‘Judderman’ by D.A. Northwood

by Timothy J Jarvis

judderman

It was an astrological conjunction that led me to the work of D.A. Northwood, that of Sagittarius and the Pleiades. I was walking up from Highbury Corner to meet with friends in the Archer pub on Seven Sisters Road, when I realized I was a little early and decided to kill some time browsing the wares at the much lamented Fantasy Centre bookshop on Holloway Road.

I’d been in there about ten minutes, running my eye along the shelves, when a title leapt out at me, ‘What Never Was’, a phrase which chimed with a refrain then going round my head, a line from a nursery rhyme I’d heard some children chanting outside my flat at dusk the previous day: ‘This is the thing that never was.’ I didn’t recognize the author’s name.

I took the book from the shelf. The cover was lurid in that way of ’70s horror paperbacks – a London skyline at night, the dome of St Pauls prominent at the centre, with a dark, writhen talon reaching down out of the starry firmament to rake the rooftops. Lurid, but accurate in its way, as I would find out later that evening after drinks, when looking through the book before going to sleep, having, intrigued, bought it – accurate, for all the stories within told of a London beset by evil. But evils of a much more subtle, ambiguous kind than that suggested by the black claw on the cover. With many of them, in particular the masterful, ‘The Voice of Finsbury Park’, it’s hard for the reader to pinpoint exactly what has given rise to the sense of lingering unease. A personal favourite, ‘Darkling’, is about nothing more than the narrator’s increasing irritation at a songbird who sings outside her flat in the night – yet despite that, the tale is suffused with dread.

I spend some time researching Northwood, but could turn up nothing much. It seems that the name was probably a pseudonym. But I did encounter rumours of another work, a novella entitled ‘Judderman’, available only to subscribers to a private publisher called the Eden Book Society. The rumours were of a tale of a brother lost to a ‘London Incognita’, of an entity, the titular Judderman, all decay and splinters and dread who stalks the places between places, of a terrible and mournful beast dredged up from the Pleistocene who haunts dreams…

I’ve never found a copy of that novella. But now some of the Eden Books list, including ‘Judderman’ is being reprinted by Dead Ink Books, and this strange and harrowing lost work of London weird will be available once more. There are more details of the project, and of the other books being republished, here.