Thursday, 5 January 2017

Great Ghost Stories

Readers Digest

A volume which brings together 46 of the very best ghost stories ever written and includes classic works from masters of intrigue like M. R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Ambrose Bierce, Edith Nesbit and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Readers Digest is one of those things that exists around you without ever really making any noticeable impact on your life.  I see their books occasionally and I remember a Simpsons episode where Homer got hooked on one but apart from that they're just one of those companies that exist somewhere doing something for someone who isn't me.  So, it was a bit of a shock when I stumbled upon this fantastic tome of an anthology.

Elizabeth Jane Howard
Handily presented in alphabetical order the book provides us with a veritable who's who of ghostly fiction with stories from the likes of Robert Aickman, Algernon Blackwood, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, both the James' (M.R. & Henry), Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker most of whom can be pretty much expected to make an appearance alongside less common compatriots such as Lord Dunsany here represented by the lovely 'Autumn Cricket', Cynthia Asquith's tale of redemption in 'The Corner Shop', Walter de la Mare's 'Seaton's Aunt' and the Chinese whispers of Emile Zola's 'Angeline, or the Haunted House'.

There's also a fine selection of stories by writers I was utterly unfamiliar with like Shamus Frazer whose 'Florinda' is a wonderfully macabre tale of an angry and vengeful spirit, Elizabeth Jane Howard who tells in 'Three Miles Up' an intriguing tale of friendship, enigmatic strangers and the perils of journeying into the unknown or Marghanita Laski whose short but terrifying 'The Tower' is a real highlight in a book filled with creepy delights.

Marghanita Laski
This is a book that offers a veritable cornucopia of goodies and achieves an easy balance between the old, the new, the classic and the unknown.  It doesn't let itself get too hidebound by the word 'Ghosts' in the title and includes stories - like 'The Tower', 'Three Miles Up' or 'Ringing the Changes'- that are far from typical of the genre yet are intrinsically part of it's very fabric.

Opening the book and seeing the huge number of authors I knew I was going to enjoy working my way through it.  Just how much I enjoyed it though was a real treat to discover.

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