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Another day, another question from a reader.

Oi, Bollock-chops! So, why did you pick horror as a genre to shit on, rather than staying in the pool of filth which better suits your puerility?

Lots of love, Petula Clunge

Well, Petula, you’re not the first person to question whether my puerile filth and dark humour can be classed as horror, and I dare say you won’t be the last. It’s true I don’t write about ghouls and ghosts, nor do I venture into the worlds of vampires, werewolves or monsters, but I do like to focus on the true horror of the human condition.

Do I have the right to call my books horror? I think so and I’ll briefly explain why.

My father was a staunch Catholic. He didn’t question what he’d been taught all his life; he just followed the orders he received from the pulpit. As a result, he believed anything which the church didn’t actively endorse had to be heresy. It was black and white for him. If it wasn’t championed by the parish priest, it was a shortcut to hell.

My mother didn’t share his dogmatic beliefs, nor did she share his enthusiasm for going to bed at nine o’clock in the evening. In my father’s defence, he’d get up for work at four o’clock in the morning and wouldn’t get home until after seven o’clock at night. He’d eat dinner and doze in the armchair until the nine o’clock news came on. After watching the headlines, he’d go to bed. This meant for a chunk of the late evening, my mother was left alone, and she got bored easily. Night after night of sitting with no company started to affect her mind.

Her salvation came in the late 1960s, when one of the few TV channels of the day decided to show horror films after the usual shut-down time on a Friday night (yes, in those days we had three television channels, and they switched off at about half past ten at night). Her joy at this news wasn’t because she loved horror films, but the lateness of the programming gave her something to do when everyone else was asleep. It was nothing more than a distraction, and a late TV film in those days was quite the rare thing. As my father didn’t work weekends, she foolishly asked if he’d like to stay up and watch one with her.

His response wasn’t what she expected. Horror films were blasphemy, he declared. Ungodly and vile, they were heresy of the highest order, tantamount to devil worship and demonic sodomy. He threatened to blind anyone in his house who watched such sinful nonsense.

My mother tried to argue her case, but to no avail. To prove his point, my father consulted a bishop, and after being told the angels cried every time a horror film was shown, he forbade the watching of such heretical materials.

Of course, my mother watched them anyway. Well, she watched one, and it scared her shitless. Too frightened to watch further films alone, she hatched a plan. The following Friday, as my father’s snores echoed through the house, she woke me to watch the films with her.

Friday nights became a bit of an adventure for eight year old me. I lived with the creeping terror that my father would wake and realise we were defying holy orders. I didn’t know what punishment would be dished out for heresy, but I knew it would be extremely violent. In truth, the fear of being discovered was more thrilling than the films themselves.

The risk was worth it, because no one else in the school playground knew about the House of Usher. I became the teller of horror stories, which my classmates clamoured to hear.

Time passed, as it does, and the success of the Friday night horror film took the TV execs by surprise. Realising there were other ways to exploit the new-found audience, they moved on to show more mainstream films. Friday night horror was taken away from us, or so I thought.

The next Friday evening, I was shaken awake despite there being no film. Strangely, my mother was more cautious than usual. Creeping downstairs and into the dining room, I beheld a strange sight. Laid out on the table was a circle of Scrabble tiles, with the whole alphabet represented. There were also two pieces of paper marked Yes and No, and a glass. It was my first first interaction with the Ouija.

Immediately, I had the Ouija pegged as bullshit. It was a trick, and tricks were there to be exploited. I learned how to subtly move the glass without anyone realising, and I manipulated my power of communication with the dead to get things I wanted. I even used the alleged spirit of a dead airman to force my mother to buy better cheese.

So, dearest Petula Clunge, I think I have the credentials to claim my filthy stories are horror if I so desire. I hope this helps!

Have you a got a question for Peter? Get in touch, and he’ll doubtless fob you off with some old bunch of toss.