Anyway, let's read "Uneasy Home-coming" in that Penguin volume, and two other stories credited to Will F. Jenkins from horror collections I came upon at the world's greatest website, the internet archive. And if you know anything about "Uneasy Home-coming"'s publication history, please let us know in the comments!
"Uneasy Homecoming" (1935(?))
The plot: Connie returns to her somewhat remote country house after a "two weeks' holiday" at sunset. Her husband is away on business but should be home around midnight. She is very nervous, a victim of the fears which society drums into women's heads:
She was in terror of...Them, the unknown men women are taught to fear as dangerous.Leinster expends a lot of ink describing the house and the yard and the setting sun and the shadows and all that, and describing Connie's struggle to overcome her apparently groundless fears. But he also indicates to us that her fears are not groundless, even though she doesn't consciously know it! Before Connie has noticed any of these clues, the author points out to us readers all the clear evidence that somebody has broken into her home and is nearby; I find this to be a questionable artistic choice--if we are to share Connie's fear, shouldn't we share her ignorance and her surprise?
Connie calls up a friend, Mrs. Winston, an old woman, thinking this will calm her down. But Mrs. Winston warns her that the area has been subjected to many burglaries, and the burglar even beat a man who witnessed his crimes, beat him into a coma and left him for dead! The old lady offers to send her son Charles over to collect Connie, but Connie rejects this offer because Charles is a big hulking creep who gives her the willies--he committed petty crimes in his youth, was expelled from college, and generally acts creepy besides.
Connie finds stolen goods in her house and the burglar, who Leinster has already told us is in the back yard, and of course is Mrs. Winston's incorrigible son Charles, stalks her, presumably intent on slaying her to cover his trail. Connie figures out how to escape and to signal for help. The story ends with Connie feeling sorry for, actually weeping for, poor Mrs. Winston, whose son is one of the capital-T "Them" who trespass against others.
Maybe I am a callous jerk, but growing up in New Jersey and living in New York, when I would see the mothers of criminals on the TV news boohooing, I never felt any sympathy for them--I felt angry at them for creating a monster that was preying on the rest of us. This focus on Connie's sympathy for Mrs. Winston is a big reason I suspect this story was written for a mainstream female audience and not the pulp sex and violence crowd.
Merely acceptable, a flat filler piece. Why did this Cuddon dude include such a bland thing in his anthology?
(The changes made to the story for inclusion in 1997's Chills might also be worthy of examination. The whole idea that society has trained women to fear is jettisoned, all references to cigarettes and the beating of that guy into a coma are expunged, Connie's husband was with her on the "trip," and the whole idea that Charles has been a troublemaker for years is abandoned. Chills includes an illustration for "Uneasy Homecoming;" undermining the ability of the story to inspire fear, the illo depicts Connie and Mrs. Winston broadly smiling as they talk on the phone; I guess in the interest of updating the story and furthering the cause of diversity, Connie appears in the illustration to be a middle-aged black woman wearing pants.)
"Side Bet" (1937)
This is a good story; Leinster does a good job describing the setting and the different tactics and strategies of the contestants, and with the physical and psychological stress the man is under. Thumbs up!
|I'm afraid this blog post may have the lamest collection of cover images to be seen on |
MPorcius Fiction Log in a long time
Madge lives forty miles from Colchester, where her husband, a lawyer, will be getting off the train late in the evening. The road to Colchester, most of it passing through a pine forest, the rest through sparsely populated farm land, has a sinister reputation because a year ago somebody somehow persuaded a woman driving on that road, a Mrs. Tabor, to stop, and then killed her. A similar crime occurred a few months later to a woman whose body was found but never identified and whose car was never discovered.
Madge is just about to leave for Colchester when she gets a phone call from Mr. Tabor, the widower, whom she barely knows. He has heard she is driving to Colchester tonight, and asks Madge to take his niece along. Madge picks up the young woman, whom she finds alone by the street and who has an odd expressionless voice, wears an unfashionable hat and tinted spectacles, and seems subtly strange...she doesn't wear perfume, for instance. Far from any habitation, on the dark road, Madge realizes this is no young woman riding beside her, but a man in disguise! Is it the killer? Or an avenger seeking to find the killer, a ruthless individual who has tricked Madge into helping him lay a trap for the foul fiend who slew Mrs. Tabor?
This is a solid crime story with SF vibes: the man in disguise suggests that the legend of the werewolf is a reflection of the fact that there are maniacs out there who feel the urge to kill every six months or so and under the force of their evil compulsion act almost like animals. Leinster leaves open the possibility that the killer actually is a werewolf. I like "Night Drive," even though Leinster does something I don't really like, resolving the plot without the protagonist, Madge, having to make any big decisions or incur any psychological or moral risk--it isn't Madge who kills or gets killed, she is just kind of there. Maybe Leinster and/or the editors of Today's Woman thought the magazine's target audience wouldn't want to read about a woman getting murdered or getting another person's blood on her hands.
"Side Bet" is the winner here, and Hoke made a good choice in including it in her anthology. "Night Drive" is not bad, but "Uneasy Home-coming," in its British anthology form is mediocre, and in its American school text form quite lame.It's back to Thrilling Wonder Stories in our next episode, so see you then, space fans!