Robert Aickman: An Attempted Biography by R.B. Russell
Hardcover – Tartarus Press – Jan 2022 – 396 pages
Robert Aickman (1914-1981) is remembered today as the author of fascinating ‘strange stories’, and also as one of the saviours of Britain’s inland waterways. In Aickman’s mind these two apparently different interests were allied; he was an idealist and a Romantic who sought the ‘world elsewhere’ of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, because the modern world was not for him. Aickman believed that an alternative realm could exist in life and the creative arts, and he sought to offer this in his fiction, and to build a Utopia through the restoration of Britain’s inland waterways.
Aickman wrote two volumes of autobiography, The Attempted Rescue and The River Runs Uphill, and both are full of colourful personal details. However, his own versions of events cannot always be relied upon.
In this first full biography of Robert Aickman, R.B. Russell disentangles and examines the myths that have surrounded Aickman and his life. What is revealed is a man of vision and various talents. Determined to realise his ambitions, he often made enemies, but he also had a great capacity for love and friendship. Robert Aickman’s life and attitudes were far from conventional, but his legacy in literature and on the inland waterways of Britain is far-reaching.