31/31 Day 5: "The Trapdoor" and "The Demon King"
There are two stories I’d like to pass on tonight. The first called “The Trap Door” isn’t available on the web, but can be found in Great Ghost Stories by Chancellor Press. It’s a pub story. A man of nervous temperament goes on holiday, chooses the most out of the way inn in the country, and of course, allows his curiosity to get the best of him. It’s nothing earth shattering, but there’s a dryness to it I found interesting, particularly, after learning that its author was a theater censor.
Part of the motivation behind this project, along with enjoying some geeky favorites such as Lovecraft or James, is the chance of carrying out detective work on stories and writers I’ve never heard of. Thus far, it’s been successful, I’ve learned that Michael Arlen hobnobbed with film industry VIPs, and that A.J. Alan’s pseudonym was not a result of embarrassment for writing genre fiction, but his involvement with Enigma.
In the case of “Trapdoor’s” C.D. Heriot, however, I’ve been able to find very little other than that he (she?) was born in 1905 and lived until sometime in the early 1970s, and was a theater censor, an unforgiving one at that. It was Heriot , writing in the Reader’s Report, who would make recommendations to the Lord Chamberlain regarding which plays were fit for public consumption, often suggesting to cut or slash some bit or other for gruesome or otherwise naughty content. One target of Heriot’s wrath was John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. This brought an entirely new interpretation to the story’s title, it’s embittered characters, and not to mention the protagonist’s decision to burn a letter from the innkeeper explaining the haunting. “The Trapdoor” is the only story I can find listed for Heriot, so perhaps it reveals even more.
Now speaking of naughty bits, here’s another story that I could not find a text version of, but fortunately am able to link to an old time radio version. This is a superb adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s The Demon King in which the devil gets his due, and generously shares it with an an amateur theater company. I had the lucky experience of reading it for the first time before bed, and then listening to its adaptation with the lights out. This is the first time I’ve heard an adaptation for radio I’d not already seen on either a movie or television screen, and in doing so I was able to capture a bit of that anticipation felt by radio listeners who hadn’t had the option of the former mediums.