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Baker's Dozen

The Count Of 13: Ramsey Campbell's Weird Selection
Sean Kitching , May 6th, 2020 09:26

In a Baker's Dozen diversion, writer Ramsey Campbell guides Sean Kitching through 13 favourite pieces of weird culture, from film to opera and literature, via David Lynch, Arthur Machen and more


John Franklin Bardin - The Deadly Percheron
The Deadly Percheron is the first of three novels that Bardin wrote in the 1940s. They didn’t do terribly well and Bardin then turned to writing more conventional crime fiction under a number of pseudonyms. Eventually, a strange bunch of people including Julian Symons, Dennis Healey and Kingsley Amis, who you can’t imagine getting together in a room for anything else, managed to persuade Penguin to bring out a reissue. The omnibus had a cover that was very reminiscent of the title sequence of John Frankenheimer’s film Seconds, which is to say very nightmarish. It was rather more like a horror cover than most crime fiction of that period, which is why I bought it. The Deadly Percheron starts almost as a fantasy of the kind that John W Campbell might have published. A psychiatrist is the narrator, the sort of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe figure in the sense that he investigates. He’s approached by a chap who says he’s been told by leprechauns to do things, which sounds like a classic case of schizophrenia. Then the investigating narrator is taken to meet one of these little chaps, who indeed do exist. The narrator, having been a psychiatrist is so aware of how his experience sounds like a paranoid fantasy that he can’t convince anyone else and becomes himself convinced that is what it is. Eventually there’s a kind of noirish resolution in which his investigation does bear fruit, but even the resolution is as much like a paranoid fantasy as it is a detective resolution.