S02E27 The Spider by Basil Copper

The Spider by Basil Copper

@stuieburley on Twitter put me onto Basil Copper. He had recommended the Janissaries of Emilion. I’d never heard of Basil so I got a Kindle Edition of The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper which includes that story. However, it is long. I may do it another time, but for this week I selected a shorter story. But it’s a good one.

Basil Copper was born in 1924 and lived until 2013 when he died aged 89! He was born in London, England.

His first story was published in March 1938, the Magazine of the Tonbridge Senior Boys School. Tonbridge is in Kent, and when I was a boy we went on an exchange visit to Kent. Most schools in England went to foreign countries but the trip from Cumberland to Kent, England’s most northwesterly county to England most southeasterly county, was enough of a culture shock for us.

He is most famous for his stories featuring the character Solar Pons. This character was created by August Derleth, H P Lovecraft’s protege, and is very much in the Lovecraftian tradition of authors sharing worlds and characters between their stories. Copper was published by the Arkham House publishing house, run by August Derleth. Many of Copper’s stories feature the Cthulhu Mythos. 

Despite his links with the Cthulhu Mythos, Copper admitted that his influences were M R James and Edgar Allan Poe and he was interested in Gothic literature. 

The Spider is a phobia story. It’s very cleverly written, neat and effective. In that it reminds me of Marghatina Laski’s The Tower where the phobia is vertigo. Here it is arachnophobia. Turns out that the landlord of the wayside auberge just south of Paris has a skin for picking up on a visitor’s fears and killing the visitor via heart attack by inducing the phobia. The insect horror theme is of course featured in Boomerang by Oscar Cook.

This story appears in the 1964 Pan Book of Horror Stories. He was paid £10 for the story. 

Copper lived at Sevenoaks in Kent and founded the Tunbridge Wells Vintage Film Society. He was a movie buff and a member of several societies related to films. 

His wife was French and he is clearly familiar with the county in which The Spider is set. Apparently the story idea came from a spider that was in a room in a hotel he and his wife stayed in while on holiday in Paris. He met his wife and married in her in 1960 when she was in England learning English.

His first novel was actually a detective story

Copper was very prolific and in addition to his weird tales and novels he wrote 58 detective novels set in LA. When he wrote the first novels, he had never visited the city and used maps and films to provide background. 

He worked as a journalist, running a county paper at the age of 17. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and took part in the D-Day landings. 

Music by

The Heartwood Institute

The final tune is by Michael Romeo of Dvoynik

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