Ray Russell – Sardonicus And Other Stories
Posted by demonik on August 20, 2007
Ray Russell – Sardonicus And Other Stories (Ballantine, 1961)
Sardonicus, The Actor, The Cage, The Exploits Of Argo, The Swod Of Laertes, Montage, Booked Solid,Take A Deep Breath, The Pleasure Was Ours, The Room, I Am Returning, Incommunicado, His Father’s House, Last Will And Testament, The Rosebud, London Calling, Once Of Prevention.
Sir Robert Cargrave, Harley Street specialist, receives an invite from old flame Maud Randall to visit she and her husband at Castle Sardonicus in Bohemia. When he arrives, he finds his former sweetheart much changed, the once carefee and vivacious girl now sad and distant. One look at her pale-to-the-point-of-translucense husband explains the situation: he is disfigured with “Ricus Sardonicus”, his lips permanently pulled apart to display his teeth in perpetual ghastly smile. The affliction was brought on when, as a young man, he dug up his father’s body to attain the winning lottery ticket that was buried with him(!).
Sardonicus first tries to bribe the doctor by promising him a night of passion with Maud if he’ll operate, then threatens to rape her when the disgusted Cargrave refuses. Reluctantly, our hero complies with the madman’s wishes …
Nice to have for it’s beautiful cover, but horror buffs may be disappointed that it’s given over to equal parts terror, science fiction and fantasy. In which case, you’re better off tracking down a copy of Unholy Trinity . Also includes two stories of eternal personal Hell’s, The Exploits Of Argo – a galactic vampire endures never-ending agony – and the black magic classic, The Cage. The Countess is about to begin an affair with her husband’s right-hand man, who many suspect is the Devil Incarnate. Worried at her husband’s penchant for torture, she demands her fiendish suitor grants her wish: “Make this beauty never fade. Make it withstand the onslaught of time and violence. Make me – no matter what may befall – live forever.”
When the Count discovers her infidelity, true to form, he locks her in his favourite contraption for the night, just as her treacherous lover is advising the enemy army how best to take the castle …