|Cover art by Joe Young|
Kitchen Sink Gothic is now available:
Order Direct fromParallel Universe Publications
Coined in the 1950s, Kitchen Sink described British films, plays and novels frequently set in the North of England, which showed working class life in a gritty, no-nonsense, “warts and all” style, sometimes referred to as social realism. It became popular after the playwright John Osborne wrote Look Back In Anger, simultaneously helping to create the Angry Young Men movement. Films included Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer, A Taste of Honey, The L-Shaped Room and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. TV dramas included Coronation Street and East Enders. In recent years TV dramas that could rightly be described as kitchen sink gothic include Being Human, with its cast of working class vampires, werewolves and ghosts, and the zombie drama In the Flesh, with its northern working class, down to earth setting. In this anthology you will find stories that cover a wide range of Kitchen Sink Gothic, from the darkly humorous to the weirdly strange and occasionally horrific.
Franklin Marsh has started a series of realtime reviews of the stories in Kitchen Sink Gothic on the ever interesting Vault of Evil.
The Great Estate by Shaun Avery:
What is it about the council estate in The Great Estate that makes it unique - and so wrong? Even Dave Holland, born and bred there, is unsure. Only after his girlfriend becomes pregnant does he begin to see things with different eyes. After all, why would his wayward, sometimes violent father greet the news of the pregnancy as enthusiastically as he does? Why are men on the estate proud to become members of the Shitty Fathers Society? Why do Bernie and Frank hit each other on the head with hammers to make "themselves stupid"? What is the bizarre secret of the social club's beer barrels?
In The Great Estate Shaun Avery has created a memorably strange, disturbing place, well fitted to be included in Kitchen Sink Gothic.
Try it - and the other 16 stories, some darkly humorous, while others are more than weirdly strange and occasionally horrific. None are less than memorable.
Daddy Giggles by Stephen Bacon:
When Duffy visits his dying mother in hospital it's not from love.
For a few seconds she just stares at him. Then she closes her eyes. “You’ve come.”
“Mum.” He waits until she opens her eyes and looks at him. Then he says, “You’re dying. I didn’t want to miss it.”
What is it from his past that makes him hate her so much?
...a tattered toy, a threadbare relic of his childhood. Grey stuffing bulges through rips in the stitching. The face of the creature is grotesque; uneven button eyes, lolling crimson tongue, lopsided chin, a tarnished brass bell clinging to the remaining cotton attached to its hat. Duffy wrinkles his nose at the dust that has been released into the air.
A vague light erupts in his mother’s eyes. “Daddy Giggles.” She gurgles something that might be a chuckle. “Where’d you find it?”
But there's worse, far worse haunting Duffy's past than an ugly, tattered old toy.
Read Stephen Bacon's harrowingly haunting story Daddy Giggles in Kitchen Sink Gothic.
Black Sheep by Gary Fry:
Some families have secrets. Dark secrets. Perhaps this is something Billy doesn't realise. After all, his own is an open book. An open book that he loathes. Out of work and workshy, his father and Billy's mother rely on his older sister's wage to supplement the family income. In contrast, still at college. studying for his exams, Billy is subjected to scorn and ridicule, resented for not making any money for them all.
"We didn't need no education to get on in life," Mum said, and if there was any trace of maternal affection in her tone, it was quickly superseded by occupational bitterness. Then she added to her husband, "I suppose he thinks he's better than us now."
Invited by his girlfriend, Trudy, to have dinner with her well to do parents, though, Billy soon finds that sometimes, however much money a family might have, there are grim, dirty, disgusting secrets that make the damage his own family are doing to him, with their sarcasm and resentment, seem tame by comparison.
Gary Fry has created a uniquely Aickmanesque nightmare in Black Sheep, with more than a touch of Charles Birkin.
A toothpick was pinning together his lips, its points thrust through both wedges of flesh. His mum's domestic skills had certainly been put to good use here.
Read Gary Fry's darkly grotesque tale of a family gone wrong in Kitchen Sink Gothic.
Waiting by Kate Farrell:
Waiting by Kate Farrell provides us with a keenly observed, sometimes wryly humorous insight into the life of Edna Gould. The tightfistedness over money of her late husband, Len, is comically observed throughout the story.
"I used to get People's Friend and Woman's Weekly. Len liked the Daily Express. We had the papers delivered until he decided he'd walk down to the newsagent for them. Why pay a delivery charge when you've got the use of your limbs, he said. And it saved on a Christmas box for the paperboy."
Throughout we get to know about Edna's life, her trials and tribulations and her cheery determination to make the best of everything, especially after her husband's death, when some of the little luxuries he was too careful to pay for are suddenly available.
"...I were thinking about taking a holiday abroad, a short break somewhere with Mrs Wilson. I must look out for my passport. The last time I used it, Len and I went to Holland for the tulips. That was nineteen eighty-seven, our fortieth anniversary. I loved all the purples and yellows and reds and pinks, all mixed up. Len said we could have stood outside the local florist and saved him the money."
For me it's a wonderfully warm story, full of colour, humour and humanity, and we truly grow to like Edna. Which makes the closing paragraphs all the more chilling.
You have been warned.
Parallel Universe Publications will be publishing a collection of Kate's stories later this year, And Nobody Lived Happily Ever After. In the meantime PS Publishing have just brought out My Name is Mary Sutherland, reviewed by Christopher Teague for the BFS.
Jamal Comes Home by Benedict J. Jones
In Jamal Comes Home by Benedict J. Jones, Carole's worried about her son.
""He's been gone three weeks now. Never been gone this long. Day or two maybe. But he always comes home when he's hungry or needs a bath."
"Joan nodded, not mentioning that Jamal, Carol's son, also came back when he needed something to sell for his next pipe."
But Carole loves her frequently wayward son and is determined to find out where he is, even though others seem to care little about him. Which is why she finds herself going to see Mrs Shandy, a psychic booked at their local club. Carole knows something bad must have happened to Jamal and is desperate to find out where he is and get him home. But she never expected to hear what the psychic had to say.
"Mrs Shandy gave the audience a small tight smile.
""One more reading before we break."
"Her hand moved in the bag and Carole's breath caught in her throat when she saw her withdraw a photo. Mrs Shandy stared at the photo and then looked out into the audience.
""It's dark where he is. He's scared and he wants his mum."
"Carole felt the tears begin to well up once more and bit them back with a deep slug of her drink.
""Jamal wants to come home.""
It's a tale of a mother's love - a love that is unable to see the darkness her son has found himself in. With its down to earth grittiness and true kitchen sink setting, Benedict J. Jones has created memorable characters and a modern day horror that lingers long after the tale finishes. At least it did for me!
""He can hear us! I can feel him coming out of the dark."
"Carole felt her heart jump in her chest and she could not help but shout.
""Come home, Jamal. Please come home."
"Fire blazed in Mrs Shandy's eyes.
"Jamal, if you can hear us then come towards us, come back.""
Canvey Island Baby by David Turnbull
Does life get much gloomier or more grotesque than in David Turnbull's Canvey Island Baby?
Patsy will do almost anything for his wife, Chloe, but even he, born and brought up on Canvey Island, is almost pushed to the limit when they win the draw at the annual Boxing day party at their local club to decide who will "become surrogates in the coming year." For childless couples this is a must and they are the envy of all their friends, but Patsy isn't so sure.
For a start off it means him hanging around the floodwall every night, whatever weather, looking for their prize.
A Canvey Island baby.
Even his grandfather, a hard man who "always seemed to be involved in pub brawls", berates him when he tries to get out of what they have won and calls them monsters. "We live on the land and they live in the estuary - but they're our kin, Patsy. Blood of our blood."
It's an unholy alliance that has existed for centuries, one which, for all his disgust, Patsy can't convince anyone, even his wife, they would be better without.
"“The flood of ’53 wasn’t the first,” he said. “They knew it wouldn’t be the last. That’s why they built the floodwall. But there’s been a community living out here since long before Roman times. The land was flatter then, no buildings and stuff. Floods would come, ruin all the crops and wash away the huts. People got drowned. Women and children got drowned. So here’s what I reckon. They evolved, Patsy. They became… What’s the word?”
Don't expect anything Lovecraftian. This is no twist on Innsmouth, but something just as dark, equally grotesque. A uniquely strange alliance wrought deep in the past but still practised today - amongst the refineries and council estates of David Turnbull's Canvey Island.
"When he entered the living room with a mug of tea in each hand Chloe had it pressed against her chest, hand resting gently around its hairless skull. The sound of its greedy, wet slurping turned his stomach. When he placed one of the mugs down on the coffee table he saw that its teeth were clamped firmly to the pale flesh of her right breast. A trickle of blood was running down, staining her open nightdress.
"“Does it hurt?” he asked.
"“Nips a bit,” she replied. “But I reckon I’ll get used to it. I’ll need to start drinking Guinness to keep up the iron in my blood.”"