Cold Hand in Mine is a 1976 book of weird fiction short stories by Robert Aickman. I don't generally like short stories, but Aickman's are unusual. from the back of the book:
Aickman's "strange stories" (his preferred term) are constructed immaculately, the neuroses of his characters painted in subtle shades. He builds dread by the steady accrual of realistic detail, until the reader realises that the protagonist is heading towards their doom as if in a dream.My favorites from this collection are "The Real Road to the Church" which begins,
Cold Hand in Mine, first published in 1975, stands as one of Aikman's finest collections and contains eight tales including "Pages from a Young Girl's Journal" which won the World Fantasy Award.
But was that the true meaning? Le vrai chemin de l'nglise? The overtones of symbolism and conversion seemed clear enough, but Rosa still rather wondered whether the significance of the phrase was not wholly topographical. One could so easily read far too much into the traditional usages of simple people.and "The Same Dog" which begins,
Probably all that was meant was the simplest and directest route (and perhaps the ancientest); the alternative to the new (but no longer very new) and metalled main road that wound along the borders of properties, instead of creeping through them. Though by now, Rosa reflected, all roads had begun to barge through once again, and no longer went courteously around and about. Very much so: that, she thought, was symbolic, if anything was. Of everything: of the changed world outside and also of her own questionable place in it. But when one began to think in that way, all things become symbolic of all other things. Not that that was in itself untrue: though it was only one truth, of course. And when one admitted that there were many truths existing concurrently, upon which of them could one possibly be thought to stand firm - let alone, to rest? Almost certainly, the simple people who used that phrase, gave no thought at all to its meaning. It was a convention only, as are the left hand side and the right. Conventions are, indeed, all that shield us from the shivering void, though often they do so but poorly and desperately
Though there were three boys, there were also twelve long years between Hilary Brigstock and his immediately elder brother, Gilbert. On the other hand, there was only one year and one month between Gilbert and the future head of the family, Roger.The Short Review says it "is one of the author’s best known books, featuring eight classy stories which offer a fascinating showcase of Aickman’s cryptic but enticing narrative style" and concludes, "Lovers of contemporary dark fiction should not miss this splendid book, a fully enjoyable , unique reading experience providing full evidence that life’s dark corners are much more scary than monsters, zombies and werewolves."
Hilary could not remember when first the suggestion entered his ears that his existence was the consequence of a "mistake". Possibly he had in any case hit upon the idea already, within his own head. Nor did his Christian name help very much: people always supposed it to be the name of a girl, even though his father asserted loudly on all possible occasions that the idea was a complete mistake, a product of etymological and historical ignorance, and of typical modern sloppiness.
And his mother was dead. He was quite unable to remember her, however hard he tried; ashe from time to time did. Because his father never remarried, having as clear and definite vi-ews about women as he had about many other things, Hilary grew up against an almost enti-rely male background.
Kirkus Reviews closes their review with this:
Aickman writes far richer, subtler prose than most super-horror practitioners; in place of terrifying climaxes and satisfyingly releasing denouements (which many will miss), he offers inventions that puzzle--and sometimes confuse--from beginning to end and don't really frighten unless and until their unanswered questions creep back into consciousness.Horror News says,
Discovering Aickman delivers that kind of virgin-territory thrill, albeit a more genteel experience. Aickman’s stories aren’t about zombies and demons and gore and blood. You certainly won’t be screaming in terror. But you may look a little paler after reading. And he’ll certainly take you to the dark places in the mind that you’re not sure you really want to visit.