Kiss Kiss is the third collection of short stories published by legendary children’s author Roald Dahl. Like his first two collections, however, these are not stories intended for children, but rather have come to represent the iconic and definitive concept of what a Dahl story written for adult looks like. The book was published in early 1960 by Knopf and is comprised of eight stories which had previously been published in magazines along with four others seeing the first light of day within this bound volume.
As the title might indicate, the bulk of these stories deal with the entanglements of romantic relationships. Equally binding is the tone and atmosphere of the macabre which creates in many of them the sense of dread which would come to distinguish Dahl’s fiction for grown-ups as opposed to those stories written for children. While Dahl’s kiddie lit is certainly populated with strange characters and often grotesque situations, it is the intensified and heightened level of pure creepiness as exemplified throughout these stories that marks the difference.
For instance, few would argue that there is something sinister about Willy Wonka, but it is a quality of sinister still appropriate for kids. By contrast, the ending of “Royal Jelly” or practically any random paragraph in the persistently disturbing Freudian psycho-sexual drama “Georgy Porgy” are more than sinister enough to ensure nightmares for many adults, much less kids.
While Dahl’s first two collection of short stories had both been well-received by critics in America, it was really not until the publication of Kiss Kiss that the legend he would become worldwide began to kick off. British reviewers who had previously been lukewarm gushed over the devastating leap forward in Dahl’s subtle ability to create an atmosphere of ever-increasing dread. The story which kicks off the collection, “The Landlady” earned Dahl an Edgar Award for the best mystery story of the year.
Several other stories have been adapted for television at least once and often several times over the years, including “The Way Up to Heaven,” “Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat,” and “William and Mary.” Interestingly, a 1979 British television adaptation of “William the Conqueror” ends with the husband dead and the cat alive in a completely ironic reversal of Dahl’s original conclusion.