House Of The Hatchet

Tandem Horror & Witchcraft paperbacks 1964-1975

Charles Birkin – The Smell Of Evil

Posted by demonik on August 18, 2007

Charles Birkin – The Smell Of Evil (Tandem, 1965)
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Introduction – Dennis Wheatley

The Smell Of Evil, Green Fingers, Is There Anybody There?, The Serum Of Dr. White, The Cornered Beast, Text For Today, Ballet Negre, Little Boy Blue, “Dance, Little Lady”, The Godmothers, The Lesson, The Interloper, The Cross.

To Dennis Wheatley for all his kindly encouragement, and for my daughter, Mandy, who was made to read them all

Zombies, killer crabs (just the two: we’re not talking Guy N. Smith here), concentration camps, walled up young women, circus freaks, a one-man murder spree versus homosexuals, infanticide, castration … in other words, business as usual.

Wheatley’s introduction is priceless:

“In my introduction to Charles Birkin’s first collection of horror stories The Kiss Of Death I maintained that …”

… and then he repeats the first foreword verbatim without adding a single word by way of introducing The Smell Of Evil!

The Smell Of Evil: Trezarth, Cornwall. Baron Lebruns and his family keep themselves aloof from the villagers. The regulars at The Golden Ball decide that their boarder, Mr. Ives, a novelist is the best man to break the ice as Lebrun is a noted authority on Atlantis – surely Ive’s could mention that he was researching the legend for the follow up to his first book Nuns On The Doorstep? The Baron receives his guest cordially enough, but his beautiful niece, Sari, a mute invalid, slips him a crumpled piece of paper imploring his help.

It transpires that she is an heiress whose stubborn refusal to sign over her money has ensured her a lingering and painful death …

Green Fingers: Major Schultz conducts an affair with the widow Hilde in the shadow of Belsen. Hilde is locally famous for walking away with all the prizes at the local horticultural festival. After the war she learns how Schultz (and several ‘pretty maids all in a row”) had a hand in shaping her success when the liberated inmate, Zelini, informs the Allies why the major always had him digging away in her garden …

The Serum Of Dr. White: Nobody knows much about Dr. White’s life before his methods achieved celebrity when they were instrumental in saving the life of an American boy, although it is rumoured that he was once a concentration camp inmate. The Deckers decide that he is the only hope for their daughter, Rachel, but the serum he has used on her tumor, although initially successful, has reduced her to a deformed, imbecilic wreck. When no other Doctors can be imposed upon to treat her, the Deckers reason that only White can reverse his own treatment. After completing a world lecture tour, he turns up at their home with his dog, a lurcher, in tow. Events collude to bring about a terrible and bloody end.

The Cornered Beast: London. Leonard, the Dog-faced Boy escapes from the freak show at the decrepit Funland. Vera, a prostitute, bids her client for the evening good-night. Fate sees to it that their paths entwine, with disastrous consequences for both.

Is There Anybody There?: East Anglia. Rose Cottage has a bad name amongst the locals due to a murder that was committed there in the twenties for which a young ploughman, Adam Croft, was hung. Two retired school-mistresses, Millie Ackland and Ida Rankin have just moved in when Millie, a psychic, watches the ghosts of the main protaganists – Croft, his wife and his mistress – re-enact the drama. Millie is then confronted by Croft’s ghost who warns of reprisals if she tells anybody what she’s seen …

The Godmothers: Midhampton. Little orphan Elsie is staying with her aunt’s family while Grandad Albert Piers is in hospital. Back home, she tells the grown-ups, she has three godmothers – Madge, Dorothy and Selina – who “live on the other side of the walls of our sitting room. Grandfather has even promised to introduce her to them one day!
What a marvellous imagination the child has! And, of course, we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that old man Piers was a plasterer by trade, or that three local prostitutes mysteriously vanished in the mid-1890’s …

Ballet Negre: “We are hungry. Oh, so hungry.” Notting Hill, West London. Simon Cust, a tenacious journalist with the Daily Echo, is intent on an interview with the male and female leads in the touring ‘Ballet Negre du Port-au-Prince’. Their manager, Emanuel Louis regretfully informs him that his request is impossible to comply with, so Simon tracks them back to their hotel. Too late, he wishes he hadn’t.

The Interloper: Saint Dominique, a small island on the Carribean, is owned outright by Lavinia ‘Larry’ Mason. Larry lives there with a small coloney of women. A lesbian, she is also a man hater, having been brutally gang-raped by the SS in her youth. Her closest companion is Hermoine Woodstock, a widow whose teenage daughter Gillian has lived on the island since she was 18 months old and hasn’t seen a man in all these years – until a half-drowned, badly injured sailor is washed up on the shore …

‘Dance Little Lady’: Juvenile delinquents Buzz, Lofty and Rosie are trying to evade the police after a run-in with west Indian youths in The Golden Plover. They break into a building and contrive to get themselves locked in for the night. Turns out it’s a mortuary. Still, they’ve plenty of booze, a transistor radio, a good-looking stiff to dance with, and Rosie’s apparently a soft touch …

Text For Today: Rev. Herbert Wessel and wife May are on missionary work in Namavava. The living is idyllic until a rapist is murdered by members of his victim’s outraged family. The killers are caged awaiting trial when one of the Reverend’s boys has a Bible-inspired bright idea and resolves to help the Holy pair overcome their language difficulties …

Little Boy Blue: Cleeness, Lincolnshire. Moira Lattern takes son Oliver to a holiday home to recuperate after an illness. Oliver is soon playmates with Sammy, another youngster who Moira at first takes to be her little boy’s imaginary friend. A photograph in an old album of a lad in a sailor suit soon disillusions her of this and, after a leisurely build-up, the story picks up a gear as it moves toward its inevitable horrifying climax on the quicksands.

The Lesson: Oscar Landmore gets drunk at Rupert and Gina’s party. Their son, little Milo, is fond of his uncle Oscar because he always plays games with him, and tonight is no exception. Milo ties ‘the Martian leader’ to a chair and goes off to bed. Rupert finds him but decides to leave him there as a lesson while he and his wife go out to pick up a takeaway. It’s only on the way back that Rupert remembers that Oscar has a plastic bag tied over his head. Frantic, he puts his foot down, and …

The Cross: The mercy killing of La-Li, a puny little creature and one of few who survived the conquest of their revolting little planet. One of Birkin’s relatively rare excursions into Science Fiction. cheerfully misanthropic.

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