What’s In Room 309 of The Hyde Hotel?
‘Lost and Found’ is my contribution to the anthology The Hyde Hotel edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth and published by Black Shuck Books. The story is about a reader’s admiration for a writer whose books were published by a small press several decades ago. The writer’s output was modest, only three novels. And in the years since her death her work has gone out of print and is now largely forgotten. The reader stumbles upon these books in a used bookstore in the United States. Taking a rare vacation this woman of modest means who never does anything adventurous has uncharacteristically booked accommodations at the Hyde Hotel where her idol grew up and wrote her books. ‘Lost and Found’ is about marginal existence and the way in which so many artists fade away and are never fully appreciated because they didn’t leave as bold or as distinctive a mark as they hoped. Yet they may be greatly loved and appreciated by a reader whose discovery of their work is entirely by chance.
The idea at the core of ‘Lost and Found’ first occurred to me while researching a thesis topic in graduate school. I was perusing the university library’s extensive collection of small press magazines. They dated back many years and I thought it would be interesting to read the early works of authors who went on to be influential and well known.
As I leafed through one volume after another I began to realize I didn’t recognize a very large percentage of the names listed. Wandering back into the stacks I saw row after row, shelf after shelf of these beautiful, well-edited magazines. And I thought how extraordinary it was that most of the writers represented there had stopped writing, stopped being published, moved away from fiction into more lucrative or steady careers like advertising or teaching, or had simply been forgotten.
Years later when the editors of The Hyde Hotel invited me to submit a story and explained how the hotel would be a shared setting with layers of history and overlapping lives, my imagination wandered back to that moment in the university library when I realized the ephemeral nature of most fiction. At the same time I thought of writers I admire—Beryl Bainbridge came to mind—whose work was unique and brilliant but who didn’t receive quite enough of the standard accolades or didn’t become quite popular enough to make them household names. I’m not ignoring Bainbridge’s DBE or posthumous Booker Prize recognition, only noting how much more her contribution merits. I don’t believe Bainbridge will be forgotten but I’m sure some of her contemporaries have faded from view, and these were the individuals I had in mind when I created the writer in my story.
The idea that one person whose existence is marginal and ignored might come to worship the author of a handful of out-of-print books, and find meaning and solace by following the author’s footsteps through the places where she’s left little trace—this was the seed for ‘Lost and Found.’ The story presents readers with a sad yet (I hope) true connection in spirit between these two mostly forgotten women, reader and author, reflecting one another.
— S.P. Miskowski
S.P. Miskowski’s novel Knock Knock and novella Delphine Dodd (both published by Omnium Gatherum) were finalists for the Shirley Jackson Award. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Static, Supernatural Tales, Identity Theory, Other Voices, Nightmare Magazine, and in the anthologies October Dreams 2, Cassilda’s Song, The Hyde Hotel, Sisterhood, Autumn Cthulhu, Little Visible Delight, Monsters Rebuilt, and Leaves of a Necronomicon. Her novelette Muscadines is part of the Dunhams Manor Press hardcover series illustrated by Dave Felton, and her chapbook Stag in Flight, illustrated by Nick Gucker, is forthcoming from Dim Shores.