Wednesday 22 June 2016

Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre

Algernon Blackwood
Spring Books

I've been slowly working my way through this sizeable hardback for a few months now reading a couple of stories and then shelving it for a week or two. I've mentioned here before about my long held dislike for reading anthologies of short stories which is a prejudice I've had to overcome over the last few years since starting to read more and more of these period strange stories.  Out of these anthologies the name Algernon Blackwood was one that held a particular appeal.  He has a name that seems expressly designed to be that of an author of weird fiction and his photos make him look like a magician.  He's a regular in anthologies so stories by him weren't hard to track down and the more I read the more I wanted to read and finding a copy of the 'Ancient Sorceries and Other Stories' Penguin paperback in a charity shop only helped stimulate this interest.  So, stumbling across this 400 page anthology was a happy day indeed.

Published in 1967 by Spring Books it contains 23 tales of the odd, the uncanny and the unnatural.  The stories in this volume are decidedly less spooky than the ones I've read previously although there is a strong undercurrent of the strange and the inexplicable but these are far more of the weird fiction genre than the ghostly.

Within its pages lie various pieces of treasure; a delightfully odd encounter for Blackwood's occult detective Dr. John Silence with a man who is 'A Victim of Higher Space', the strangely enchanting tale of a brother and sisters experience of a house filled with 'The Damned', a sacrificial tale involving the old gods of the sea in 'The Sea Fit', a tale about the transcendent powers of nature in 'The Golden Fly' and a rather lovely tale of cross generational help in 'The Other Wing'.

The collection is crammed full of enticing oddities all written with Blackwood's characteristic charm and readability.  Personally I have a marked fondness for the more ghostly side of his work but on the whole this collection turned out to be one of beauty and intriguing profundity.


  1. What a strange coincidence - I found this very same book / edition in a second hand bookshop about a month ago and added it on my burgeoning "to read" pile.

    I must admit that I find Blackwood's "haunted house" archetype stories to be a bit dull, but his "powers of nature" ones are usually riveting.

    1. hi Ben

      ha ha, cool. Any 'to read' pile worth it's salt should be burgeoning.

      I hope you enjoy it. i thought the John Silence story alone was worth the price i paid for the book but i do love an occult detective story.

      Also, in case you didn't know, there's a companion volume to this one. same cover art but in green and called 'Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural'.