Thursday, 27 October 2016

The 100 Greatest Ghost Stories (Part 4)

 The final twenty-five! It's the final countdown! (Oh great, now Shim will be singing Europe for days...)

Anyhow, a whole bunch of stories from The Big Five (James, Benson, Blackwood, Hartley and Burrage) fight out for the top spot, alongside one or two tales by lesser known writers which should be far better known.

The top slot won't be a surprise to anyone who knows me, but there are some fantastic stories in this final list which I heartily recommend.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The 100 Greatest Short Ghost Stories (part 3)

50. Algernon Blackwood - The Willows

There was a radio DJ once, possibly Tiger Tim, who said of the band Big Country that "listening to their music was like someone had opened a window on a drafty day". Blackwood's writing has much the same effect, steeped in the culture and climate of his locations, and so ethereal, that our characters are haunted by the gloomy outdoors long before any spirits appear. Here we never see a ghost, and indeed, we never get a character's name, and yet the anxiety and trepidation build. Our two men take a trip down the River Danube, and find themselves by the Austria/Hungary border. Now this area takes in Slovakia as well, but we're most likely talking about the area running along the border of the two countries south of Bratislava.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The 100 Greatest Short Ghost Stories (part 2)

At these times, I am reminded of the warning words of one M.R. James:

"What tosh, by the way, critics do write. Here I find a passage quoted from one Loveman(2) who says "In Poe one finds (it*) a tour de force, in Maupassant a nervous engagement of the flagellated climax. To Bierce, simply & sincerely, diabolism held in its tormented depths a legitimate and reliant means to the end". This appears to me to have no meaning."
M.R. James, in letter to Nicholas Llewellyn Davies, 12 January 1928, reproduced by Jack Adrian and reprinted by Rosemary Pardoe.

More of my own "tosh" follows...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The 100 Greatest Short Ghost Stories (Part 1)

There was a problem with writing up a countdown of the M.R. James Collected Ghost Stories. It was akin to open Pandora's Box, when I mentioned it to Mandy, she said "Yeah but he's not your favourite writer, is he?" She Who Must Be Obeyed is of course right, and I alluded to it earlier, but then this made my rather list orientated brain wonder how a ranking of *all* the great short horror I've read would look.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

M.R. James

What a year 2016 has been. Are we still here?

Jon Kaneko-James suggested that I do some Hallowe'en style writing, and, being out of practice due to ill health, I've reverted to the list. It been the October month, I was thinking about ghosts, as you do, and thinking about ghosts drags me, as usual, to M.R. James.

“I assume, of course, that the writer will have got his central idea before he undertakes the story at all. Let us, then, be introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage. It is not amiss sometimes to leave a loophole for a natural explanation; but, I would say, let the loophoole be so narrow as not to be quite practicable.”
M.R. James