Monday, 12 September 2016

'Twenty Years Afterwards'

The first story in the Third G&S Book of Shadows is by C.E. (Clive) Ward, a veteran of Ghosts & Scholars. Ward's approach is traditional, and his grasp of history makes him a particular convincing modern Jamesian author. His choice of story is 'Lost Hearts', and he cleverly uses the sequel device to offer some new insights into the bloody antics of Mr Abney.

As the title implies, the action begins twenty years after the demise of the villain at Aswarby Hall. Stephen Elliott is contacted by Abney's former butler, who is dying and wants to unburden himself. Ward essentially conducts a re-examination of the known facts in the original story and arrives at some interesting conclusions.

This is a satisfying start to the collection, marred only by the obvious problem with any long-ish story framed as a death-bed confession. At some point a dying man might simply go 'Aaaaggh!' and leave a few loose ends. But that's a minor quibble. Fans of 'Lost Hearts' (which James himself disliked) will appreciate this fresh take.

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