The Vampire Stories of R. Chetwynd-Hayes By R. Chetwynd-Hayes

    Mostly funny, clever, tongue-in-cheek short vampire stories told with Chetwynd's usual wit, and quite inventive. Not your usual vampires. Looking for Something to Suck was imo probably the best, just for the frightening description of the story's vampiric thing. 251 A mixed bag. Some of the light-hearted stories aren't bad at all but others just don't work.

    I may expand this review later - if I can work up the enthusiasm. 251 I especially enjoyed the Vampire & the Werewolf, a touching love story 251


    Looking for Something to Suck contains 16 of Chetwynd-Hayes vampire stories. Chetwynd-Hayes was the recipient of 3 World Fantasy Awards, 3 International Horror Guild Awards, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 21 British Fantasy Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Horror Association (from the About This Author section) - so you can assume he knows his stuff...

    I was unfamiliar with his work, aside from the fact his stories formed the basis for the movie The Monster Club (1981).

    At any rate, there are 16 of his best stories - some amusing (Great Grandad Walks Again, The Werewolf and the Vampire), some unsettling (Louis) - but all cracking good reads.

    My favorite in this volume was Werewolf and the Vampire - which answers the question of what would happen should a werewolf and vampire meet, fall in love, and have..a child.

    Certainly worth its cover price.

    Jeff Mc 251 Where were you when you first read Dracula by Bram Stoker? I was in elementary school when I first read it - there was an abridged copy in the library. That and the abridged copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Phantom of the Opera were my earliest introductions to macabre literature. One could say that it helped spawn a life-long love of the supernatural and the creepy.

    In recent years - some perhaps could say decades, now - the genre of the supernatural has become overstuffed. And this isn't the good kind of overstuffed, like a stuffed pizza crust with cheese leaking out of it, or a Twinkie with so much cream it's bursting out of the spongy cake's pores. Bookshelves and online stores have so many supernatural book titles that it's difficult wading through them all to find something that piques your interest. Don't get me wrong, there are a number of good titles there. Quite a large number, but there are many more that are more formulaic rather than creative; churned out in droves for a cash-in.

    Yet even though I have only read this collection of R. Chetwynd-Hayes' work (and there is a vast bibliography), this author is quite different than other members of the creepy, supernatural herd. He combines macabre comedy, double entendre, bad puns, and sometimes a nod and a wink knowingness in his characters’ dialogue to make up some of the most delightful reads I've ever come across. Even more than that, each story has something unique about it - which is often times the concept of vampires themselves.

    With that brief introduction, lets get into several of my favorite stories from this collection.

    ‘My Mother Married a Vampire’

    There's no beating around the bush in this one. From the first sentence, the unnamed narrator confirms the title of the story. This is going to be a common theme throughout the collection: Chetwynd-Hayes seemingly giving the game away to the reader from the onset. Once the story is read, it is very clear this isn't the case.

    This story contains, perhaps, my favorite term for a human-vampire hybrid: a humvamp. There's something so delightfully British about the sounds to the ears of this American reviewer. That, and this story as a whole, is a good introduction to the rest of Chetwynd-Hayes' work. It's full of knowing nods that the audience can pick up on while the characters are completely unaware of what kind of situation they're in.

    The narrator tells how he, as a child, discovered that his father was a vampire. To an outside observer, his father is clearly a vampire, all dinner coats and pale, aquiline features. But it speaks to the innocence of the character (and children in general), as he only knows his father as a parent. He even thinks that the red liquid his father drinks at meal times is tomato juice.

    That they eat together - tomato juice or no - is an excellent indicator that, despite his father's pedigree, the narrator and his parents manage to live as normal a family life as they can. His father leaving at night and sleeping during the day is treated as any night time job. It may at times seem unorthodox, but they all love one another. There's a wholesomeness there. When his mother explains his father's vampirism to the narrator, she is insistent upon adding that his father isn't a vicious, animalistic killer, but more like a thoughtful, secret thief, only taking from those who have an abundance. She makes a note to tell how he doesn't harm during the blood drinking, and is careful enough to prevent any sensation or memory of the event. Think The Munsters without them being so upfront about it. They can't be - for them there are dangers.

    This world knows about the world of the supernatural that exists on the fringes, and preys in the shadows. And, after an encounter with bullies that leads to the intervention of a priest, the narrator discovers what monsters actually are. And R. Chetwynd-Hayes reveals one of the most delightful interpretations of a vampire that it has been my pleasure to come across.

    ‘The Labyrinth’

    This story in particular is bursting at the seams with cleverness.

    A young man and woman find themselves wondering across the moors after leaving the safety of the beaten path in search of adventure. They don't find much adventure, but they find an abundance of being lost and tired. They also find a three-storey stone house, plopped right out there on the moors, surrounded by dead grass and seeming to reject the light of the setting sun.

    In the house's garden, beneath an umbrella, sits an old woman enjoying tea. Upon seeing them rush to her for aide and directions to the nearest road, she invites the two beleaguered travelers to join her.

    Immediately the reader can tell she's off. She seems like something from another time, but with an eerie touch of the macabre. This is where she utters my favorite line in the book, Sanity is only a form of madness, favored by the majority. As poetic and insightful as it is, the more experienced in the genre among us should be seeing red flags by this point. Every sense of self-preservation would not allow me to accept an invitation into this woman's house, but our intrepid duo have no choice if they want to be under a roof by sundown.

    Enthusiasm would drain away further after dinner, when she insists the house they are all in is alive. Not in the sense of brightly colored or eccentrically decorated, but in the sense of breathing and with a heartbeat. Sinister arrives at peak levels when one remembers that living things need to feed.

    What follows is a story that lives up to the title. The house is in fact a labyrinth, but in a way you would never be able to guess. Not in a hundred tries.

    This is story has one of the greatest and most unique interpretations of the vampire legend that I've ever read. That isn't hyperbole or reviewer speak for I'm being handsomely paid to say something nice. I have never read a vampire tale such as this before. This is an even greater achievement when one takes into account that being unique can be dangerous, unknown territory. It's frightening once you actually start thinking about its true shot in the dark nature. The worst part being that the more unique something is, the greater the risk.

    This is a uniqueness that certainly hits the mark.

    ‘The Great Indestructible’

    This story is perhaps the funniest of the whole batch. Are you a fan of bad puns? Do you like to make them yourself? Well hang up your thinking cap because it doesn't get much better than the name of the protagonist, one Mr. Hans Clutcher, a reporter for the delightfully named Ghoul Gazette. Hans Clutcher? Hands clutcher? Get it? If you're going the pun route for a frightened horror lead, this one is the gold standard.

    Mr. Clutcher comes to a castle to interview the legend himself: Count The-Children-of-the-Night-What-Music-They-Make-I-Do-Not-Drink-Dot-Dot-Dot-Vine Dracula. The Ghoul Gazette sent him off to this task in the same manner that Jonathan Harker was sent off in the original text. That is to say, without a care given to his safety, considering the host he's being sent to.

    The main question on Mr. Clutcher's mind is how Dracula - no matter how many times he's staked, burned, dismembered, buried, and etcetera ad infinitum - keeps returning to life. This has occurred so many times that he has earned a number of nicknames to that nature, one being the Great Indestructible.
    So what does the Count attribute his hardy nature to? It has nothing to do with his own cleverness or prodigious supernatural skills, but the fact that people are just plain stupid. Don't get me wrong, he's thankful for stupid people, but he has nothing but disdain for those who, for one illogical reason or another, idiotically bring him back to life.

    To read Dracula explaining this is nothing short of hilarious, but that he doesn't do this in the manner of a high-born Eastern European aristocrat whose refined storehouse of verbal intercourse is having a close-out sale on the letter V. This Dracula's speech is more like a crass, simple, and loveable London chimney sweep from a cutesy musical about a magical English babysitter, the kind that's strict but fair, and has an umbrella that defies physics but we give it a pass because it's fun.

    ‘The Great Indestructible’ has to be R. Chetwynd-Hayes' own commentary about the subject of Dracula. Even the most fervent fans of Bram Stoker's character has to see that if vampires have been done into the ground, then Dracula is selling real estate at the planet's core. There can be no other explanation for even the bloodsucker's own exasperation and bewilderment in this story of how many times he keeps coming back. Reading how Dracula acts and one conjures the image of a rodeo clown discussing how he's been at his job for too many years.

    Don't get me wrong, this isn't a diatribe against vampires; R. Chetwynd-Hayes doesn't strike me as writing from a place of bitterness. On the contrary, he seems to relish the opportunity to comment on the genre, and the people who love it, in a cheeky way. And that comment is that the Count's uncanny and inexhaustible ability for resurrection comes not from any supernatural ability, but from humanity's insatiable appetite for him.

    ‘Looking for Something to Suck’

    Here's the titular story of the collection (just in case you needed me to point that out.) Not only that, this is one of the more serious stories within this collection. It's a rather jarring change from the tone of the majority, but not unwelcome or unworthy.

    The story opens with an amazingly detailed account of a shadow creature, just barely conscious, attempting to find a host. With a host to drain it is the only way it can be truly safe from the searing light. It's easy to feel the creature's desperation from its point of view low on the ground, slinking from actual shadow to actual shadow as it searches.

    A faint touch on a leg or toe of a shoe reveals the age, gender, and vitality of the person to the shadow creature. None that it feels are ideal, until it finds one particular leg, belonging to a young woman, bursting with delicious vitality. But she quickly jerks her leg away and the shadow is nearly fully exposed to the deadly light.

    It survives, but only just. Salvation was so frustratingly close. It's alright, though; soon, night will fall, and the shadow creature settles down to wait.

    In the more mundane part of the story, two characters are arguing. One our protagonist, Jane, and the other is her husband, Jerry. It's just after dinner with his boss and Jerry just had the chance at a promotion almost certainly snatched away from him. He's accusing Jane of committing an indiscretion by acting revolted upon meeting his boss, grimacing and jerking her leg away as though she's going to run (see what's going on there?). For Jane's part she insists that that's not why she reacted that way, explaining, patiently, to the increasingly agitated and insulting Jerry, that she has some sort of psychic ability. Meeting his boss happened, coincidentally, at the same time she felt a particularly malign presence on her leg.

    Jerry, under the impression that he is living in a boring, normal world, dismisses her insistence on psychic ability and, at the same time, her continued fears of the dark. Still under the impression that there is nothing in the dark, he ignores his own animal senses, and the senses of his pet animal.

    It all ends tragically after the lights go off.

    So serious is this narrative that one would be forgiven, if not having read some of the others in the collection, that this is from an entirely different author. It takes a special level of skill for an author to be able to write in a variety of different tones with the same skill.

    The uniqueness that R. Chetwynd-Hayes brings to otherwise well-trodden storylines is still very much present. This particular vampire in the story has a hint of cosmic horror about it, its food not being anything close to the physical and its nature and composition go beyond the regular bounds of the supernatural. With the addition of the point of view of this strange creature at the opening, R. Chetwynd-Hayes does a masterful job of creating a rising tension. Jerry doesn't know what's going to happen, and Jane only suspects. But the reader can see it like an oncoming storm, one that we're powerless to stop or escape from.

    ‘The Werewolf and the Vampire’

    George Hardcastle is your rather typical young man. George has a little foible, as we all do. You see, George is a fan of dogs. I use that term in its true form - as the shorthand for fanatic - as he cannot help himself when he sees one, he has to pet it.

    This would be all tickety boo under normal circumstances. Maybe he would be nipped at a time or two as a warning, but this isn't a problem. It becomes a problem when George follows the noise of a dog into the woods in the local park. Once inside it's as though he's strayed into a primordial forest. He is bitten badly on the leg by a fast beast and loses consciousness.

    He's found and, after a few days of fever and bed rest, he returns to being otherwise, as far as he knows, normal. But all is not well. This bite, far from a simple animal attack, catapults George into the world of the supernatural. What's worse is that, at first, he has no idea that he is soaring through the air towards an inevitable crash.

    This crash comes in the form of a meeting. While in a museum, trying to regain his health with a nice walk, George meets Carola, who could not be more of an obvious vampire if she had rented a room in Count Dracula's castle. George could not be more oblivious, as all the best comedic heroes are. He is woefully unaware of who she is, but she picks up what he is right away. This leads to the hilarious situation of two people having two different conversations, while the other thinks that they are having the same one.

    George has his doubts about the extent of her sanity, but she's quite beautiful. Before you form any opinion of him based upon that, we must remember not to judge too harshly. I would wager that not a single person reading this has not, at one point or another, forgiven a person's extensive oddities because they were attractive.

    Carola insists on taking him home to meet her parents, who will be delighted to not have to keep up the charade of normality around him. George is still not quite sure what she means but, again, she's as pretty as a pearl on black velvet. He goes along. This is the point where George's sense of the world, and himself, is shaken to its core. Not the best meet the folks situation, but I've heard of worse.

    If someone added an even bigger spl 251 Combining horror and humour with pathos— now that's a very difficult job! Yet there are some authors who excel in preparing such exquisite cocktails with judicious mixture of three rather disparate feelings. R. Chetwynd-Hayes was one of them. This book contains an enjoyable selection of his 'Vampire' stories. As evident from the title, puns and dry humour punctuate the collection with a level of neatness which is rare.
    The book begins with Stephen Jones' 'Foreward: Never Beastly to Vampires'. Subsequently we get to read the following stories:
    1. My Mother Married a Vampire
    2. A Family Welcome
    3. Rudolph
    4. The Labyrinth
    5. The Sad Vampire
    6. Amelia
    7. Acquiring a Family
    8. The Buck
    9. Keep the Gaslight Burning
    10. Birth
    11. The Great Indestructible
    12. Louis
    13. Looking for Something to Suck
    14. Great-Grandad Walks Again
    15. The Fundamental Elemental
    16. The Werewolf and the Vampire
    Jim Pitts's fascinating illustrations enrich the book. It has also received editorial intervention in the form of documentation regarding the first publication of the stories and a brief note concerning the author.
    If you are an admirer of this 'mix' of horror and humour, then this book is definitely your cup of tea... or whatever you prefer. 251 Prior to picking up this book, I had never heard of Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes. I think most people probably haven't, given that he's been dead for 11 years and was British (apparently one of his publishers referred to him as Britain's Prince of Chill). He wrote more than 200 short stories and a dozen novels, some of which were adapted into films (many thanks to his obituary in The Telegraph for that info!) Thanks to a New Orleans used bookstore, I found this collection of tales, and I'm very glad I did. He was writing his stories in the days before vampires sparkled and were really just big ol' teddy bears with fangs and immortality. This makes them much more fun to read (that and the distinctly British tone and slang.) The stories run the gamut from creepy to funny, although sometimes I got to the end of one and said, Hm. That seems a bit more zombie-ish than vampire-ish. This is not a collection that most of today's younger readers would enjoy, they having been raised on sparkly, defanged vampires like Edward. I, however, having grown up with Dracula and Barnabas Collins, thought these were really enjoyable reads that, in many cases, added yet more to my ever-growing storehouse of knowledge about what people can do with vampire mythology. 251 I like how varied Chetwynd-Hayes's vampires are. Some of them are skittish, sweet, worn-out dears that have been repeatedly traumatized by cross-wielding, garlic-toting zealots; while others are evil, moldering revenants with a keen taste for criminal blood. They can also be deliciously outré, embodied by an essence-stealing maze of a mansion, for example; or famished ghosts that need blood and darkness to assume corporeal frames; or even an immortal reverse vampire. While most of the stories here are kid-friendly affairs that feature your average staid/ravening monsters, quite a few fairly drip with a lush, sinister sensuality that would make Anne Rice proud. I do relish how, in almost all cases, they're still burdened by their traditional nemeses - holy articles, running water, the sun, etc.

    While these tales will never be mistaken for literary fare, the refreshing, cozy prose makes the whole book very much delectable. It's an ideal read for chilly, rainy nights when the uncomplicated, strangely comforting horror stories you enjoyed in your childhood are simply in order. Two of them sadly did nothing for me, but compared to most horror collections it boasts a more decent batting average.

    7/10; 3 stars. 251

    Editor Stephen Jones collects fifteen blood-sucking tales written by Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes, Britain's reigning prince of chill -- including a brand-new story featuring his psychic detective Frances St. Clare (who can also be found in the upcoming F&B Mystery anthology Dark Detectives.) With an original introduction by Brian Lumley, and an exclusive interview with the author. The Vampire Stories of R. Chetwynd-Hayes

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