Monday, May 7, 2012
THE CENTURY'S BEST HORROR FICTION #18: A review of "The Middle Bedroom" by H. de Vere Stacpoole
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first stinker. Of all the stories that have rated with a lot of cons, they’ve at least had a few pros. This is the first with ZERO PROS.
The story itself isn’t even worth going over. Imagine a ghost story, and you’ve got it in your head. The main problem is the way the story is told: WHY GO TO SUCH GREAT LENGTHS TO TELL A TALE USING AWFUL DIALECT?! No fooling, this story is told in a terrible dialect that does nothing but make the tale a joke. That’s right, A JOKE. Stacpoole, who is best known for THE BLUE LAGOON, has no respect for the genre. There aren’t a lot of horror stories attributed to him, which is a bad sign already. But he has no control over the kind of story this should have been.
Here’s the finest example. On the second page, Stacpoole introduces a very intriguing character by the name of Doubleday. Check out this description he gives of the fellow: “Doubleday didn’t believe in ghosts nor care about them. Snipe was his game—and cock. He was a two-bottle man—it was in 1863—and if he had met with a ghost any time after ten o’clock he would scarcely have seen it, or seeing it, would not have cared.”
WHY IS HE NOT OUR PROTAGONIST?! That guy sounds like a splendid character, yet the story glosses him over and talks about someone else entirely. Without a doubt, “The Middle Bedroom” would have been a thousand times better if Stacpoole had used him instead of completely ignoring him.
All right, there is one teeny, tiny part that is kind of cool: the guy who built the haunted house in question was nicknamed the Spider. That sounds very cool, but he doesn’t earn his sobriquet. And he has nothing to do with the pulp hero, the Spider. Nope. There’s nothing but awful here. Skip it.
[There is a surprising lack of information on Stacpoole, despite the fact that he wrote something big like THE BLUE LAGOON. As a result, I couldn't, for the life of me, find where this story was first published. Also, there is no place online where you can read it.]