Here I stand on the edge of a new world. That’s right the blog world . . . where have I been all these years? I know, I know, frogs and coconut shells etc. etc.
Anyway, I’m pretty excited as I’ve just finished 3 stories to go into my “greatest hits”, 44 Cemetery Road. To let you know a bit about it, I’ve just slotted in the “Introduction” here…
INTRODUCTION TO 44 CEMETERY ROAD
What a shock.
It’s been 10 years since my first selection of horror tales was published.
My debut collection, The Rape of Martha Teoh and Other Chilling Stories, was unveiled in 1997. Two years later BloodHaze – 15 Chilling Tales was unleashed and the final book, The Woman who Grew Horns and Other Works, leapt out three years after that. The trilogy was complete.
And don’t good things come in threes, Mr Tolkein?
Since it’s been 10 years, (and how awfully quickly they’ve gone) MPH and I thought that it’s an ideal time to unload upon you, dear reader, a selection of the best stories from the trilogy.
Here are my favourites. From ‘Something Called Mamsky’, which is based on a true story, to ‘Monkeys!’, my attempt to push the genre beyond its boundaries, to ‘The Width of a Circle’ which lifts a title off an old David Bowie song.
In some ways, I treat my tales as songs – especially when putting them together in a book which, using the same analogy, is the “album”.
Which song should hit the reader first? What’s going to be next? What will be the finale? I spend hours juggling the stories around, searching for the best effect. In BloodHaze – 15 Chilling Tales for example, I thought it best to open with ‘Mr Petronas’, a tongue-in-cheek story, to tease the reader. Did it work? Hope so.
Continuing with our analogy, what you now grasp in your hands is a sort of “greatest hits”. Not that any of the stories made it into the charts, but they are mostly my favourites, the ones I hold close. Also, I believe they’re the ones you’ll enjoy most.
Our bibliophile and veteran editor from MPH, Eric Forbes suggested I add a few new stories to the book. I readily agreed. Somewhat nervously. I hadn’t completed a short story for several years.
Started on a few.
Anyway, I committed to writing 3 new stories, one for each of the 3 books. Combining it with the 19 other tales, you now have before you 21 stories.
Value for money, right?
But why 21 and not 20?
Well, I have this thing about numbers. I’m not a believer in numerology but even without a Maths degree I can tell you that 21 divided by 7 is 3. So what? You may ask. Why is that important?
Because of the trilogy that’s why!
For me, it’s nothing to do with luck. It just seems right. The numbers reinforce each other.
Such infernal workings of my mind can be terribly unhealthy though. The protagonist in my 1999 story “Four Numbers for Eric Kwok” had the same problem with numbers and see what happened to him!
As you can guess, the “title track” to this collection of tales, 44 Cemetery Road is again deliberately chosen. Any Chinese person will tell you that the number 4 means death. In our case 44 is a double death. Add that to Cemetery Road and we know we’ve got real problems!
The other new story is “Plane Load”. I started that one a few years back on a long haul flight. The guy sitting next to me had the sneezes and I offered him a Drixoral. He declined, quite sensibly. You don’t accept pills from strangers! I never finished the tale, so this was an ideal opportunity to complete it.
The last story, The Year 1972, is semi-autobiographical. The milieu of that side street off Jalan Ampang and the steep concrete steps to St. John’s primary is very real for me. As for the ice cream man and the home-made spinning disc on the back of his ice box, he’s a treasure swallowed up by our over-sanitised over-marketed modern world.
And so there you have it. Twenty-one tales written just for you. Because it’s just you and I right now. As you read and as I write. Let’s take this trip together, down Cemetery Road.
Enjoy and stay safe.
And don’t accept pills from strangers.
3 January 2007
(Date deliberately chosen)