I first met Charles L Grant at a Fantasycon (my first), more than 25 years ago. I suspect it might have been the very same convention that Mark Morris has referred to in his tribute to Charlie. I was already aware of other writers’ appreciation of his work, and had been reading and collecting for some time before that event. So it was with some trepidation that I approached him at one of the convention’s events and asked if he’d sign a copy of my treasured THE HOUR OF THE OXRUN DEAD. He was delighted, and when I asked if he was a Val Lewton fan (since I’d sensed trace elements in his work) his response was: “Are you kidding? Of COURSE I’m a Val Lewton fan. I wouldn’t be doing this now if it wasn’t for the likes of him!” When he asked me what name he should inscribe in the proffered novel, and I replied ‘Stephen Laws’ – he looked straight at me and said: “The author of ‘Ghost Train’?” The loud clang that echoed around the room was my jaw hitting the floor. That someone who I considered a master of his craft should have any idea about my own work was something that left me stunned. By that time, my third novel had been published – but I still considered myself a very minor player compared to someone as talented as Charles L. Grant. We remained friends thereafter. (Here’s a photograph from The World Fantasy Convention of 1990.)
From left to right: Charles L. Grant, Stephen Gallagher, Stephen Laws and Joe Lansdale
My second personal story comes from an event that took place some months ago, and at just around the time Neil Snowdon and I were formulating our society ‘Novocastria Macabre’ – one key aspect of which would be to honour and highlight the work of the ‘great names’ in the horror genre who were no longer with us. Charles L. Grant was one of the key writers we discussed. My wife Melanie and I were at Camden Lock in London, browsing the stalls down by the canal, and we’d just found an excellent second hand bookshop. Mel tapped me on the shoulder: “Look,” she said. “A Charlie Grant novel. Have you got this one?”
It was THE SOUND OF MIDNIGHT. (Popular Library paperback, New York: 1978 – “A pack of children more horrifying than CARRIE”).
“God, no I haven’t!” I replied, grabbing it up. I opened it – and discovered to my amazement that – it was signed by Charles L. Grant himself…
Given what I’d been discussing just recently with Neil, I felt that Charlie’s hand had reached out across the void and patted me gently on the shoulder.
Truly one of the horror genre ‘greats’, it’s difficult to know what to recommend to those who have yet to experience the joy of Charlie’s fiction – but I’d certainly go along with the other recommendations that have already been made (TALES FROM THE NIGHT SIDE, THE HOUR OF THE OXRUN DEAD, etc) But if you can get your hands on a copy of SCREAM QUIETLY (containing short fiction, interviews and articles edited by Stephen Jones) you just couldn’t go wrong!
(C) 2016 Stephen Laws.
Stephen Laws is a full-time novelist, born in Newcastle upon Tyne. Married, with three children, he lives and works in his birthplace. The author of 11 novels, numerous short stories, (collected in THE MIDNIGHT MAN) columnist, reviewer, film-festival interviewer, pianist and recipient of a number of awards, Stephen Laws recently wrote and starred in the short horror movie THE SECRET. He his the co-founder, with Neil Snowdon, of NOVOCASTRIA MACABRE a society for genre based film and literary events in Newcastle and the North East Of England. Find out more about his work HERE.