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Autumn reading

I haven't posted here in a while and that's because I've mostly been reading full length novels rather than short stories. Recently though, I've been doing a Halloween book challenge which started on the 1st. September and finishes on the 31st. October. One of the books I read for this challenge, last week, was The Ghost Stories of M.R. James, selected by Michael Cox. Now, I know it's early for halloween reading but anyone who fancies an autumnal, 'curl up by the fire' sort of story with a supernatural bent could do a lot worse than find a volume of M.R. James stories, find a comfy chair, turn down the lights, and enjoy some spine tingling reading.

There are also quite a few stories for free here:


I recommend 'Ghost Stories of an Antiquary' which has most of James's best stories in. The Ash Tree is my favourite, a tale about what happens when a lord of the manor betrays a witch, who is then hanged. He'd seen her collecting twigs from the ash tree that grew outside his bedroom window. What the witch does to this tree and the affect it has on future members of the lord's family is the subject of the story and its creepiness just blew me away.

But there are many other excellent stories, Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad is probably James's most famous story, A Warning to the Curious, The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral and A View from a Hill are also all superb. James, writing in the early part of the 20th century, was basically king of that kind of ghost story that took place in British churches, libraries, old mansions or lonely parts of the coast of East Anglia.

I have two volumes of M.R. James's stories, one is a run-of-the-mill paperback that has most of his stories in, the other is a delightful illustrated volume of fifteen stories which is the one I read recently. I took some photos of the book and its illustrations which, if anyone is interested, are here:




( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
You know, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don't think I've actually ready any M.R. James. I know the name, I know there are stories of his in various anthologies I've skimmed through -- but I can't consciously recognize any of the stories you mentioned. I think I need to rectify that!

Love those lavish illustrations!
Sep. 20th, 2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
Over here he tends to be the one Victorian or Edwardian ghost story writer that anyone has heard of. Mainly I think because the BBC have televised a few of his stories over the years. Yes, almost without a doubt, if you have a ghost story anthology there will be one of his stories in it... most likely 'Oh Whistle and I'll come to You, My Lad', along with Dickens' story, 'The Signalman', which is actually pretty good too; a particular love of mine is railway based ghost stories and I know I've seen one or two excellent American ones around.
Sep. 21st, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
I know I saw a collection at the Barnes and Noble the other night, but I think I'm going to wait until I get back home to purchase it. I don't think I can fit any more books or dvds in my luggage!
Sep. 21st, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
Barnes and Noble in a shopping mall in Memphis was a favourite haunt of ours last time we were in the US. It was haven away from the heat and traffic and I spent waaay too much.
Sep. 23rd, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
I enjoy bookstores of all stripes. If I can sit in a cafe in the bookstore and write before I shop, all the better.
Sep. 21st, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
And as little known as they are, I love Bram Stoker's short stories as well. Perhaps this October needs to be a Stoker and James month ...
Sep. 21st, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
The Judge's House is the Bram Stoker story that comes to mind but I'm sure I've read others. Excellent. I also have his novel The Mystery of the Sea on my tbr pile.
Sep. 23rd, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
The Judge's House is very good. I have two different short story collections by him (some of the stories are in both books), and I think all of the novels. I still haven't actually read Mystery of the Sea, but I have read Jewel of the Seven Stars. Another good short story is Lair of the White Worm.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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