A Glow of Candles on the Bremerton Ferry

I remember the first time I read the work of Charles L. Grant. It was November 1981, and I was visiting a pen pal in Seattle–waaay before Microsoft and grunge hit. Forget post-punk. The real shit was still going down. My friend took me to the Pike Place Farmer’s Market, a virtual honeycomb of wonders that offered everything from buckets of roasted bunny to hand-made stationary. One of the many shops was an independent bookstore, the name of which escapes me, that had an impressive selection of new and used science fiction and fantasy. I was a dyed-in-the-wool geek girl, with a strong background in science fiction and fantasy fandom—but with the growing popularity of Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Anne Rice, I was finding myself drifting more and more towards horror. A couple years earlier, I had stumbled across the US paperback editions of Ramsey Campbell’s The Doll Who Ate His Mother and Demons by Daylight, and I was on the lookout for other authors who combined scares with genuine literary flair. Therefore, when I saw A Glow of Candles and Other Stories, with its creepy, melting clown, sitting on the shelf, I wondered if this might be more of what I craved. Later that same day, as we headed back across Puget Sound on the Bremerton Ferry during a furious storm that sent waves over the second-tier balcony, I decided to start reading the first story. In retrospect, it was the perfect introduction to Charlie’s work.

A couple years later, I made my first semi-pro sale to Dave Silva’s The Horror Show—a little piece of weirdness titled “The Dreamclown”, which was directly inspired by the cover of A Glow of Candles and its collection of quietly disturbing creep-tales. Then, in 1990, I found myself at the Horror Writers of America Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. I was there to accept a Bram Stoker Award for Joe Lansdale and, possibly, win one for myself. Upon entering the con suite, I instantly walked into the middle of a conversation between Charles Grant, Stephen Bissette, Rick Hautala, and Chet Williamson, who accepted me as their equal, even though I only had a handful of credits to my name. Charlie lost no time in telling me to call him “Charlie”, and that is how I will always think of him. (Moreover, I never realized, until now, that we were born two days (and 17 years) apart.) Charlie was, in turns, gracious, acerbic, insightful, darkly humorous, and unafraid to give of his acquired wisdom and experience—not surprising, given his profession as a teacher. I owe him a great debt as a writer, and although we became somewhat estranged toward the end of his life, I shall always remember him fondly and with great respect.

(C) Nancy A. Collins 2016


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