During the process I recalled some of the elements of my relationship with Nigel Kneale, which was almost lifelong. For while we never met, spoke to each other or corresponded, Mr Kneale has been in an out of my life continually since I was a child.
The first time I consciouly heard or read of the name, was when I read Minuke, a short story of his in one of the Armada Ghost Books. I was about eight, and read that tale over and over with horrified fascination. It was all about a dream house that was attacked by a poltergeist, and while it didn't frighten me, it certainly tickled my horror-bone. For those not in the know, the Armada Ghost books were aimed ay children, and they were very popular back in the late sixties and early seventies.
Around this time or earlier my mother told me about a popular tv show before I was born, it was called Quatermass and the Pit, and it scared her badly. I think she mentioned the subject when she heard Mars the God of War from Holst's Planet Suite on the radio, but I can't be sure. It was quite a few years before I realised that Nigel Kneale was the one who wrote the screenplay.
In my early teens I finally saw Quatermass and the Pit. The Hammer movie, not the tv show. It completely blew me away and to this day it is one of my favourite films. I'll write something more expansive about that film one day, because if I started to write about what was good about that movie I'd be here all night, and I'm lazy. To follow, I saw Quatermass and Quatermass II, not sure at what interval. Then came the 1970's tv series, confusingly called Quatermass (what were they thinking?) which I was unable to see until many years later, thanks to the Tube of You. If you look around, you can even find what is left of the original tv shows! Every single one of them is quality, every single one of them is riveting.
There was a tv show called Beasts, which also aired in the 1970's. If you get the chance to see any of this show, do so. I single out for special mention During Barty's Party. Unlike all the other shows, this series has almost no Lovecraftian elements, although you could stretch the point a bit for During Barty's Party - there are rats in the something.
The Stone Tape was another gem, genuinely frightening, starring Jane Asher as the put upon heroine, and Iain Cuthbertson, he who made Children of the Stones unforgettable. It mixed ultra-modern technology with ancient evils in an entirely original way. Why it hasn't been more imitated, I do not know.
Nigel Kneale died on the 29th of October in 2006, and during his life he won or was nominated for several awards for his work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association. His shadow is a long one, and you can read all about his influence over television and literature on Wikipedia.
When people ask me why I love horror so much, I usually answer, because that is where the magic is. For me that is not true of science fiction, or even of fantasy. The best magic is always a little bit frightening, sometimes a lot frightening. Nigel Kneale made the best magic.
Don't ask me about the 2005 BBC remake of Quatermass Experiment. I have a massive crush on Mark Gatiss and I don't want him to know I think it stank.