Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Doctor King's houses of horror

I've just been reading, somewhat belatedly, Jonathan Coe's very enjoyable state-of-the-(1980s)-nation gothic satire 'What a Carve Up!'. In his author's note at the end of the book, Coe notes his 'shadowy debt' to the works of Frank King, author of 'The Ghoul' (1928), on which the 1960 movie (from which Coe took his title and elements of plot) was loosely based. Coe also says that he had been unable to trace any information on King, whose bibliography also includes such thrilling titles as 'Terror at Staups House', 'This Doll is Dangerous', 'Death of a Cloven Hoof' and 'Only Half the Doctor Died'.

This immediately tickled a memory. Last year, the Halifax Courier published this story, based on research by local historian David Glover, on the life of what it calls one of the town's famous yet perhaps forgotten sons. Frank King was indeed born in Halifax in 1892 - just a few streets away from my house, in fact - worked as a doctor in the town before quitting to write full-time (something rather appropriate to Coe's book), and died in 1958 just out at Norton Tower.

Intriguingly, King was likely to have been writing at his offices in Rhodes Street at the time the Halifax Slasher panic struck the immediate neighbourhood.

If anyone is in touch with Coe, please do let him know.

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