Who got the beers in? Erik Hofstatter, that's who. Time well spent.
Now, the last time I hung with Erik Hofstatter - or Mr. Macabre, as I call him - was about 3 or so years ago. What had happened was that there was a 30-year anniversary screening of Hellraiser at the Prince Charles Cinema here in Central London; yards away from where you get the red-carpet film premieres. For those who don't know, the Prince Charles Cinema had a thing years back - and I'm not sure if this is still a thing - where they had ninja ushers working the theatre. Black silhouettes whose purpose was to creep up on you and shush you if you were too noisy or talking too much/loud during the film. Don't believe me? See for yourself.
You're welcome. But back to the matter.
Erik Hofstatter, in case you're unaware, is a fellow horror author. Who, as his Amazon bio will attest, dwells in Kent 'consuming copious amounts of mead'. The first time I met Erik was back at the first meeting of the HWA's UK chapter; April 2016. Of course, Erik being elusive and reclusive, he only announced his presence after the gathering and so we linked on social media - par for the course. Be it known that for the indie convention circuit; the likes of FantasyCon, Edge-Lit, the UK Ghost Story Festival, et al, you're unlikely to see Erik at any of those.
I'm not a voracious reader; the craft of writing keeps me busy as is. Regardless, I figured I'd read some of Hofstatter's work, starting with a novelette called Katerina. Not what I was expecting but dark and distinctive. A tale of two characters, neither necessarily likeable, but drawn together in a love story with a difference. A good place to start in Hofstatter's work. The next one I read was the novella called Rare Breeds.
To be fair, even having read some of Hofstatter's work at this point, I figured Rare Breeds might be about a werewolf or two. But I tell you this: for all the works of horror I've read and seen in all my years, this is one of the nastiest. There's a true sense of the macabre in this tale - hence 'Mr. Macabre'.
While it might not have the gore some horror aficionados are used to, there's a genuine sense of things going bad to worse and horribly wrong. To give context to those who might be familiar with '80s horror films: both An American Werewolf In London and The Fly have that sense of things going horribly wrong. David Kessler survived a werewolf mauling, only for his dead friend to haunt him and warn him that he too will change and kill people. David rejects this and Jack - until the full moon rises and nothing short of a bullet to the head is going to end the nightmare of a transformation that's now alarmingly and painfully real. In the case of Seth Brundle, he doesn't even realise what's gone wrong at first, let alone how wrong. Note that the production on the film deliberately went for a deformed look to underscore the theme of 'horribly wrong' - something sickly that wasn't a viable creature. That's the sense of 'horribly wrong' I get on reading Rare Breeds.
Not only am I not a voracious reader, but I'm not a ...forgiving critic. There are works that many might rave about which don't necessarily move me; superhero film Black Panther is one of those. On the other hand, there are works that I love that many don't; the theatrical cut of Daredevil with Ben Affleck and Michael Clarke Duncan is possibly my all-time favourite superhero film. And this is coming from a Spider-Man comic-book fan and collector. That said, there are those works that I will rave about until everyone else is blue in the face. Masterful works such as Brian Keene's 'The Rising' (which outdoes the likes of The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, Night Of The Living Dead, Resident Evil, et al, in my opinion). Ditto for Mark Morris' 'Full Up', Joe Donnelly's 'Incubus', JR Park's 'Mad Dog' and Erik Hofstatter's 'Rare Breeds'. All of those are unique works, and all of them are masterful.
Anyway. The 30th anniversary screening of Hellraiser - which I've now seen on Clive Barker's site as on 25th September 2017 - was something Erik was in town for. Given that the Prince Charles Cinema is a short journey across town from me, we agreed to catch up before Erik hit the screening. Drinks and shop talk, talking this, that and the third. And since I got that round in, it's been years before the elusive recluse made good on that promise to get return the favour.
So there we are at last, having coaxed Mr. Macabre into braving the masses again. Over a few beers - and food (because it's me). Shop talk. What we're currently working on. What's coming down the pike. Peers in the craft. Time in the game. State of the genre. All of that and more; this time at a pub in Victoria
where the beef nachos had fuck-all beef.
where, I after I ordered a chicken and fish sharing platter to get enough meat for the nachos, an old beggar brother asked me to spare some food (two chicken wings and a handful of fries I gave him).
where the men's room ran out of soap, but more filthy humans still used the men's room like nothing was wrong.
where I stood waiting with a shitty hand and some kindly woman offered me a high-five.
where I asked our barman and bar security for soap before the manager finally came though with the liquid soap to refill the dispensers.
Now, that was a horror story - especially in these pandemic times. If you want to read one which is undoubtedly more entertaining, treat yourselves to Hofstatter's "Rare Breeds", which isn't getting nearly enough love - or screen time - in my opinion. Do that, and you might just convince Erik to brave the masses more often.**
**Don't leave it years to get the next round in, boss...