The White Hands
Random Colourway Vinyl.
Only 70x copies of this masterpiece will be available between a couple different vinyl variants.
* 150 gram vinyl
* Deluxe heavy weight tip-on gatefold jacket.
* Liner notes by Stephen Jones
* Newly commissioned art by Stephen Clark.
Out of all the tales pressed to wax by Cadabra Records, Mark Samuels’ “The White Hands” might be the one closest to the hearts of devoted listeners. Comprising as it does plot point which involve two devotees of weird literature, an obscure writer whose work has the potential to drive the reader to obsession, and name-drops of Sheridan Le Fanu, Vernon Lee, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and Arthur Machen, along with Weird Tales, Samuels’ story is at once a love letter to the genre in which it also exists, while also existing as a cautionary tale for those who seek to dig too deeply.
Not for nothing has the vérité of “The White Hands” led to many of its fans searching high and low for the works of Lilith Blake, the Victorian writer best known for her collection, The Reunion and Others, only to run into a brick wall before a kind-hearted soul informs them that she’s merely Samuels’ creation and neither she nor her works ever actually existed.
“Merely” is a reduction of sorts, though, as when one listens to Mark Samuels reading his own words on this record, one feels as though they’re sitting in a Highgate apartment while he himself tells you the story of John Harrington and Alfred Musswell and how the former came to meet the latter and, in turn, match his obsession. The writer’s familiarity with his work lends “The White Hands” a realism, as Samuels knows just when to insert a pause, mimic the cadence and accent of another character, or let his voice hitch as he comes to a horrific realization. It is nothing so much as experiencing the tale as the narrator did, slowly but surely coming to a discovery which suffuses the listener with dread.
That dreadful sensation is helped along by Cadabra stalwart Chris Bozzone’s composition skills. In keeping with the pre-war setting of Samuel’s tale, the composer’s music for “The White Hands” looks to Bozzone’s piano work as the main emphasis, although it’s augmented here and there by synthesizers with gently jangling guitar making an appearance after the death of Musswell, heralding Harrington’s true descent into obsession and madness. An almost ever-present swirl of wind-like drone emphasizes the cold, wintery setting in which the heart of the story takes place, as well, leading to a stronger sense of loneliness and isolation experienced by these characters while ensconced in the midst of one of the world’s most bustling cities.
From the introduction by Stephen Jones:
“It is always nice when you can say that you were there at the beginning of an author’s career. And, in the case of Mark Samuels, I pretty much was.
Back in 2003, Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker of Tartarus Press sent me a small, square hardcover entitled The White Hands and Other Weird Tales by an author I’d never heard of before: Mark Samuels. It was limited to just 350 copies and contained nine “strange stories,” all but two original to this debut collection.
Now don’t get me wrong. I read at lot of horror fiction, well at least I did when I was editing the Best New Horror anthology series, but much of it is either not very good or instantly forgettable. But I trusted Ray and Rosalie, and if they were willing to take a risk publishing a debut collection by an unknown British author, then I was certainly interested in reading it.
I did so in one sitting, and to say that I was blown away is an understatement.
As I said in my Introduction to Best New Horror #15: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales was “probably one of the most important debut collections by a writer of ghost stories since Terry Lamsley and Thomas Ligotti burst onto the scene more than a decade ago.” And I still stand by that statement today.”