Judderman by D.A. Northwood
London, early-1970s. In a city plagued by football violence, Republican bombings, blackouts and virulent racism, a new urban myth is taking hold. Among the broken down estates, crumbling squats and failed projects of a dying metropolis, whispered sightings of a malevolent figure nicknamed the Judderman are spreading. A manifestation of the sick psyche of a city, or something else?
When I first read that brief synopsis of Juddeman, I knew I had to find the work of D.A. Northwood. I had been lucky enough to track down one of his short-fiction collections, after a long and frustrating search online and in every secondhand book store I could find (that turned up many other great books but never the one I was truly looking for). That collection was called What Never Was, and I loved it – here was a writer clearly working in the tradition of people like C.L. Nolan, Arthur Machen, Elizabeth Butts and Hecate Shrike, but using the milieu he knew personally i.e. the London of the late 60s/early70s as the setting for these weird, folk-horror, dark fantasy stories.
What Never Was contains some phenomenal works of short fiction such as 'Saxifraga Urbium', 'Blitz Rubble', and 'The Voice of Finsbury Park'. But at the back of the book it also advertised a novella called Judderman, only available as part of something called the Eden Book Society.
Finding that would become nigh-on impossible, especially when I discovered the society was defunct, the books printed in startlingly limited editions, and the fact that Northwood was in all likelihood a pseuodynym. I put thoughts of Judderman aside, thinking it was lost to the ages; until now.
Dead Ink Books have managed to acquire the entire list of these obscure and highly sought-after literary works of horror and will be publishing, I am delighted to say, Judderman!
They are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to riase the funds to bring Northwood and a whole host of forgotten writers back to the reading public. Please consider helping out!
I have been lucky enough to look over some of the original material by Northwood that we located through means far too complicated to go into here – just trust me when I say it was worth it. Here is a brief extract that hopefully gives a flavour:
The Judderman is born from brick and fright. The Judderman is the hate that bubbles up between the cracks in the tarmac and spills over into riot, blood, spilled fluid. He is the dereliction of the decaying city of London. Observe the shadows cast by the city’s crippled buildings, designed sober and built drunk, and you’ll find him crouching in twitching anticipation with the rats and needles and the abstract patterns of broken glass. The architecture of brick and stone rot in a metropolitan hangover and the Judderman is your stale beer breath the morning after the night before, the blood flowing from your gums as you scrub, and the overflowing ashtray unemptied and stained with black. He is the rattle in your chest. The damp in your bones. He’s that little old lady —you think you knew her somehow in childhood—who was found keeled over and her head cracked like an overboiled egg. She slipped on ice in that bad winter a few years back. You remember the one.
You think you can decode messages in the gum that sticks to the pavement, see pyramids and temples form in the piles of crushed cigarette butts in the smoke-stanined pubs. The dark stains left by spilled beer on threadbare carpets assume the aspects of faces, and it is there you see the Judderman also.
He is a rotten wooden windowsill that disintegrates into dust and flakes when you grasp it. He is the holes and tunnels dug by masonry bees that undermine and riddle our homes. The Judderman is the pigeon with rotten stumps for legs, hopping around in decreasing spirals for the amusement of idiots in Trafalgar Square.
He is in the fragments of a pint glass pulled from a man’s face in A&E on a Saturday night. He is the boot boy’s steel capped boot as it connects with bone. He is the policeman’s baton and the grey-brown dust encrusted on a black maria with CLEAN ME thumbed in the dirt. Once you know about the Judderman, you see him everywhere; and I see him everywhere.
Like I said, the Judderman is a London thing.