You are invited to look after the Kendall Reviews Cemetary, and to choose eight books, preferably horror/dark genre, to take with you to cover your shift; here you can discuss why you chose the books.
As well as the books, wardens are allowed one song/album to listen to. Again, an explanation for this choice is required.
You must also discuss one luxury item you can bring, which must be inanimate and not allow communication.
If you’d like to take part in The Graveyard Shift then please submit an application to firstname.lastname@example.org
A new shift is about to begin. The warden for the week’s #GraveyardShift is…
Harry Undine is psychic, and it’s tearing him apart.
When his so-called gift kicks in, the pain can be deep and soul-wrenching – a pain nobody would understand, even if Undine revealed the truth. Which he won’t. That sort of sensitivity might be considered ‘cool’ by hippies and New Age freaks, but it’s a million miles from the tough Rat Pack image Undine aspired to when he was growing up.
So Undine keeps his mouth shut as he hunts for a cure – a personal quest more important than the research he is supposed to be carrying out as a paranormal investigator for the Corsi Institute.
Out in the suburbs, WPC Jo Cross is determined to do right by the terrified old lady she promised to help.
Jo approaches the Institute for assistance, and soon Undine’s sixth sense is screaming a premonition of danger. But the location Jo describes is notorious, and the Institute team leaps at the opportunity to investigate Mitcham’s most infamous haunted house. Undine cannot back out of the investigation, not without admitting his shameful secret.
Meanwhile, on the edge of south London, something more ancient and more horrifying than any of them could imagine has already begun to stir….
Thanks, Gavin, for accepting my application as a warden on tonight’s Graveyard Shift. Quite a creepy-looking place you’ve found here.
You know, I’ve often imagined myself doing something like this. Remember all those horror films, especially from the 80s, where they’d have some character working the night-shift, looking after a hospital morgue or a creepy deserted building? I used to think I would probably take that gig if the opportunity came my way. It always seemed an easy way to earn some cash, while simultaneously offering some quality reading time.
The dangers? Well, yes, of course I remember how such characters often ended up. But those films were just fiction. And quite honestly, the potential for encountering ghouls and spectres and whatnot doesn’t put me off in the slightest. In real life, I’ve spent many a night in supposedly haunted locations, both during the years I was fascinated by ghost sightings and later as a collector of supernatural folklore, so I know I will simply enjoy the peace and quiet here. On the other hand, the prospect of dealing with living, flesh-and-blood intruders – well, that spooks the hell out of me! Hence my choice of luxury item – but all in good time. Here are my books.
Given the context, my first choice had to be something by M. R. James. Just look around you. What more perfect surroundings could you find for slipping back into the comfortable terror of such wonderful tales as ‘The Mezzotint’, ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book’, and ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’? I’m quite pleased with this choice because I put back the James volume I’d initially chosen (‘Ghost Stories of an Antiquary’) and instead packed this later edition – ‘The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James’, which includes stories from both ‘Ghost Stories…’ and its follow-up, ‘More Ghost Stories…’.
This means I’ll also be able to re-read ‘Casting the Runes’, the short story which inspired the 1957 film, ‘Night of the Demon’ (or ‘Curse of the Demon’ in the US). That was the very first film I ever owned, albeit as a highly condensed cut on a reel of Super-8 film that the young me would frequently pester my dad into projecting onto a screen he soon grew sick of having to set up.
The reason behind my second reading choice is that I am currently working my way through F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary Cycle of stories. I have to say I’m enjoying the ride immensely. I first read Wilson’s 1981 horror novel ‘The Keep’ way back in my early teens and have returned to it several times since. Its Second World War setting, with both regular German army soldiers and SS Einsatzkommandos trapped together in a mysterious castle high in the remote Carpathian Mountains is enticing enough, but once the evil of Nazism finds itself confronted with an even darker evil of great antiquity, the story becomes unputdownable.
Despite being a massive fan of ‘The Keep’, it was only a few months ago that I stumbled across the fact that it was merely the first book in the afore-mentioned 6-book cycle, so there was nothing else for it. I had to buy all 6 titles and start afresh from the very beginning. I’ve just finished Book 3 – ‘The Touch’ – so I’m taking with me the fourth book – ‘The Tomb’. (Actually, ‘The Tomb’ is Book 2 of the Cycle as written, but the author recommends reading them in an alternative order so it will be the fourth for me.)
Choice number 3 is ‘The Lord of the Rings’. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not simply because I love the scope and detail of Tolkien’s vision, or that I am unashamedly one of those nerdy types who grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, Middle Earth Role-Playing, and countless other role-playing games. It’s that – okay, this is embarrassing – I have never yet read LOTR all the way through from start to finish. I’ve tried more than once, but every attempt has foundered at that bloody interminable Tom Bombadil chapter. All that singing, and all that ‘Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo’ rhyming nonsense has been like walking into literary quicksand. Excuses aside, it’s a matter of deep personal shame that I’ve never read the trilogy in its entirety in one go, and I’ve been meaning for years to give it another run-up.
When I say ‘rhyming nonsense’, please don’t get me wrong. Although the mood doesn’t take me all that often, when it does I take enormous pleasure in reading great poetry. Reading it aloud, that is, and enjoying the play and feel of the words. I need to be on my own though, and – as I’ve said – I trust this graveyard will be empty of other living souls tonight. I thought about bringing with me Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ‘Morte D’Arthur’ because that was the text that first truly opened poetry to me. I studied it at school for my O-Level in English Literature, and discovering how and why each word worked so beautifully was a revelation. In the end, however, I packed ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. There is such glorious fear and dread in this work, and the opening hook – where the ancient mariner holds his captivated audience with his glittering eye, and says (I always imagine it as a hoarse whisper) ‘It was a ship’ – always sends a chill through me. There is genuine horror flowing through the Rime.
Which illustrates how strange horror is as a genre. Personally, I’m not sure it’s even that helpful to think of it as a genre in the usual way. Perhaps it’s more like a darkly delicious flavour that can be added to, say, science-fiction or crime thriller stories to transform them into something richer and spicier. My personal tastes run mostly towards the supernatural variety of horror, or a mix of horror and science-fiction, but I am very fond of the darker end of crime fiction too. So for my fifth book choice, I’ve gone for a fast-paced action thriller. I mean, if I’m going to be sitting here reading for hours on end, I’ll probably fancy a change of pace at some point. A few choices sprang immediately to mind but – perhaps because I’d just been thinking about poetry – at the forefront was Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series. Rhyme is a quadriplegic and a brilliant forensic ‘criminalist’, who lives in New York and solves cases with the help of NYPD Detective Amelia Sachs. My first introduction to this series was by way of the 1999 film ‘The Bone Collector’ starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, and based on the Deaver novel of the same name. I remember liking the film, but I’d had a few beers so it’s perhaps best to take that recommendation with a pinch of salt. When reading the novels, I sometimes still picture Rhyme as Washington, but I can never reconcile my mental image of the willowy, red-headed Sachs with Jolie! There will always be people who sneer at books like this, but to me they are perfect reads when you want to escape into a different world for a bit, and I’ve read and enjoyed a fair few of this series so today I’ve packed the latest: ‘The Cutting Edge’.
And if there’s one author guaranteed to let me fall through the pages and become utterly engrossed in a different world, it’s the master himself: Stephen King. Planning this excursion over the past few days, I kept changing my mind as to which heavyweight King favourite to pack. It should be a novel in which I knew I could lose myself, but that didn’t exactly narrow the field. Eventually, I whittled the many options down to either ‘The Stand’ or ‘It’. Then I changed my mind again. I have brought a King book with me, but not a novel. I’ve chosen his ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’. Part memoir, and part a source of advice and insights for writers, it never fails to inspire me. By the time I leave this graveyard, assuming nothing bad happens to me, I’d like to be raring to get writing again.
I’ve also packed ‘The Dancers at the End of Time ‘by Michael Moorcock. Moorcock was a major part of my reading life for many years, and it’s been too long since I last travelled through his fantastic multiverse. For my money, his Eternal Champion – in his various incarnations as Elric of Melniboné, Corum Jhaelen Irsei, Duke Dorian Hawkmoon von Köln, and so on – is one of the greatest fictional creations ever: essentially Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ made manifest – with a delicious twist of doom-laden cosmic metaphysics. Refreshing my memory on Wikipedia just now reminded me that Elric himself features in at least one story in ‘Dancers’, but this collection is far stranger than the relatively straightforward fantasies of the core Eternal Champion books. The setting is the End of Time, when the universe has started to collapse in upon itself and entropy is everywhere. Again, I have to rely on Wikipedia here to tell you that the ‘inhabitants of this era are immortal decadents, who create flights of fancy via the use of power rings that draw on energy devised and stored by their ancestors millions of years prior. Time travel is possible, and throughout the series various points in time are visited and revisited.’ That sounds about right. I read ‘The Dancers at the End of Time’ in my late teens/early twenties but that was long ago now, and all I really remember is how much I loved it. This will be the perfect opportunity to revisit all that wonderful, psychedelic time-travel trippiness.
That’s 7 books. I’ll come to number 8 in a moment. First, let me show you which album I’ve packed, and the luxury item I’ve chosen.
My usual musical taste is pretty gloomy, so I started by thinking of old favourites by artists such as The Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave, and Radiohead. Then I thought I might prefer something a touch cheerier, so had a rummage through my old Britpop albums. Next, I briefly considered the soundtrack to ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, thinking that might raise the spirits. (Figuratively speaking, of course.) Then I remembered ‘Dark Adventure Radio Theatre’.
They’re not music but I’m sure they qualify as albums. For readers yet to be introduced to these fantastic productions, they are the work of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and they are mostly dramatizations of Lovecraft’s stories. But – and here’s the ingredient that makes them so special – they are presented as if they are radio shows being aired during Lovecraft’s lifetime. So the style, the sound effects – even the product advertisements – all combine powerfully to evoke the atmosphere of the 1920s/30s.
I’ve listened to several of their adaptations already, including ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, ‘The Dunwich Horror’ and ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’. For my graveyard shift, however, I’m choosing one of their recent productions, which is something a little different. ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep’ is adapted from Chaosium’s famous supplement for their ‘Call of Cthulhu’ role-playing game. As I’ve previously mentioned, I used to play a lot of RPGs, and CoC was my favourite. Unfortunately, I never got to experience ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep’ because my mate Pete had already (and traitorously) played that adventure during sessions with another circle of friends. In choosing this, therefore, I’ll finally be healing an old wound.
As for my luxury item, you’ll know by now that my only genuine worry about being left here alone tonight in this deserted graveyard is the possibility of living intruders. That’s why I’ve decided to pack my trusty old 4-cell Maglite torch, over 20 years old now but still going strong and a souvenir from my ghost-hunting days. I’m taking it not so much for its powerful light as for the comforting heft of its long metal body, and the assurance that a swing to the temple would knock any assailant out cold. I can imagine the scene now, after the survivors – no doubt a group of teenagers who broke into the graveyard to smoke, drink, and indulge their sinful desires of the flesh – rush towards the strobing lights of the police they called for help, and I am led away in handcuffs, screaming about how ‘I would have got away with a relaxing night, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!’ Well, damn them. They had it coming!
Where was I?
Oh yes. One book left to choose. Well, since this is a wish list and all just a bit of fun (obviously, you don’t truly intend to leave me alone here), I would like to request ‘The Necronomicon’. Not one of those modern pretend Necronomicons; I’m talking about the real thing, the forbidden eldritch tome.
Hm? Yes, I do realize the likely fate of anyone who reads that accursed text. There’s no need to look so serious. It’s just that when I first started reading Lovecraft, I was young and naïve enough to believe that the books he wrote about might truly exist somewhere, locked away out of reach in a handful of libraries. Because I live in London and it’s free to visit, I would often pop into the British Museum and wander around, and this was in the days when the central court was home to the reading rooms of the British Library. I yearned to be old enough to apply for a reader’s pass, and finally enter that hallowed ground. Somewhere in there, I was sure, lay a carefully guarded copy of the Necronomicon! I never got my hands on it back then, so that’s what I’d like now, please, so that I might finally indulge my curiosity. Plus, if by some unlikely chance I do find myself desperate for company in a few hours, I’m sure I could find something in those pages that would enable me to chat to the graveyard’s other, more long-term residents!
Okay, so those are my choices. I’ll be getting off home now. What was that, Gavin?
Ah. Apparently, I was wrong. It seems this graveyard business isn’t merely a conceit, after all – Gavin really does intend for me to spend the night here. And he’s just told me that he does also possess a genuine, worm-infested copy of the Necronomicon. He’s digging it out for me right now.
Literally digging it out. Why does he keep it buried in that coffin?
Wish me luck, folks. I fear this will be a longer night than I’d planned for.
Christopher Henderson was born in Streatham (UK) at the dawn of the 1970s, probably the weirdest decade there has ever been. He has haunted south London ever since.
He has been writing for around a quarter of a century, but until just a few years ago he worked under his real name, almost exclusively on non-fiction and largely specializing in folklore and real-life ghost stories.
In this new incarnation, he writes horror fiction, and especially supernatural horror fiction, in the hope of escaping a world that’s fast becoming somewhere he’d rather not be.
His latest book, ‘The Horror at Lavender Edge’ is an old-school supernatural horror novel set in 1970s London. It can be found on Amazon at Horror At Lavender Edge. He is currently working on a new novel, picking up events a few months after the events at Lavender Edge.
Amazon Author Page: Christopher Henderson
Goodreads: Christopher Henderson