Wednesday, 21 September 2016

'We Don't Want for Company'

Third G&S Book of Shadows mostly contains conventional short stories, but this fine vignette by D.P. Watt breaks the mould by offering one side of a dialogue. The scene is the countryside at night, the setting a campfire where a garrulous character is about to start cooking a rabbit. It's clear that this talkative gentleman has antiquarian interests and is preparing for some significant event. But what part will his guest, who we know little about (and that all at second hand), be playing?

I like the way Watt creates an atmosphere from very few, relatively simple phrases, drawing a clear contrast between the characters and implying that some great scheme is being played out. I won't indulge in spoilers but experts on M.R. James will know the story to which this is a sequel from the title. It's one of the Provost's lesser known tales but also one of his most enigmatic.

Well, this running review of the book is approaching its end. I hope you're enjoying it, and that you feel moved to get your hands on a copy. Here's a reminder of that excellent Paul Lowe cover.

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