Wished for Roles 4: Victorian Horror Story Narrations!

As we wait for any updates on possible upcoming projects, such as – oh perhaps – further news and/or confirmation on something that sounds exciting and grandiose like  New Worlds, it is fun to come up with ideas on projects we would love to hear about someday.  That’s right, Wished For Roles.

As Halloween is but a few days away, it is only natural to give it a spooky feel.  What I would love to see (or, in this case, hear) come to fruition is another batch of short audio stories….horror ones to be precise.  Mr. Malahide has already narrated several audio books, including horror(with the brilliant Martin’s Close), crime, and (rather specifically) railway murders.  They have all been absolutely wonderful.  His vocal gymnastics are perfectly suited for intricate stories with macabre themes and multiple characters.

The Phantom of the Library

The Phantom of the Library

Following is a list of stories that I would just die (hey, it’s Halloween) to listen to Mr. Malahide narrate, links to the stories are below. And, since Casaubon is the Phantom of the Library, I think he’d make the perfect cypher for this post.

Thrawn Janet by Robert Louis Stevenson

Thrawn Janet

She don’t look right!

Thrawn Janet (1887) is easily the strangest story I have ever read. Many years ago, the Rev. Murdoch Soulis witnessed the incredible and ghastly demonic possession of his housekeeper Janet M’Clour. Just take a look at the William Strang etching which shows how Janet looked as she was walking around after having her neck broken from a preternatural hanging. I think that etching pretty much illustrates the sheer horror of the story.

It is not just because it is a terrifying story that makes it special; it is the style in which it is written. The narrator is an unknown rural ancient who speaks with a (now archaic) Scottish dialect. While this makes the story extremely difficult to read (but it is still well worth reading with patience and perseverance), I think Mr. Malahide would be more than capable of mastering the voice and would bring it to life. It is possible it might require a little bit of editing to make the language more manageable, but even as it stands, I know he’d ace it.

Here is an example of the dialect:

Onyway it behoved him to get an auld, decent wife to keep the manse for him an’ see to his bit denners; an’ he was recommended to an auld limmer—Janet M’Clour, they ca’d her—an’ sae far left to himsel’ as to be ower persuaded. There was mony advised him to the contrar, for Janet was mair than suspeckit by the best folk in Ba’weary. Lang or that, she had had a wean to a dragoon; she hadna come forrit for maybe thretty year; an’ bairns had seen her mumblin’ to hersel’ up on Key’s Loan in the gloamin’, whilk was an unco time an’ place for a God-fearin’ woman. Howsoever, it was the laird himsel’ that had first tauld the minister o’ Janet; an’ in thae days he wad hae gane a far gate to pleesure the laird. When folk  tauld him that Janet was sib to the de’il, it was a’ superstition by his way o’ it; an’ when they cast up the Bible to him an’ the witch o’ Endor, he wad threep it doun their thrapples that thir days were a’ gane by, an’ the de’il was mercifully restrained.

Just imagine Mr. Malahide reading that with maybe a slightly modernized (but still old-timey) variation; it would be perfection.

Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad by M. R. James

Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad (1904) isn’t nearly as scary as Thrawn Janet, but it is still heck of a read. It is about a university professor who is doing a bit of poking around an old Templar burial ground in (ostensibly) Felixstowe. He happens upon an ancient whistle and, like a dummy, gives it a toot. Yeah, that was a bad move.

Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad

Don’t you hate it when your bedsheets get all rumpled?

The story is brilliantly entertaining, but it isn’t terribly frightening. What makes it special is a specific character: Colonel Wilson.  He is a  curmudgeonly but nice sort who helps the prof out of his jam. Col. Wilson is an absolutely cracking great character. He completely won me over by immediately calling the professor out on blowing the whistle in the first place. Mistrustful of those Templars, he tells the prof that he’d have hurled it into the sea as soon as he saw it. Clever Colonel!

Then there is a wonderful scene where a little Suffolk boy runs straight into the Colonel’s legs. They soon realize the boy is terrified and running away from something because he clings to those legs for dear life. It turns out the poor little lad had seen something horrible at what would turn out to be the professor’s window. What follows is the dearest exchange from the Colonel:

‘Very well, my boy,’ said the Colonel, after a few more questions. ‘You run away home now. I expect it was some person trying to give you a start. Another time, like a brave English boy, you just throw a stone—well, no, not that exactly, but you go and speak to the waiter, or to Mr Simpson, the landlord, and—yes—and say that I advised you to do so.’

The boy’s face expressed some of the doubt he felt as to the likelihood of Mr Simpson’s lending a favourable ear to his complaint, but the Colonel did not appear to perceive this, and went on:

‘And here’s a sixpence—no, I see it’s a shilling—and you be off home, and don’t think any more about it.’

See? He’s a nice colonel. And he comes in terribly useful towards the end, as he is very brave and heroic. It also turns out that he knows about these strange spirit thingies because of his time in India. Of course he does!  You know he served during Victoria’s reign, and there is no way on Earth a man like him would get out of Victorian India without having seen something weird. If horror fiction has taught me anything, it has taught me that! 😉

I think not only would Mr. Malahide excel and narrating that lovable colonel, I think he’d be wonderful portraying him in a filmed adaptation!

It is interesting that the story was by M.R. James, because he wrote Martin’s Close which Patrick Malahide performed a perfect narration of. M. R. James had a gift for creating eccentric and entertaining characters.

Killcrop the Changeling by Richard Thomson

Source: http://users.skynet.be/fa023784/trollmoon/

Photographic evidence of a Changeling switch

Killcrop the Changeling (1828) is the least well known of these stories.  It doesn’t even have it’s own unique illustration so I’m using a Theodore Kittlesen as a stand in. It is a pity, because it is really very good and I’ve found Richard Thomson’s other stories in his Tales of an Antiquary volumes to be most enjoyable.

The story employs the Victorian trope of naming characters (most of whom are very funny) according to their situation in life. An old house that was once owned by an undertaker, and is now believed to be infested with fairies, is being contested by Clutch vs. Readyclaw in the Court of Chancery. An old sailor, who constantly reminds us that he is a sailor by making sailing related comments in almost every line of dialogue he has, is named Noah Fluke!

Noah is caring for the orphaned son of his superior officer, but he is having financial difficulty.  As he and the boy have truly bonded, he can’t find it in his heart to put the lad in an orphanage. So, he agrees to spend time in the house to prove that it is fit for purpose. That way, when the court finally makes a decision, either Clutch or Readyclaw (don’t you just love those names?) will be able to sell.

But, the fairies make away with the boy leaving in his place a creepy, freaky, weird, little changeling.  Noah takes his changeling to the very over-the-top German Dr. Friedrich von Drenschendrugger von Finischmann (I know, right?):

“Herrn den himmel!” ejaculated the doctor, “you shall take him out of mine house; it is eine Killcrop, like what I have seen in de castle of Baron von Bloosterbugle, at Karkhentooth, in mine old land. I will not let you stay; I shall be frightened out of my wits. Engel den meine! as I am an honest man and goot doctor, it is ein Wechselbald: dat is what you call ein Teufel kind, ein Kleinergest—I cannot tell you what it is. You shametrell, why does you not take way that klein fend? I tell you it is Killcrop der changeling, der Teufel of Pickaxe Street!”

He doesn’t seem to like changelings much.  Ultimately old Noah goes to an astrologer named Tolomy Horoscope who has all the answers on reversing fae switcheroos. Thank goodness for that!

I can imagine Mr. Malahide doing wonders with the Fluke, von Drenschendrugger von Finischmann, and Horoscope characters. They are an odd assortment, and it would be so lovely to hear them brought to life.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain by Charles Dickens

Finally, there is The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848), one of Charles Dickens’ Christmas novellas.  Wikipedia has a really nice summary of the story, so I won’t relate it here.  Rather, I’ll just explain what I liked about it.

Balon Greyjoy? No, it's Prof. Redlaw.

Balon Greyjoy? No, it’s Prof. Redlaw.

First of all, the description of Prof. Redlaw, the protagonist, reminds me of dear Balon Greyjoy.  OK, Redlaw is a *lot* nicer than Balon, but he is just as broody with his fondness for sulking over past grievances in his fireside chair.  Plus, he kind of looks like him.

Then we have the wonderful Swidger family who are employed as Redlaw’s servants. Philip Swidger, the patriarch, constantly reminds anyone who will listen that he is eighty-seven years old.  Philip’s son, William, is a cheery, kind sort who is chatty and amiable towards Redlaw (and Redlaw appreciates that, which is nice).  Then there is Mary, William’s wife, the insufferable goody-two-shoes, or, as Wikipedia puts it, “is another of the absolutely and completely good females that frequent many of Dickens’ stories.”  Each one of these fine folks would be done justice by Mr. Malahide.

Actually, there are lot more characters in the story than what I have mentioned.  It isn’t a long story, just a novella really, but Dickens certainly managed to cram a lot into it.  But, that overflowing quality gives it plenty for a narrator to work with.  I think it would also come out like Martin’s Close, seeming more like a radio play than a typical audio book.

Wrap-Up

All four of these stories are, in my opinion, deserving of Patrick Malahide’s talents.  They each have fantastic dialogue, characters, and situations that might make them extremely fun to narrate.    I know that I would certainly enjoy listening to them.

Free Links to the Stories:

Thrawn Janet from The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson – Swanston Ed., Vol. 5

Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad. from Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Killcrop the Changeling from Tales of Antiquary Vol 3

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain

Note:  Killcrop is also available in Macabre Megapack available on Amazon for the Kindle.  I have purchased it and am very pleased with it.  It is an excellent deal at a super reasonable price.

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One Response to Wished for Roles 4: Victorian Horror Story Narrations!

  1. Pingback: Wished for Roles 9: Carnacki the Ghost Finder Narrations!Patrick Malahide, An Appreciation

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