Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Chetwynd-Hayes, R

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(1919-2001) UK writer, predominantly of Ghost Stories, though his first novel, The Man from the Bomb (1959), was sf. His next novel, The Dark Man (1964; vt And Love Survived 1979 US), was about spirit Possession. Although he had sold one story to The Lady in 1954, RC-H did not begin to sell short fiction regularly until "The Thing" (in The Seventh Pan Book of Horror Stories anth 1966 ed Herbert van Thal), about a Ghost that feeds on the emotions it stimulates. After a few more sales to anthologies, RC-H began to produce his own collections: The Unbidden (coll 1971), Cold Terror (coll 1973), Terror by Night (coll 1974), The Elemental (coll 1974) and The Night Ghouls (coll 1975). Four stories from these were later adapted into the anthology-format movie From Beyond the Grave (1973 UK; vt The Creatures from Beyond the Grave).

RC-H's Supernatural Fictions are inventive in applying new twists to traditional supernatural themes. His ghosts may be malignant or sympathetic, and frequently haunt everyday people in commonplace settings. To heighten the effect, he frequently contrasts Horror with Humour. "Looking for Something to Suck" (1969) is typical of his titles, introducing an insubstantial entity that seeks humans in order to suck their lifeforce. "The Gatecrasher" (1971) is an effective story of a Séance that summons the spirit of Jack the Ripper. "The Ghost Who Limped" (1975; vt "The Limping Ghost") is a fine example of RC-H's ability to see the world sympathetically through the eyes of a ghost, without removing the effect of the horror upon the human characters. One of his best ghost stories is "Which One?" (1981), where six trapped firewatchers have to determine which of them is a ghost. It was adapted effectively for radio in 1983.

RC-H delights in creating a variety of Monsters, usually with his tongue firmly in his cheek. Stories like "The Jumpity-Jim" (1974) and "The Catomodo" (1974) led to the Club Story collection The Monster Club (coll 1976), which included not just Vampires and Werewolves but mocks, shadmocks and humgoos! This book was also made into an anthology movie, The Monster Club (1980 UK), and it resulted in RC-H ghost-editing the sole issue of the ill-fated UK horror Magazine Ghoul (1976). RC-H continued the monster theme, creating a whole family of vampires in Dracula's Children (coll 1987) and its sequel The House of Dracula (coll 1987). He further explored a Secondary World of vampires in "Kamtellar" (1980).

RC-H has had two long-running series. The first features Clavering Grange, the most Haunted Dwelling in the UK, which he introduced in The Dark Man and in "The Door" (1973). Three volumes focus exclusively on the house: The King's Ghost (1985; vt The Grange 1985 US), Tales from the Hidden World (coll 1988) and The Haunted Grange (1988). RC-H has also told the adventures of the Occult Detective Francis St Clare, who first appeared in "Someone is Dead" (1974) and who likewise returns in most later collections; The Psychic Detective (1993) details his early career.

RC-H's other collections are: Tales of Fear and Fantasy (coll 1977); The Cradle Demon (coll 1978); The Fantastic World of Kamtellar (coll 1980); Tales of Darkness (coll 1981); Tales from Beyond (coll 1982); Tales from the Other Side (coll 1983; vt The Other Side 1988 US); A Quiver of Ghosts (coll 1984); Tales from the Dark Lands (coll 1984); Ghosts from the Mist of Time (coll 1985); Tales from the Shadows (coll 1986); Tales from the Haunted House (coll 1986); and Shivers and Shudders (coll 1995). His novels include The Brats (1979), The Partaker (1980), The Curse of the Snake God (1989) and Kepple (1992), an interconnected series of stories Hell Is What You Make It (coll 1994), plus two movie novelizations, Dominique * (1979) and The Awakening * (1980). Of these, only The Brats, a post-nuclear dystopia, and Kepple, a supernatural thriller in the style of James Herbert, are outside his usual fare.

RC-H has also been a prolific anthologist. Cornish Tales of Terror (anth 1970) was followed by Scottish Tales of Terror (anth 1972) – ed as Angus Campbell – Welsh Tales of Terror (anth 1973), Tales of Terror from Outer Space (anth 1975), Gaslight Tales of Terror (anth 1976) and Doomed to the Night (anth 1978). He took over the editorship of the Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories from Robert Aickman after #9 (anth 1973), producing one volume annually until #20 (anth 1984). Whereas Aickman had focused on period ghost stories, RC-H's selections were mostly modern. He also inaugurated the Armada Monster Book series for younger readers – The First Armada Monster Book (anth 1975), Second (anth 1976), Third (anth 1977), Fourth (anth 1978), Fifth (anth 1979) and Sixth (anth 1980).

In 1989 RC-H received both the Life Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America and the British Fantasy Society Special Award for his contributions to the genre. [MA]

further reading: "A Writer in the Dark Lands" by Stephen Jones and Jo Fletcher in Skeleton Crew September 1990.

Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.