Thursday, 25 February 2016

Ghostly Encounters

Susan Dickinson (ed)

Armada Lion

A year or so ago I read another anthology edited by Susan Dickinson called Ghostly Experiences which was a very fine read that boasted a beautifully drawn cover. Both books were taken from a single hardcover volume called 'The Restless Ghost'. It would seem that that other volume hogged the limelight as it is a vastly superior set to this but that isn't to say there's little to recommend here.

Opening the proceedings is indeed Leon Garfield's, 'The Restless Ghost' which tells of a prank that leads to unexpected consequences of fear and redemption in a story where the innocuous illustrations belie the truly terrible fate facing it's prankster protagonist.

Up next is a staple of these anthologies, W.W. Jacobs' 'The Monkey's Paw' where greed and wishes are shown to be unfortunate bedfellows, particularly for your offspring.

L.P. Hartley is an author that I've encountered a few times and who has yet to grab me. I thought his 'Feet Foremost' would be the one to finally do so as it's a nicely desperate and tense haunted house story that keeps you on tenterhooks right up until it falls apart in it's finale.

W.F. Harvey
 'August Heat' by W.F. Harvey on the other hand has a suitably creepy premise that is absolutely nailed at the end in a manner that reminded me of those 'Tales of the Unexpected' episodes where it's shown that you can't cheat fate.

'The Return of the Native' by William Croft Dickinson is a supernatural revenge tale that is entertaining enough but is a little too breathless in it's headlong charge to the end to be wholly satisfying. It's followed by 'Coincidence' by A.J. Alan (a Bletchley Park cryptogrtapher during WWII) which has a fun little idea at it's heart and is realised well but is a tad too obvious to really satisfy.

The ubiquitous M.R. James tale is up next with 'The Rose Garden'. For me one of his weaker stories that never really manages to build into the genuinely creepy atmosphere he was so accomplished at.

To end, the book leaves the realm of the supernatural altogether with Kenneth Wyatt's ghost dance tale 'Ghost Riders of the Sioux' which tells of two settler family's experiences around the time of the Sioux nations adoption of the Ghost Dance movement. It's an interesting read but entirely out of place here.

As I said earlier a mixed bag and certainly the poorer relation to the other volume but not entirely without merit.

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