New stories by Steve Duffy, Jane Jakeman, Sam Dawson, Patricia Lillie, Mark Valentine, Lynda E. Rucker, and Helen Grant.
Wednesday, 11 December 2019
|Cover art by Paul Lowe|
An exciting package flumped onto my doormat today - a novella by C.E. (Clive) Ward, no less. Long a contributor to Ghosts & Scholars, Ward has been a much-valued author of traditional ghostly tales for many years.
This, his longest work, is doubly interesting because the author describes it as 'a most unlikely pairing and melange of the contemporary writers Montague Rhodes James and Percival Christopher Wren'.
If you don't know who P.C. Wren was, go here. Short version - he wrote Beau Geste. So what we have here is a tale of the French Foreign Legion, with ghosts! Sounds spiffing to me.
I will review Legionnaire as soon as I can, but I suspect it will sell out before I've read it. So, get yourself over to Sarob at the first link above if you want to bag a long ghost story for Christmas.
Monday, 2 December 2019
This collection has a superb cover and boards, courtesy of Megan Kehrli, from artwork by Alan Corbett. As you can see, a map of India is prominent. Bithia Mary Croker (nee Sheppard) married an Irish officer who served in Madras and Burma. Many of her ghost stories deal with aspects of life under the Raj that are - to some extent - already familiar to readers of Kipling. The main difference is that Croker's point of view is more domestic - concerns over accommodation, servants, generally organising family life are central.
In an excellent introduction the late Richard Dalby gives a literary biography of Croker, who wrote 42 novels and several short story collections. Colonel Croker, on half pay for many years, was no doubt pleased to have a wife who made a tidy sum from her writing. And Croker was popular, her novels combining romance and details of military life in India. But how was she at supernatural fiction?
Pretty good, on the evidence collected here. She is a typical late Victorian, in that she carefully sets up the tale with close examination of the situation, the characters, the landscape etc. It's also notable that she is never dismissive or contemptuous of 'the natives', and in fact some of her best stories show Indians in a good light. They are invariably more sensible than the British when it comes to obscure but very real dangers.
A typically well-crafted story is 'If You See Her Face', in which the ghost of a horribly disfigured dancer manifests, to terrible effect. In the hands of a lesser writer the appearance of a pair of tiny, nimble feet might be rather comical, or at least fall flat. But Croker makes it clear that there is more than meets the casual eye going on here - the use of a 'partial ghost' reminded me of the Hong Kong horror film The Eye, and I suppose Gautier's 'The Mummy's Foot' might be among the story's antecedents. I suspect A.M. Burrage might have read this one, and taken the idea for one of his own best stories. 'If You See Her Face' also has a slightly Jamesian feel, with its young British official casually disregarding a threat until it is too late.