Monday, 23 October 2017

GHOST STORIES - M.R. JAMES Book of the Week

Book Cover - The Folio Society, London 2017 edition of M.R. James GHOST STORIES
M.R. James - Ghost Stories
Hardcover: 273 pages 
Publisher: The Folio Society 2017 
Language: English 
Illustrations by James McBryde reproduced courtesy of King's College, Cambridge


16 short stories. On AllHallow's Eve, 1904 M. R. James said this about his stories 'If any of them succeed in causing their readers to feel unpleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained'.

1. Canon Alberic's Scrapbook - is set in St. Bertrand's Church near Toulouse, 1883. An Englishman, when visiting the church, is encouraged to buy an old notebook (see illustration below)
Ghost Theme is connected to two sheets of paper that the buyer finds at the end of the book

Illustration by James McBryd reproduced courtesy of King's College, Cambridge

2. Lost Hearts - the year is 1811 and an elderly cousin invites a young orphan boy to live at his home
Ghost Theme is the traditional creepy house setting with strange happenings occurring

3. The Mezzotint is a horror short story that centres around an old engraving
Ghost Theme is of a vengeful ghost who has a score to settle

4.  The Ash-Tree is a witch's story. A story about myth and legend and often about what the view from the window of the house presents 
Ghost Theme -there's a clue in the title

5. Number 13 A scary tale of a mystery room in an Inn. After confusion and weird happenings at the Golden Lion, Jensen and Anderson share the Number 14 Room for the night
Ghost Theme - this is a proper ghost story actually, that allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions 

6. Count Magnus Bram Stoker's Dracula would have been in the public domain at the time of writing this short story . This is James's take on a Gothic style horror
Ghost Theme - a vampire story more like, and when Wraxall sees two figures in cloaks from his coach he knows he's doomed

7. Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad It's like another Victorian explorer story. A scholarly type, with his skepticism and disregard for the sacred, unearths inscriptions on an ancient ruin. So from there on in it's bad news for the professor. 
Ghost Theme See what happens! He's cursed! He'll be forever haunted

 8. The Treasure of Abbot Thomas strange words and letters form clues left by a disgraced Abbot leads to a dreadful place rather than a pot at the end of a rainbow
Ghost Theme here, better described as a supernatural theme, and the story is about one man's effort to rationalize all of the freaky happenings

9. A School Story a creepy tale involving school master, Mr Samson, who brings up a Latin phrase in class. When his pupils hand in their papers, he has an extra paper, one with a different Latin phrase written on it. Next day Mr Samson has gone, and he never returns
Ghost Theme is a cruel prediction that comes true

10. The Rose Garden as you might guess all is not rosy in this garden
Ghost Theme is connected to a seventeenth century burial

11. The Tractate Middoth Young Garrett is searching for a book in the library on someone's behalf. A smelly, rather dusty Parson is interested in the same book. Garrett meets a family caught in a legal wrangle. A Will is missing
Ghost Theme enters this three way story which involves the dust of a dead man, found on the face and inside the mouth of another man who has just died

12. Casting the Runes That awful Mr Karswell! He is unpleasant and frightening to the children. Best not be critical of his work. Do you know what happened to the last person who reviewed his book! Yes, that's right, he died.
Ghost Theme with a twist

13. The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral Another cathedral set short story where there has been a mystery death, and another with a gorgeously authentic story book title.
Ghost Theme a murder mystery better describes this one

14. Martin's Close The jury's in and Martin (Pris) stands accused of the murder of young, Ann Clark
Ghost Theme the jury's out when an apparition of Ann (visible only to Martin) makes him appear distracted and behave guiltily about the crime during his time in the dock

15. Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance being the beneficiary of his uncle's estate, strange secrets are unfolding, like a mystery maze for example. A Yew tree (Yews a common feature in James's stories) and shrubbery are on Humphrey's mind. Feeling tired and anxious when tracing a plan for Lady Wardrop he eventually finds himself confined to bed after a shock.
Ghost Theme comes in the shape of strange occurances

16 A Warning to the Curious a seaside setting, involving a death (or two), an Anglo-Saxon crown and mound; a night time expedition and a murder. 
Ghost Theme two sets of tracks in the sand: 'the track of a bare foot, and one that showed more bones than flesh' sums it up


Also available this autumn by The Folio Society Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None
Illustrations by David Lupton 

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