It was a surprisingly warm day in November as we waited for the door of the Charter Hall in Colchester. As I looked around those also waiting, there seemed to be a gathering of alternatives, some more subtle than the others.
We are all here for the same thing: Garth Marenghi, doom scriber and prophet. I wonder how many amongst us were other Dreamweavers, like myself, hoping to gain some insight on how to be a master or, in my case, a mistress of the macabre. Of course, Marenghi had spent some time in the creative wilderness after the infamous way that Channel 4 treated his influential TV series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (and the strange disappearance of Madeleine Wool).
However, Marenghi eventually returned to writing, possibly being fed from another dimension, and became Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome. Marenghi went on tour with the novel, raising awareness of his genius and answering some questions from the audience. This was so successful (it was a Sunday Times bestseller) that Marenghi soon followed up with Incarcerat, aka TerrorTome Two. And that was where I entered the picture.
Incarcerat follows famous horror writer Nick Steen (returning from TerrorTome), who had been kidnapped and held captive at Nulltec. At this sinister technological research facility, he is examined, experimented on and ‘interfered with’. Steen talks like those pulpy paperbacks from the 1970s. But, of course, that is the point; it is riotously bad. It feels like a first draft, but it is evident that every word has been chosen specifically.
In many ways, Marenghi is the horror version of Tommy Cooper. Cooper acts as a ‘bad magician’, but everything he does ‘wrong’ is not random but chosen explicitly for the most impact. Marenghi makes bad writing seem effortless, hiding the talent it takes to reach the depths he will go. Marenghi feels comfortable on the stage, declaring himself the ‘Archduke of Darkdom’. This could be seen as an inflated ego for some, but only to those who do not understand the man.
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He may still be whipping up more absurd purple prose, but I love every moment.
The stage was dressed with only a couple of chairs and a table, his book and abridged version in a Sainsbury’s bag, but most importantly, his intelligence. Marenghi spends the evening reading an abridged version of the first two stories from Incarcaret. In the first story, ‘Portuntum’, we discover that Steen is a sole survivor of a plane crash (also the pilot) that follows the plot of The Portentor.
This is happening because TerrorTome has all his stories becoming reality. It seems death is bored of chasing teenagers, not reaching their final destination, to chase Steen.
The second story, ‘Arabella Mathers’, is an exaggerated Gothic melodrama. The novel has such profound prose that you can create the images in his mind’s eyes, brought to life by the dark artist himself, including a horrific transformation. The audience is left in stitches.
The second half was taken up by the final story of Incarcerat – the most memorable one – ‘The Randyman’, Freddy Kruger’s dream demon in the form of a flasher. There is a chance that this could be turned into a film. Therefore, Margenghi got two audience members up to audition for two of the characters, recurring character Roz Bloom, editor and former lover to Nick Steen and Mike Crisis, a hapless doctor who was more of a hindrance than a help in an emergency.
Between this and the Q&A that followed, it showed that the audience lacked the academic expertise of the master on stage. However, like all good things, it must come to an end. And while Marenghi stayed to sign books with more words of wisdom, giving us a portal into the horror-erotic world of Margenghi – something to keep the creepy fires burning over the coming months – I had to return to reality.
My partner came with me, as they are a fan of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, but not much of a horror reader. And, while he was never bored, he was not getting as much out of it as I was. It is so bad that it becomes genius again. However, it may not be for everyone.
Garth Marenghi’s Incarcerat book tour continues around the UK in 2024.
We’ll survive if we all just stick together!
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