I was in Liverpool at the weekend, without a permit of course. No, I snuck into that fine city to take part in a gathering of A Ghostly Company, the literary society devote to ghost stories.
It was a lovely couple of days, not least because of the various luminaries who contributed. On Friday evening Jim Bryant talked about his research into the correspondence of M.R. James, whose handwriting is even worse than mine. Then Ro Pardoe of Ghosts & Scholars informally discussed her involvement with Jamesian fiction and the so-called 'James Gang', among other things.
On Saturday afternoon we had an excellent talk about Liverpudlian folklore from author John Reppion, followed by a reading of a story by Peter Bell - and a fine story it was, with an unusual theme and setting. There was also a book auction to raise money for the society - an event that always leaves me conflicted as I really mean to go away with fewer books than I bring. I failed, again.
Then in the evening Ramsey Campbell, our guest of honour, came along to read a new story, 'The Bill'. Classic Campbell, I thought, not least in its clever use of a commonplace event in most people's lives. No spoilers.
What is this? It's the tomb of a chap called William MacKenzie, that's what. As you can see it's a pyramid, and rumour has it that MacKenzie was interred sitting up at a card table. This recalls Dr Rant in 'The Tractate Middoth'. John Reppion, in his talk, pointed out that this is wildly improbable, to say the least. But dead people sitting up in tombs is a recurring theme thanks to such Victorian monuments. I can think of at least two other fictional examples. One is Gilray's Ghost by John Gordon, the other is Hell House (book and film) by Richard Matheson.