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Hotel Midnight (2005)


Robert Hale cover 2005

Robert Hale, UK, 2005, ISBN 9780709078197 hardback

A collection of short stories that showcase the astonishing imagination of Simon Clark. These are tales that journey into places unseen, where everyday objects can draw a cold finger of fear down the spine. Here, there are no barriers. A man might step out of his back door to find his garden had been replaced by primordial forest. Or track how the two detectives investigating a brutal murder tackle their case in a surprisingly unorthodox way. In the award winning Goblin City Lights, we follow Jack Constantine as he learns about another London hidden from everyday view: one with its own teeming population hell-bent on trapping the unwary. And visit the Electra Suite, a trio of nerve-twisting stories that have fed on the lifeblood of Simon Clark’s bestselling novel, Vampyrrhic. Welcome one and all. This is Hotel Midnight – where every room has a view to die for.

Simon writes:

When I was around eleven or twelve years’ old the first ‘grown up’ fiction I read usually came in the form of short stories. They were either collections or anthologies that I borrowed from the tiny public library in the coal mining town of South Elmsall, here in Yorkshire. I’d visit the library every Saturday morning while my mother and father shopped at the nearby supermarket. The library rationed me to three books a week. I don’t know why the limit was three. Maybe doctors had issued grave health warnings about the dangers of reading more than three books a week, or maybe the library feared that if the ration was too generous there’d be a stampede one day of book-hungry citizens who’d strip the shelves bare. Whatever the reason, that was the ration, three books – take it or leave it. So I took my precious three volumes. At least one would be a book of short stories. At first they were invariably science fiction then I found myself being drawn irresistibly by the dark gravity of horror. Soon I was returning home in a car laden with groceries, but already I’d be getting my juvenile teeth into adult horror stories. For a long time I preferred short stories to novels. There’s no messing around with short fiction – you get to the action FAST. Also, I liked the longevity of stories, such as those by Lovecraft that might first appear in Weird Tales, then in Arkham House volumes before being reprinted later in editions by different publishers.

Today, I still get a buzz when a story of mine that might have appeared in a magazine in 1992, say, finds its way into a new anthology somewhere in the world. In fact, just this week I had an e-mail out of the blue from a German publisher who wants to buy the translation rights to a fistful of stories that were published anything up to ten years ago. It’s times like this when I take stock of the stories I’ve written. I’m probably the author of a hundred such tales, which isn’t bad, yet it’s way, way short of the indefatigable D.F. Lewis’s thousand plus stories. Incidentally, for just a portion of his surreal and fascinating work take a look at his collection WEIRDMONGER (Prime Books). Every so often, I mentally gather together the pile of magazines and anthologies that contain my stories and say to myself, ‘Simon, it’s time to start thinking about another collection.’ And just to take a look back at the earlier ones: My first, Blood and Grit (BBR Books, 1990) is amazingly rare, so congratulations if you own a copy. Book collectors will be beating a path to your door if they learn you possess this slim, yellow volume. The second, Salt Snake & Other Bloody Cuts (Silver Salamander, 1998) might be easier to find. Since the publication of SALT SNAKE I’ve been steadily writing more stories in between novels. These have been appearing in various publications world-wide, and one, Goblin City Lights, won a British Fantasy Award, and even made it into the URBAN GOTHIC DVD package as a bonus item.

So, at the beginning of this year I had a stock pile of uncollected stories; they were crying out to be collected into one volume. When I mentioned that I planned to put a collection together friends lobbied me for favourite stories of theirs to be included. I put on my sternest expression and told them that I wouldn’t include any stories that had been collected before, that there maybe a ‘Best of Simon Clark’ collection in the future but it’s time isn’t here yet. It was then a case of sitting down with a pen and paper and making lists of uncollected stories, and a provisional running order. Two cups of coffee and a walk with Sam, the dog, across the fields later, I just about had it. There were enough stories for a meaty volume. But that was a problem in its own right. Most of the stories you won’t have encountered before as they appeared in fairly obscure publications, or popular publications, but only in another country (if you see what I mean?). In short, you’ll probably only be familiar with one or two stories in the collection. The rest will be new to you. Even so, I thought it would be value for money to include two new stories. I envisaged they’d be one short-ish story, plus a novella to round off the collection. Only both stories got their hooks into me and I was so carried away by the characters and their dilemmas that one, The House That Fell Backwards, is near novella length, while Jack of Bones, which forms part of the finale, entitled The Electra Suite, is a full-blooded, no-holds- barred novella. All in all, the new material accounts for more than a third of the collection. It was a satisfying book to assemble and doubly satisfying for me to be able include so much brand new work.

And so, the collection, HOTEL MIDNIGHT, is complete. In the end I did yield to pressure of friends and family to include one old favourite; although I did re-work it a little; not that there was anything wrong with the original, but I decided to re-type this one from scratch and being a writer I couldn’t resist tinkering, so HOTEL MIDNIGHT contains what could be referred to as The Burning Doorway (2004 Remix). The book will initially be published in hardback by Robert Hale Ltd next year. As soon as there’s a publication date I’ll post it here. And as for the contents I don’t want to reveal too much at the moment. I’m not being extravagantly mysterious, there’s always a chance due to technical requirements one story might have to be substituted for another; unlikely, but I’ll wait a little while longer before announcing the story line-up. However, come hell or high water, The House That Fell Backwards and The Electra Suite complete with Jack of Bones WILL be there. Of course, readers of Vampyrrhic and Vampyrrhic Rites will suspect that there is some kind of tie-in between these two novels and The Electra Suite. Yes, I can’t deny it. Electra Charnwood’s back, bringing with her two stories and a novella that have undergone the Vampyrrhic baptism of unholy fire.

That’s almost the end of the story of a book. On the whole, HOTEL MIDNIGHT’s out of my hands at the moment. Somewhere in London, in a publisher’s office, a sharp-eyed editor is preparing my manuscript for typesetting, after that I’ll check the proofs. Then in a few weeks a technician will press a button, torrents of pages will rush from the printing presses, teams of men and women will pack the HOTEL MIDNIGHT into boxes, then the trucks will roll. The thrill of the operation hits me every time. After that, the book really is out of my hands, and, with luck, it will find its way into yours.