Charles Birkin – The Kiss Of Death (Tandem, 1964)
Dennis Wheatley – Introduction
The Kiss Of Death
Les Belle Dames Sans Merci
“The New Ones”
The Mouse Hole
“Some New Pleasures Prove”
“Mon Ami, Pierrot”
Lighten Our Darkness
The Three Monkeys
Thanks to my friend Mark Samuels who provided Vault with these scans of the original, 1964 edition of of Charles Birkin’s The Kiss Of Death. Scandalously, the 1967 reissue omits one story, Lighten Our Darkness !
For Mary Etheldreda Keswick who is so deeply interested in the horrific and the macabre.
The Kiss Of Death: An obscure island in the Philippines. In her younger days, social-climber Lady Sylvia Nicholson was engaged to Colin Howard, but “jilted him at the altar when a bigger fish swam along.” Several years later she lies in bed awaiting a midnight visit from her latest lover, Philip Dewhurst. She makes love to the man who enters in the dark …. only to discover that it isn’t Dewhurst she’s sharing her bed but her old flame, Colin. Who is now a leper …
‘Some New Pleasures Prove’: Devon. Laura Campbell’s car breaks down shortly after being stopped at a police roadblock where she was warned that sadistic killer Arthur ‘The Midnight Murderer’ Smith is on the loose having escaped from the Waymore asylum. When she chances upon Jasmine Cottage, Laura thinks her troubles are over – until, watching the ten o’clock news, she realises that her genial host fits the description of the man the police are looking for.
Fine Needlework: Northern France. The ultra-wealthy Jacques is kept isolated from society because he’s a dangerous psychopath. A nanny, cook and a male nurse are his only company until Clarissa and Mary, guests of the absent Countess, arrive and, oh dear, the male nurse is drunk out of his brains …
‘Les Belle Dames Sans Merci’: “Take off your clothes my dear. It will not be too painful. While you are conscious the water will not be unduly cold … or would you sooner that Reed should strip you? He might well find it entertaining …”
Homosexual Conrad and his manservant, Reed, still have their uses for women, as his third wife is about to discover … Best described as “chilling”.
The Hitch: Another of Birkin’s unbearable stories concerning Nazi atrocities during World War II. Some years after the hostilities, the Wends innocently purchase a lampshade while on holiday in Bavaria. It has a peculiar design in black and blue, a benevolent Neptune overlooking some frolicking sea-horses. By some bizarre coincidence, Gretel, their loyal Jewish home-help, was married to a young man with such a design tattooed across his chest …
Malleus Maleficarum: London, The Savoy. Jeremy Vraders’ occult dabbling lead to his being assailed by tiny demonic figures which attach themselves to his person and accompany him everywhere. Anthea finds it all very fascinating and attractive, but unfortunately, mentions the wrong name in their company and they desert their host. Jokier than usual, and as such, not really my thing.