The Books Of Blood Advent Calendar
The New Murders In The Rue Morgue
Dean M. Drinkel
The New Murders In The Rue Morgue
“Lewis,” it said.
Not pleading. Not demanding. Simply naming, for the pleasure of naming, an equal.” – Clive Barker
In 2018, I set up my publishing company (DEMAIN). Very early on I was thinking about a series of books which were ultimately to become the Short! Sharp! Shocks! As I’d never published before I needed to test the waters and ensure that the mechanics of everything worked―I decided to ‘launch’ the series with a book of my own (to be clear, my story was going to be the unofficial first book, book zero if you will. The first official title was actually Patient K by Barbie Wilde). The only problem? I didn’t have an idea, let alone a story.
I didn’t think this was going to be an issue, I knew I’d come up with something even if the deadline (I’d set myself) was fast approaching. I needed to concentrate on the books that came after mine, so set about finding a brilliant cover designer/brander (Adrian Baldwin – Adrian Baldwin Author – Dark Comedy, Novels, Short Stories) and agreed the first fifteen or so titles. It was then (during a business meeting) that I realised the deadline was imminent. I’m not someone who usually panics but this time, as Alex Ferguson once said, “squeaky bum time” was upon us.
Around the same time I was contacted by a film producer about a screenplay he wanted me to write for him and he needed an updated resume. I had one but just wanted to make sure it had everything included and as I was going through it, something jumped out at me. A story I had written for a friend for a one-off book (ie there was only ever going to be one copy produced) for someone well-known in the genre. I had a quick read and I thought with a little revising here and there, it could actually work.
The story was called Dirty Paws and was an unofficial sequel to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders In The Rue Morgue but (perhaps!) more importantly, Clive Barker’s New Murders In The Rue Morgue – published in 1984, in Volume 2 of his Books Of Blood series. As for many of the other writers in this calendar (I’m sure), Barker is the reason why we do what we do―he made us. I’ve been lucky subsequently to meet Clive a few times, directed his play Frankenstein In Love [I still want to make that movie!], and have worked with several of the cenobites.
His influence has been immense and it was always a great compliment when my early stories were compared to Clive’s. I became aware of the Books Of Blood through watching Hellraiser and discovered that the director was the writer as well, and he’d written several short story collections and a novel here and there. The bookshop where I lived (Sittingbourne, Kent) at the time had the two volume omnibus versions, I devoured them until the covers fell off. Most (probably all haha) had a profound effect on me as a creator and (natch!) New Murders had the greatest of all.
Fast forward a few years after those initial readings and I was finding myself in Paris an awful lot (sorry if that sounds pretentious but it’s true, I was going every other weekend at one point). Paris is my favourite place in the world and has featured in many of my stories and a couple of (so far!) unproduced screenplays. I have always found the city, and the people, very inspiring and one of the only places (the other being Cannes) where I actually walk around with my head high, drinking in everything around me―I’ve even got four/five local pubs!
Once, I was living in London and was going over for New Year so spent the day/night before meeting up with friends and imbibing a pint or two (okay, more than one or two; we ended up going clubbing). I got home extremely late, had a few hours sleep before I had to catch the first tube. When I woke I realised I hadn’t even packed my bag. I grabbed a pile of clothes, stuffed them in the rucksack with a couple of books and a notepad. I made a run for the bus to take me to Brixton station.
At St Pancras, I checked in (I had brought my passport), bought myself a coffee and croissant, sat down and waited for the Eurostar. It was then I realised that I’d actually packed my washing (I prayed that I’d be able to get everything cleaned at the hotel) and of the books I’d grabbed, one was a new copy of Books Of Blood which somebody had gifted me. Yes! New Murders was included so I started devouring. It was then I decided that as well everything else I had planned, I wanted to incorporate the story somehow into my trip.
How was I going to do that? No idea. The Eurostar arrived―I got on. I was still a little drunk I’m sure, so bought a couple of Amstels from the bar and I wrote out my schedule for the next couple of days and then an idea struck me: how about walking (or at least trying to walk) the streets that are mentioned in the story. Going back to my seat the more I thought about it, the more I thought what a great idea it was. I flicked through the pages and made a note of the place names.
I didn’t think I was going to be taken too much out of my way. After finishing the Amstels I was buzzing about the whole idea. I had a little time before I arrived; I got myself another beer, sat back and as I had some deadlines coming up for commissioned pieces, I jotted some story ideas down. Nothing concrete but I managed to flesh out a couple of conversations between these two mismatched people, Lea and Maxime. They were unsuited, a couple of idiots. I reached Paris; I closed the book on them. But I wouldn’t forget them―no chance.
I was unable to check into my hotel (in Pigalle, if you’re interested) though they did let me drop off my rucksack. I had a couple of hours to kill. I kept hold of my pen/notepad and Clive’s book, grabbed a city-map from the rack, went outside and immediately found a place to have a drink. I accept it was early but I had to keep my buzz going. One of my literary heroes is Rimbaud―I remembered he used to walk everywhere (I mean everywhere), so if he could do it (most of the time sozzled) then why couldn’t I?
I chatted to a few of the locals in my (very, at that time) broken French, downed a few beers with them and then got on with my task. I opened the map, opened the Books of Blood and started reading. After an hour or so I fathomed I had the plan all worked out. I had another drink, folded up the map, said goodbye to my new mates and stepped outside. Of course, it was pouring and I wasn’t dressed appropriately but what the hell, you only live once right (so they say)? I was on an important mission.
In Clive’s story it is snow which is the bane of Lewis’ life―I have to say after five or so minutes, rain was mine. There was nothing I could do about it though and soldiered on, even if it was coming down and coming down heavy. First up was Boulevard Diderot, the place where Lewis’ mother was born. This was quite a walk from where I was, in the 12e arrondissement and I didn’t find it particularly interesting until I read a plaque that said until 1879 it was known as the Boulevard Mazas because there was a prison nearby.
Soaked and having no particular building to visit, I swiftly wanted to move on. Next up was the Rue Morgue itself, though that didn’t actually exist (acknowledged in the story) I had to move onto…where was it now (the map was sodden remember)…ah, yes, this one promised to be interesting, 11 Quai de Bourbon. I didn’t bother waiting for the rain to stop, I trundled onwards (okay, I stopped at a café for an aperitif). It wasn’t that far (a nice walk along the Seine and onto the l’île Saint-Louis), and there I was greeted by two large wooden doors.
I couldn’t find any information about what was behind the doors, but I made a note, as I might be able to use them in a future story. There was something written on a wall about Philippe (this one I believed was Louis XIV’s brother) but I was starting to get a bit of a headache (lack of alcohol) so decided to push on. There is then mention of an apartment (also a number 11) in Montmartre, on the Rue des Martyrs. Now, this was taking me back towards where I’d come from, so I decided to get the metro.
What should have been a simple trip, due to the alcohol, took me longer than expected. I took the wrong line then ended up wedged in one of those metal exit barriers. Initially fighting I admitted defeat, just stood/lay there until somebody from the RATP released me. The booze poured out of my pores so they kept me at arms’ length. Once in the fresh air, I found number 11―a Greek restaurant― great, I was starving. I can’t tell you what I ate but I definitely drunk quite a bit of Ouzo (reminding me of absinthe, one of Rimbaud’s favourites).
After a couple of hours imbibing I tried to get up to the third floor which proved impossible. When I’d sat down I’d laid the map down on the seat next to me to dry―when I went searching for it, the waiter told me they’d thrown it away, they thought it was rubbish. No, they didn’t have another, they weren’t a tourist office. I did have Clive’s book and though the pages were sticking together I scanned through the lines again. There’s a mention of the medical school and the police station but the streets aren’t named…so what was next?
Damn! As I read, I realised I’d made a mistake (kind of). Lewis, after visiting Rue des Martyrs, returns to Quai de Bourbon to get a key then walks back to Martyrs via Boulevard de Sebastopol and Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle before crossing the Place de Pigalle. Where my bleedin’ hotel was! The waiter enquired if I was okay, I said sure, he asked me if I wanted another drink, on the house but after that I’d have to leave as I was taking up too large a table for one person and soon they’d have to lay it for dinner. Dinner?!
I was mildly annoyed but the Ouzo was hitting the spot so soon calmed. I kept staring at the door leading upstairs, half-hoping (half-believing) that the ‘monster’ from the story was going to burst out at any moment. Of course that didn’t happen (though I noticed that there were quite a few undesirables in the area) so (even though things were getting a bit blurry now) I reread the story checking that I hadn’t made any other mistakes. A red-haired prostitute is murdered in a little house in the Rue de Rochechquant. I asked around, it was quite a walk.
So I struck that one off. Montparnasse is mentioned, I agreed with myself that I’d walked some of those streets (looking back I wasn’t sure I had but decided to go with it) and the Gare du Nord which was the station I’d arrived at, so that was a definite. But then came the big one (as far as I was concerned at that point): 16 Rue des Fleurs. This was where Lewis was finally going to meet the ‘monster’ (okay, an ape in Clive’s story, an Orangutan in Poe’s) but it turned out that the sodding place didn’t exist!
I couldn’t believe it. I stumbled back to the hotel, Clive hadn’t made the place up surely? The street sounded common enough. I checked another map. No sign of it. I asked the concierge, apparently he knew Paris like the back of his hand―he remembered one in Luxembourg but not Paris. I thanked him for his unhelpfulness, checked in, went to my room and disappointed, fell asleep (or passed out depending on your point of view). Later (when slightly sober and happy at what I had achieved) I went for another walk, stopping halfway across the Pont du Carrousel.
The rain had stopped by then. I’d managed to get a warmer coat from the hotel’s lost-property (they’d had it cleaned don’t worry). I had tried to dry out Clive’s Books Of Blood but nothing doing. I didn’t throw it, don’t worry but packed it away in my bag. I was able to get my clothes washed and enjoyed the rest of my trip. Something odd though did happen to me that time on the Carrousel. It was dark, granted, and I was a bit hung-over, someone (something) bumped into me and a gruff (animal-like) voice said: “Ne m’oublie pas…”
Dean M. Drinkel, December 2021
(Dean would also like to add that a brilliant article critiquing/dissecting Clive’s story has previously appeared on Kendall Reviews by Joseph Sale: The Rue Morgue: Evolution and The Horror of Being Human and that he is available for walking tours of Paris at a reasonable rate.)
Dean M. Drinkel
Dean is a published author, editor, award-winning scriptwriter and director and was an Associate Editor of FEAR Magazine. He has contributed several articles to various publications and in 2018 he established the horror press DEMAIN PUBLISHING (over 100 books published to date!). More about him can be found at: www.deanmdrinkel.com