you have to skip a lot of dull pages, and also learn to not expect a good ending – usually they stop rather suddenly as RL completes the allotted number of words required by the publisher…
      They are always 158 pages long…

  2. Jheron Bash says:

    Well, I believe I must be one of “those-who-have-reserved-their-judgement” for I believe passionately that one should not scoff at the unknown. That would be an awful lot of scoffing you’d have to do, wouldn’t it? A voice like “a spanner being ground up in the cogwheels of a marine engine” might be quite good. Mind you, it might give you a bit of a sore throat …..

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Oh, yes that ‘cogwheel’ mention was great wasn’t it? And why a ‘marine engine’ in particular I wonder?… Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience of a boating holiday he’d had?…

  3. ktz2 says:

    ‘In a film or book it would have sounded hackneyed, corny, in fact.’–but not in MY book, he says.
    I love pulp books for their cheesy prose but more for the covers. There were a number of genres and in the US the sci-fi and ‘sex’ genres were most popular. Even the sci-fi books usually managed to have a LURID cover illustration of a scantily dressed woman in the clutches of an alien, or the like

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Yes, I love ’em too! Did you click the link to the Fanthorpe site? I do have a soft spot for the Reverend.
      I’m sure he was being deliberately ironic and playful when he said all that stuff about being hackneyed and corny – I’ll bet he was smiling as he wrote it…

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