The latest collection of short stories,
BRIEF ENCOUNTERS, is still available, containing four stories from the continuing
saga: "Awakenings", "Handwriting of the God", "Zé
and the Amulet", and "Brief Encounter". The first and last
are published for the first time, the two middle ones first published in
(repectively) DARK TERRORS 6 and SUPERNATURAL TALES #4.
Encounters is £5 or $10 or €10 from Chico Kidd, 113 Clyfford
Road, Ruislip Gardens, Middx HA4 6PX, UK
How it all came about...
The earlier collections
£4.50, $8 or 10 Euros incl. p&p each ($,
euros cash only, please)
I suffered from terrible
writer's block for more than five years.
And then, in September 2000, in the middle of a long Jamesian tale set in Venice, which I had been writing for weeks if not months, something happened. Or someone happened. A character barged in and took over the story. His name was -- is -- Captain Luís da Silva. He appeared whole, like Minerva, with a past and a personality and a lot of baggage I'm sure I never invented. And since then I've been writing as if a dam has burst. Which in a sense it has. I have to say it's an absolutely brilliant feeling!
Since then I've written
seventeen longish short stories including that first one, "Cats And Architecture"
which appeared in issue #2 of SUPERNATURAL TALES and enjoyed
a second sight in MAMMOTH BEST NEW HORROR 13, as did one of the tales from
SECOND SIGHT, "Mark of the Beast". There are also, now, FOUR (and a half)
Da Silva novels: DEMON WEATHER, THE WEREWOLF OF LISBON, RESURRECTION, and
SINNED AGAINST. Captain da Silva even invaded the last Carnacki story I wrote,
"Arkright's Tale", which appears in No 472 CHEYNE WALK.
SECOND SIGHT features the four tales that fall, chronologically, between "Cats" and "Arkright". THE VENGEANCE JAR features three further instalments. Another later story is in SUPERNATURAL TALES #4 and a further one in DARK TERRORS 6, published last autumn. There's also one in the current issue of SUPERNATURAL TALES (#6). VISIONS & VOYAGES has one tale that occurs quite a long time before "Cats" and one from around the middle of the existing canon. (And two other tales.) These are quite unlike anything I've written before, being, I suppose, fantasy adventures rather than ghost stories, although there are LOTS of ghosts in them... and other things, or really that ought to be Things, with a definite capital T. Thanks to Rick Kennett for coining the term "Weird Noir"!
And that's why these tales are by Chico, not AF. PRINTER'S DEVIL was, nominally, but really it was by AF, the writer of Jamesian tales and antiquarian manqué. Some of the later stories aren't. And these stories definitely aren't.
DEMON WEATHER, as you will have noticed on the home page, has been bought by a Portuguese publisher. I think it's splendid that the Captain is being published in his home town!
The Da Silva Tales begin with the short story "Cats and Architecture" (Supernatural Tales #2, reprinted in "Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #13"), though chronologically "Heart of Darkness" comes first. The Captain's appearance in "Cats" is framed by the story of one of the his descendants. In it we meet Luís da Silva for the first time and learn how he freed himself from the shackles of his sorcerous employer and lost his eye in a fight with a demon, plus a good deal of his back story. (This occurs in 1908, though for the most part the precise year is not important.)
Subsequently, through a number of other short stories, the Captain learns how to use his ghost-seeing and -speaking abilities. In "Second Sight" he discovers the usefulness of holy water and meets the unconventional Fr Pereira while dealing with a murderous duppy. Later, in "Past Acquaintances", he discovers how to raise the dead and renews his acquaintance with an old adversary and maker of golems, the Russian witch Tatiana. "Pandora's Box" sees him learn how rare a talent he has as he deals with a vampiric moth-spirit that seeks to possess his wife Emilia. The next story in the chronology, "Mark of the Beast", introduces Harris the werewolf as da Silva and his son Zé fall foul of lycanthropes in India. These 4 stories appear in SECOND SIGHT & OTHER STORIES, and "Mark of the Beast" was reprinted in "Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #13".
After this, "Arkright's Tale" ("No.472 Cheyne Walk") gives an outsider's view of the Captain as he tackles a threat to his ship by a long-dead sorcerer. In "The Vengeance Jar" he deals with a legacy left by his late employer, encountered briefly in Cats and Architecture, and has a kind of showdown with him. "The Dragon That Ate The Sun" (Supernatural Tales #6) takes him to France to encounter a horrid river-beast, a dead witch, and the power of myth.
The action of "Demon Weather", the first novel, takes place a couple of months later. Da Silva comes up against a sorcerer bent on taking revenge for events that occurred twenty years before, in the course of which he gains new allies including Isaac Zacuto, the ghost of a scholar murdered in the year 1508; Montague Pierce, and English-Brazilian antiquarian; John Yeoh, who can move in and out of time; and, by the end, even his enemy's daughter, the sword-fighting Teresa Batista. Yeoh's other talent is seeing people's souls: he says that da Silva has a paladin's soul, something that will give the Captain a lot of trouble ever afterwards. And Emilia gains the power to read minds. Da Silva also becomes re-acquainted with his father, estranged since he ran away to sea at the age of fourteen. He also ends up with an enduring foe, a fragment of one of the demons he killed, named Mouffi. As yet its powers are not very great, but it more than makes up for that in malice and inventiveness. This is one story arc that continues through at least the next three novels. Another is the conception of a significant child called Susana.
Following this da Silva takes on an ancient Egyptian sorceress in "Handwriting of the God" (Dark Terrors #6) while his son Zé -- with Harris's help -- becomes the protegé of a goddess (a mixed blessing at best) in "Zé and the Amulet" (Supernatural Tales #4).
A few months later the second novel, "The Werewolf of Lisbon", begins, introducing two significant story arcs, that of the Fisher King and the various factions angling for da Silva's services as their champion. The demon-fragment Mouffi makes its first attempts at avenging its 'parent', and da Silva's father discovers that he can make things happen by painting them. Including a woman named Alegria. Other new semi-regular characters include a police inspector, Corvo, an African shaman called Leão, and a girl, Sílvia, who becomes Zé's girlfriend. And Tatiana, the Russian witch from Past Acquaintances, has a significant part to play, not least going to hell to increase her powers and taking the Isabella and her crew on a voyage out of the world's oceans. The Big Bad of this story, an English politician and sorcerer, Sir Robert Munro, is thwarted in his ambition to become the new Fisher King, the land's mystical ruler. Harris, Leão, Tatiana, and Yeoh become the new guardians of the grail hallows. And Harris acquires a familiar spirit called Bonzo.
Subsequently the short story "Possession" takes da Silva on a transatlantic voyage dogged by a malevolent spirit out to possess his passenger.
"Resurrection", the third novel, takes place after this story. It sees the return of the sorcerer Batista as a vampire bent on decimating the city, who subsequently makes an unholy alliance with Mouffi. John Yeoh's wife is also raised from beneath the sea, bringing with her the elemental power of water. And Batista,a witch named Phyllis Viera, and two others are duped by an ancient god of war into trying to bring it back from a binding which was loosened by the spell Batista tried to work when he was alive. Zé learns he can control an elemental power of air, and all four elements are need to banish the god again. In the course of this the ghost Zacuto is destroyed, and the antiquarian Pierce gains access to his knowledge. Pierce, too, begins to have feelings for Teresa.
But first he has to be rescued from a mysterious organisation called the Order of Chorazin in the short story "María Lisboa", the antiquarian's first appearance outside the novels. Then Harris's tale is elaborated in the short story "Magnetic North", and the nature of his wolfhood revealed through an encounter with the trickster Coyote.
"The Vengeance Jar", "Possession", and "Magnetic North" all appear in THE VENGEANCE JAR & OTHER STORIES.
Harris is still resisting the implications of his discovery a few months later when "Sinned Against", the fourth novel, begins, but that is the least of anyone's worries in a state of affairs where everything is in flux. During the course of this tale most of the characters are harshly tested, da Silva's humanity is at risk, Harris has to confront the oldest evil of all, Zé's bond with the goddess battles with his feelings for Sílvia, Emilia is wrenched out of time, Pierce and Teresa's feeling for each other endanger their friends, and Mouffi instigates the summoning of seven demons whose appearance could trigger Armageddon.
"Heart of Darkness" is one of the most recent stories I wrote, though it deals with a time some years prior to "Cats". It may be the Captain's first encounter with the supernatural. Then again, it may not...
"Heart of Darkness" and "María Lisboa" appear in VISIONS & VOYAGES.
Details from David Longhorn, 291 Eastbourne Avenue, Gateshead NE8 4NN
"These are high-quality, literate, dramatic tales - exciting, scary at times and witty."
"Captain da Silva is a truly memorable character. What characters! Even the ghosts are three dimensional and fully developed!"
"I like your Captain da Silva and his determination to stay under sail. His character is well-rounded and has depth."
"I read the first story and my initial reaction was 'I want more!'"
"I look forward to reading more tales of the redoubtable Captain."
"A rollicking, rip roaring, good read."
SECOND SIGHT Stories: "Second Sight", "Past Acquaintances", "Pandora's Box", "Mark of the Beast" 70pp
THE VENGEANCE JAR Stories: "The Vengeance Jar", "Possession", "Magnetic North" 68pp
VISIONS & VOYAGES Stories: "Heart of Darkness", "How Hope Came Back", "The Absence of Dragons", "María Lisboa" 76pp
Review from ALL HALLOWS 32: The Journal of the Ghost Story Society Feb 2003
THE VENGEANCE JAR and Other Stories by Chico Kidd
Self-published, 2002; 6S pp; card covers; £4.50/US$8.00; no ISBN
Reviewed by Jim Rockhill
This is the second collection devoted to the adventures of Captain Luís da Silva, the Portuguese mariner, ghost-seer, and necromancer Chico Kidd introduced in 'Cats and Architecture' (Supernatural Tales #2, 2001). The first collection. Second Sight, contained four novellas, and this booklet collects another three. Several other tales have appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in a variety of magazines and anthologies. The author--known as A. F. Kidd to the readers of Ghosts & Scholars, her fine collection Summoning Knells, and the series of Carnacki pastiches she has written with Rick Kennett--has written three novels featuring Captain da Silva and is more than halfway through the fourth. As of this writing, none of these novels have found a publisher.
This is a pity, because these shorter tales are enjoyable romps through the dying days of sail in the first decades of the twentieth century, full of convincing nautical lore, spicy dialogue, interesting characters, and supernatural incidents. As fair play to the reader new to the series the repetition of similar background material concerning how the captain lost his eye, gained his supernatural abilities, acquired his second mate, and despises anything to do with slavery is unavoidable, and offers a reader the sense that the captain is narrating these adventures in the first-person instead of merely writing them down for later consumption by a wider audience. This is also made clear by the great number of asides accompanying the captain's statements. Nonetheless, encountering such repetitive background material thrice in the same booklet did become a little distracting, and I began to yearn for a longer narrative where such information could be introduced once and then taken for granted.
Thankfully, once the rules behind certain supernatural phenomena and tools have been established in one tale they are not explained again at length in another. Such explanation as is required in later tales is kept at a minimum and delivered piecemeal where relevant. For example, once the nature and efficacy of the captain's silvered blade have been described. Captain da Silva subsequently shows the device in action and only alludes to why this is so. As a man of action, he would rather show than tell, and has no patience with those too obtuse not to 'get it' the first time.
One of the most admirable aspects of these tales is the character of da Silva himself. He is a mass of contradictions, a jaundiced Romantic modelled somewhat in the mould of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: idealist and satirist, a man of few illusions who still clings to the way of the sailing vessel long after the age of steam has displaced it, a Catholic with no respect for institutionalised religion, a reluctant ghost-seer, a necromancer who despises the notion of slavery or of anyone forced under the will of another, a passionate man who has learned to regret his own violent past, but is compelled to respond to it. Other traces of Chandler, to whom Kidd acknowledges a debt in the introduction, also include the flashes of bitter insight ('Headstones are small enough things to be the only marker for one's life'), the ironic twist given a figure of speech ('(He) looked at me down his patrician nose as if I were some kind of repulsive offering brought in by the cat'), and the aptly ironic character description ('The first one had a bald head and a bushy beard which made him look as if his head was on upside-down'). Not that these hints of Chandler in any way suggest slavish imitation.
The elegance-amid-mire that characterises Chandler's prose is replaced here by the salty, choppy diction of the seaman, Marlowe's tendency towards ethical ruminations are almost completely absent from da Silva's personality (if we except his scruples over resorting to necromancy), and the captain shows no compunction against violence, resorting to it in an instant when he deems it necessary: Since Luís da Silva is no underdog, he is also less prone to make wisecracks, preferring to comment ironically on what he says by flanking spoken statements with asides. The man, his actions, his statements, and how he presents them to us seem natural outgrowths of each other.
As to the tales in the present booklet, each works more or less independently, but gains resonance from the other stories in the series. The opening tale, 'The Vengeance Jar', set in Lisbon and Venice, presents an interesting conceit involving captured souls stored for use as a weapon against those responsible for their death. The author handles the image of ghosts walking unaware of their state and what happens when this state is altered with great finesse; however, although this is a very good tale with an effective development and denouement, it is the one tale in the book in which the introduction of background material from earlier tales in the series is most distracting. Sometimes the details reintroduced from 'Cats and Architecture1, and I suspect other sources, clarify the action, but sometimes they create a welter of cross-references that can be difficult to follow, as if we are plunged into the middle of a novel with enough knowledge to guess at everything that is happening, but not enough to be certain we may not be missing something. This was my favourite tale in the collection, but I could not escape the sense that it was part of a greater whole, the full resonance of which could only be captured in a longer work. I imagine this tale would work better when placed in sequence, so that the references to the prior tales could be reworked and made to fit more naturally.
'Possession', set on the captain's barque the Isabella^ again refers to earlier tales in the series, but is less dependent upon them and is thus better able to stand alone. Kidd does an excellent job of keeping us guessing as to the nature of the possession and how all of the supernatural phenomena surrounding them are related.
The first tale had featured da Silva alone, the second both the captain and his theriomorphic second mate, Harris. 'Magnetic North', set in and around Boston, is as much about Harris as it is about his captain, and as a result the narrative structure is less straightforward than in the other tales. Da Silva narrates most of the tale, but we view those scenes taking place in his absence from a third-person viewpoint with some access to Harris's thoughts. This shift works during the course of the tale, but nagging questions arose after I had finished reading as to how either da Silva could have been privy to this information or this other narrator had made an appearance. Amid a plot involving goons attempting to collect on Harris's past debts, the appearance of Harris's father to warn that his mother is in peril from the trickster god Coyote, a Native American shaman named Grey Wolf, a journey into the forest primeval, and the difficulty of navigating in an enchanted place, Harris's two familiars make an appearance. The tale is full of effective scenes and imaginative descriptions of otherworldly events, but those familiars bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the sidekicks in a Disney film.
As with virtually all weird fiction following the adventures of one character, theseare adventure tales first and supernatural tales second. Therefore the reader should recognise that as thrilling and enthralling as the events described in this book may be, there is very little terror in them, because our sympathy is focused almost exclusively on the narrator, whose survival is obvious, even those manifestations which defeat him will be codified and countered appropriately the next time he encounters them, and--contra Sitwell and Aickman--in the end it is not the mystery, but the solution that remains. For every mystery there is a solution, but sometimes we are offered more than that. It is interesting to note that as late as 'Magnetic North' da Silva is still discovering the full implications of what occurred the day he gained his powers.
With each new tale, the world in which this intriguing mariner lives and moves becomes both more elaborate and ever more clear. There is even the hint of a subtext. Am I alone in seeing a slender thread of melancholy underlying the series which hints that just as new supernatural mysteries present themselves for solution, the world slips closer to the chaos of a great engulfing war destined to change this way of life forever?
Surely by now some enterprising publisher has had sufficient time and sense to seize upon the opportunity of publishing the novels in this series. The shorter tales offer ample demonstration of Captain Luís da Silva's skill and charm; I look forward to seeing what the captain is capable of achieving when given sufficient room to swagger.