Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Thursday, 15 August 2013

RIP Ken Cowley

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ken Cowley, long-time member of the British Fantasy Society. I first came across his name a few years ago when I acquired a signed copy of Powers of Darkness by Robert Aickman. When it arrived, I found it to be inscribed, "for Ken Cowley with best wishes Robert Aickman February 1976". At that time of course I had not heard the name, so I did a little digging and found out that, in addition to being involved with the BFS, and an avid book collector, he also dabbled in writing. He had a collection of short stories published in 1999, called Miscellany Macabre: Tales of the Unknown, plus a few tales published by the BFS. I have just ordered a copy of Miscellany Macabre from Abe Books, so it will be interesting to have a look at that.

Ken Cowley's only collection of short stories,
Miscellany Macabre: Tales of the Unknown
Once I had discovered who Ken Cowley was, I managed to find his e-mail address; and I risked sending him a note, asking about the provenance of my copy of Powers of Darkness. To my great surprise and eternal gratitude, the very next morning I received a wonderful response, which I will share with you here – edited a little (I very much hope he would not have minded).

Dear Mr.Cosby,

Yes, the signature, dedication and dating are genuine. The occasion was the 1976 annual convention of the British Fantasy Society at Birmingham when Aickman was guest of honour. They unloaded him on to me because they were finding him a bit difficult. The BFS did not know quite what to make of him or he – being a rather prickly gentleman who did not suffer fools gladly – of them. In fact he gave me a rather hard time until he realised that I had actually read and much admired his work and that I knew what I was talking about, being much read in the genre and an occasional writer myself. I never met him again and – being a part-time dealer – had no qualms about letting go all the books he signed for me in due course, particularly as I had the complete two-volume Tartarus collection in my private collection. I remember little about our chat except that he told me he got the inspiration for some of his stories from his dreams, which did not surprise me as some of them have a dream-like lack of cause and effect, reminding me somewhat of Walter de la Mare.

Regards, Ken Cowley.

I thought at the time, how wonderful to have even such minor contact with someone who had met Robert Aickman himself. I just loved the description that he was 'a rather prickly gentleman who did not suffer fools gladly' – who'd have thought! We subsequently exchanged a few more e-mails discussing short stories in general, but then the next I heard was of his passing. Still, I thought it was an interesting enough tale to share.

I look forward to reading Ken Cowley's collection, and I will no doubt write a review in due course. I only wish he were still around to read my opinions of his work.

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