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Showing posts from 2011

Little Mouse

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Apart from being inherently brilliant, this video (from the comedy series Look Around You) was obviously shot at Aldeburgh. The scene is in fact that of the grisly demise of Mr Paxton in 'A Warning to the Curious' - note the Martello Tower. A few years ago I walked to the tower along with other members of A Ghostly Company. We ignored louring skies, only to discover on the way back that it really can rain in East Anglia. Never were so many ghost story enthusiasts soaked to the skin so quickly. I dried off in the White Lion (which features as The Globe in 'Oh Whistle...') and had some lovely soup. Rambling a bit now...

A Warning to the Curious

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A modern 'silent' film, and quite successful for my money.

Thriller!

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Supernatural horror story from the classic early Seventies series created by Brian (He Also Did The Avengers) Clemens. Among the star-studded cast we find Patrick Troughton , who starred in Doctor Who (1966-9) and later played Father Brennan in The Omen. Then there's Ed Bishop , with his natural hair, who was famously fair-headed as Ed Straker in UFO. Cec Linder , a Canadian playing the US diplomat here, whose first big UK role was as the heroic Dr Roney in the classic TV serial Quatermass and the Pit (1960). Last but not least, the evil nursey is played by Diana Dors , famous as a blonde bombshell in her youth but here showing real talent for insidious menace. Oo-er. Merry Christmas, one and all. And, if you were wondering why so many American characters feature in this vert British show, it was simply because it was always intended for the US network market.

Christopher Lee IS (or was) M. R. James

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While he bears little resemblance to the author , I hope nobody can fault Mr Lee's reading. This is an abridged version of Monty James' darkest tale, and the only 'classic' he wrote after the Great War. The fate of Mr Paxton seems wildly disproportionate to his supposed offence - indeed, if you follow the story it seems as if he is lured to his doom. But that's part of the appeal of MRJ's stories; their refusal to quite make sense, the triumph of imagery and incident over plot logic. Well, that's what I think.

The Phantom Coach : A ghost story for Christmas

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A good short film based on the Victorian tale by Amelia B. Edwards , who was an Egyptologist of renown as well as a professional author and journalist. Almost forgotten today, she was one of those lady novelists of the 19th century who enjoyed tremendous success. It's remarkable, to say the least, that she pursued a second and equally notaqble career in archaeology.

Carmilla (Surrender into the Roses) - Kate Bush

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A little musical oddity, but still a spooky tale of sorts. This is an early demo by Ms Bush. Some people think she's singing 'Coming Up!', but she isn't. Before she did 'Wuthering Heights' the shy songstress was inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu's prototypical tale of posh-girls-in-nighties vampirism.

WoodyAllenJesus

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This song was deemed too controversial for broadcast on British TV tomorrow night (23rd Dec), even though it's very mild stuff. Not that I'd watch Jonathan Ross if you paid me, but I like Tim Minchin.

Ring Out, Solstice Bells - Astronomers Victorious

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Happy Solstice, folks!

The Ten Steps

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A short Irish film that may owe its central idea to 'The Tower' by Marghanita Laski. Whatever its origin, though, this is a sound, weird tale.

The Wailing Well (MR James)

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Adaptation of MRJ's late story written for the Eton Scout troop.

Stigma 1977 BBC Xmas Ghost Story

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This one passed me by at the time, I think. I certainly don't recall it. I do recognise the writer's name - Clive Exton did a lot of sterling work for both BBC and ITV. Among his credits were two episodes of the Terry Nation post-apocalypse series Survivors , plus a slew of Jeeves and Wooster and a ton o' Poirot . He also worked on the script of The Awakening , the rather sluggish 1980 adaptation of Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars . I suspect Exton was one of those professional, reliable and highly creative TV writers who flourished in a very different production climate. The imdb has the following bio : Took his professional surname from Shakespeare's "Richard II". Former English teacher at a comprehensive school in Cannock, Staffs. Sadly, most of Exton's early work (single plays for the BBC) is now lost because the tapes were routinely wiped. It's not just Doctor Who fans who get frustrated by this BBC policy, rational though it may

Scrooge (1935) - Full Movie

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A very young Rik Mayall

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Glorious Nemesis

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A beautifully-produced book thudded onto my doormat earlier today. I'm now halfway through it and finding it fascinating, mysterious and at times a tad alarming. Glorious Nemesis is a novella by Ladislav Klima , a Czech author of whom Vaclav Havel, no less, wrote: Ladislav Klíma has been an important "voice calling in the wilderness." His antimetaphysical view of the world was not unique at his time, as Europe was full of followers of Friedrich Nietzsche, both good and bad. Yet Klíma's mix of philosophical essay, fiction, poetry, and drama was unique. Often he was too fervent in proclaiming that the only security lies in the awareness of one's will and of one's absolute freedom. In this way he eliminated the border between truth and fiction, between waking and dreaming, and even between life and death. If the world, from Klíma's perspective, was to be some phantasm or phantom, we would need a new way of articulating it, of creating it anew. At the

The Eclipse

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This film passed me by completely last year, and so far as I can tell isn't yet out on DVD. However, I watched it online at Lovefilm last night and enjoyed it. It's not a classic, but it is an interesting and at times moving variation on the theme of the ghost story. Suffice to say that it concerns an apparition of the living, which appears to a man while he is helping to run an Irish literary festival where he meets a ghost story writer. the performances are very good. The co-writer and director is Conor McPherson, and the wonder that is Jim Norton appears in a cameo role.

RIP Ken Russell

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Bizarre coincidence corner - last week I found myself explaining the old County Durham legend of the Lambton Worm to a bunch of non-natives in the pub. This was because someone mentioned The Lair of the White Worm , and Hugh Grant's role therein. Now comes news  that Brit movie legend Ken Russell, who directed a very free adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, has died at the age of 84. Farewell, Mr Russell - you were a truly original artist, and I think your films were a lot of fun. 

Straw Bears and Parallel Universes

The redoubtable and indefatigable Cardinal Cox (Poet Laureate of Peterborough) has sent me two more pamphlets. Both are rather spiffing, so let me try to sum up their appeal. Firstly there's Rocket to Ruritania , which lives up to its title. It's the third in a trilogy of collections on the subject of parallel universes, offering the poetic history of a British Empire that embarked upon interplanetary conquest (thanks to Cavorite) but also had some trouble with paranormal doings. The conclusion of the saga tackles alternate Britain's troubled relations with its rebellious colonies in North America. I particularly liked the defeat of US forces by Tecumseh , legendary chief of the Shawnee, giving the opportunity for the creation of an independent kingdom of Louisiana, 'under the house of Valois'. 'The Grand Orient Lodge of New Orleans' offers a fascinating glimpse of one aspect of this might-have-been nation. Depths of swamps we raise pyramids of gold

Beyond the Sea

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I've got too much time on my hands, and among the various box sets I'm rediscovering is The X-Files . Many episodes concern ghosts and the supernatural, of course, but some of the best appear in season one (there are nine seasons, plus two feature films). And one of these, 'Beyond the Sea', has enough contents for a feature film, never mind 46 minutes of TV. The basic premise is simple - a condemned serial killer called Boggs (played by the wonderful Brad Dourif, above) offers to cut a deal with the authorities. He has supposedly acquired psychic abilities due to a near-death experience (literally, as he was in the gas chamber when he got a stay of execution). Boggs offers to help save the lives of two students who've been kidnapped by another killer who - we learn - was almost certainly Boggs' accomplice. This is okay so far as it goes, but the spin put on the story makes it unusually powerful. Instead of beginning with the crime, we first see agent Dan

Imitation is the sincerest etcetera

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All those movies about long-haired girls popping up in a spooky fashion - such imagery is grist to the mill of advertising. Predictably, some people are complaining that this is too scary. Hah! Check out this public information film, as in made by the UK government, specifically for children. It dates from 1973.

The Orphan Palace

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'Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. is a thunderous scribe of dark fiction. His poetry slams into you, cracking through flesh and bone to the real meat beneath.' Simon Strantzas. The Orphan Palace is an extraordinary novel, or rather a novel-length poem, offering fractured and disturbing glimpses of a dark odyssey across the modern US in search of... something. To be honest, I had a lot of trouble with this one. It reads something like a deranged hybrid of Thomas Ligotti and William Burroughs, and that's tough going for an old gent like myself. However, a few things are clear.  The protagonist, the intriguingly-named Cardigan (because he's coming unravelled? Because he's leading a charge into the Valley of Death?), sets off on his journey to Zimms, the 'orphan palace' where he was raised to be a far from model citizen. Along the way he encounters various characters, making this a bit of a picaresque adventure. An internal migrant, Cardigan journeys back to confro

The Awakening

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I heartily recommend this film. See it if you can. Some critics have been sniffy or dismissive - ignore them and see for yourself. Firstly, it's a very powerful and moving drama that happens to have a supernatural core. Secondly, it's well-acted, visually superb, and genuinely surprising. The central premise - as you can see from the trailer - is a simple one. After the Great War and the influenza epidemic killed millions, there was an upsurge in Spiritualism. Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is a tenacious debunker of false mediums, hauntings and all things spooky - indeed, by her strictly rationalistic definition, all mediums are false and all ghosts must be hoaxes. And she's got the trip-wire cameras, differential thermometers and EM field detectors to prove it. The action begins with a good recreation of a seance and shows just how astute Florence is. Enter a history teacher (Dominic West), inviting the brilliant Miss Cathcart to a boarding school in the wilds

In the Night - In the Dark

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The title of  Roger Johnson's new collection of ghostly and weird stories  is taken from the script of that excellent Robert Wise movie The Haunting. Fans will recall that when Eleanor Lance arrives at Hill House the far-from-jolly housekeeper, Mrs Dudley, emphasises that she will only be present by day. Nobody from town will come out to Hill House in the night - in the dark. And that sums up much of the appeal of these stories, in which the sinister and unearthly is often foreshadowed by the most commonplace remarks and observations. Roger Johnson is a native of Chelmsford in Essex, and his love for that corner of England (and the wider region of East Anglia) shines through in these stories. It is indeed a lovely part of the world, and one that provided much inspiration to Dr Montague Rhodes James. Roger Johnson is a writer in the Jamesian tradition, certainly in terms of setting - here are village inns, little churches, country houses and the like. But the author is his o

Scary Girl

Scary Girl with Chloe Moretz from Chloe Moretz      

On general release - a ghost story

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Co-written by Stephen 'Ghostwatch' Volk, this promises to be a good 'un. I'll certainly be going to see it. So there.

For Remembrance Day

Corporal Stare Back from the line one night in June, I gave a dinner at Bethune— Seven courses, the most gorgeous meal Money could buy or batman steal. Five hungry lads welcomed the fish With shouts that nearly cracked the dish; Asparagus came with tender tops, Strawberries in cream, and mutton chops. Said Jenkins, as my hand he shook, “They’ll put this in the history book.” We bawled Church anthems in choro Of Bethlehem and Hermon snow, With drinking songs, a jolly sound To help the good red Pommard round. Stories and laughter interspersed, We drowned a long La Bassée thirst— Trenches in June make throats damned dry. Then through the window suddenly, Badge, stripes and medals all complete, We saw him swagger up the street, Just like a live man—Corporal Stare! Stare! Killed last May at Festubert. Caught on patrol near the Boche wire, Torn horribly by machine-gun fire! He paused, saluted smartly, grinned, Then passed away like a puff of wind,

Victorian Spirit Photography

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Spooky British magazine covers

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An excellent site, Visco , has lots of pulp sf, adventure and mystery magazine covers. Phantom magazine is a new title on me, but it's interesting to note that somebody once tried to produce a British equivalent to Weird Tales, and even used some WT content. It ran for 16 issues in 1957-8 and was published successively by Vernon Publcations, Dalrow publications and Pennine Publications though, as these were all based in Bolton, Lancs, it is likely that they were connected. It had as sister publications the Creasey Mystery Magazine (later, under different ownership, John Creasey Mystery Magazine) and Combat, bizarrely advertised inside the cover of one issue of Phantom as the GOOD War Story Magazine. It isn't clear whether the wars were good, or the stories.

M.R. James again

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At the Daily Telegraph site, a good review of the OUP edition of MRJ's Collected Ghost Stories. It's an intelligent appreciation of the Jamesian canon. Often imitated but never bettered, they have in the ensuing century proved themselves to be some of the most influential supernatural fiction in English. If H P Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe stand at the root of one enduring tradition — the American weird tale, with its madness and horrors, its alien gods, science-fictional conceits and agonised lunatic protagonists — James’s work set the benchmark for that rarer and more haunting form: the English ghost story.  If the weird tale aims to horrify or astound, the ghost story aims to haunt. Perhaps James’s greatest contribution to the form was to discard the overwrought psycho religious chiaroscuro of the Gothic horror tale and to coax the starkest of supernatural horrors from everyday settings and props. But such writing depends to a great degree on form, and, as subsequent

Roger Johnson's New Book!

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I've just received a review copy of the splendid new pb collection of stories (and poems) by Roger Johnson. It's available from MX Publishing . The price is £13.99. I've met Roger a few times and had the pleasure of hearing him read 'A Vignette' in the church at Great Livermere, when we were among the M.R. James enthusiasts attending the dedication of a plaque to the great ghost story writer. There are many good ghost story writers, I'm glad to say, but I think Roger has been rather overlooked as a worthy successor and disciple of James. There's a balance of erudition, humour, action and characterisation in a first-rate ghost story. The fact that an editor as distinguished as the late Karl Edward Wagner chose three of Roger's stories for anthologies tells you how good they are. I ought to add that Roger Johnson is emphatically not an M.R. James pastiche-merchant. There's a whole section of stories here that are very much in the tradition of

Tell Tale Heart Animation

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Nunkie Fun

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Went to Belsay Hall on Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings to hear Robert Lloyd Parry perform six ghost stories by M.R. James . As a friend remarked when I first attended a Nunkie Theatre production last year at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle, this is as close as you can get to hearing Monty James himself read his stories. Or is it? As another friend remarked last night, James may not have been such a good reader of his own work. Anyway, the point is that Belsay Hall is, in theory, the ideal place for ghost story readings, but in fact is somewhat deficient as a setting. This is because the hall is a fine old house, but is completely unfurnished, the interior having been gutted a long time ago. So RLP performed in the library before a fireplace, but there were no books, no fire, and indeed no carpet, just a few rows of wooden seats arranged in semicircles. Given this far from ideal atmosphere, he did extremely well. The whole long weekend was billed as The M.R. James Trilogy, a

Be told!

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Edgar Wright's tribute to the trailers we all recall.

The Monkey Mirror & Other Stories

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There's a long tradition of supernatural stories about animals - by which I mean 'real' animals, not unicorns, dragons, basilisks and what have you. Le Fanu did a good job with a monkey in 'The Familiar', and E.F. Benson's 'Caterpillars' has the authentic chill factor. If we expand our scope to include the Gothic tale we have Poe's domestic horror 'The Black Cat'. Out in the wilds there's 'The Green Wildebeest' by John Buchan, and a few others. However, animal ghosts, or ghostly animals, remain a relative rarity. So Elsa Wallace's collection The Monkey Mirror is a distinct curiosity, as all fourteen stories are about animals. Are animals as scary as people? That's problematic, for me. The traditional ghost story focuses on death and what may survive death. Animals are (again, traditionally) the 'beasts that perish'. But why shouldn't they have souls, or psychic residues, or whatever? The rather facetious

Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

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Almost forgot this ghost/cat/samurai/sexy/martial arts movie. Might watch this now in fact...

Grauniad's Halloween Quiz

(Note - The Guardian was once dubbed The Grauniad because of its notorious proofreading problems. End of historical factoid.) Anyway, The Grauniad has this Halloween quiz in which you get multiple choice questions, so it's easy to guess a few of 'em. Which is why I got 8 out of 10, hah.

The Raven: Read by Christopher Walken

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Spooky Toon for Halloween

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Much obliged to Steve Duffy for this one...

Halloween Movie Finale - Best of British

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The horror movie is to some extent an American creation, but there are plenty of fine examples from other countries. British horror cinema, at its best, draws on a rich heritage of literary ghost stories, an often bloody popular culture (Spring-Heeled Jack, Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper) and a solid tradition of 'serious' mainstream drama. At its best the Brit horror flick is original, disturbing and oddly exhilarating. It's also rather intimate - without a big budget, you can still get a very good actor talking to a dummy and sending shivers up/down/along your spine. Dead of Night (1945) is the first and arguably the best portmanteau spooky movie, and while it creaks in places it's climactic tale is still powerful. We move on to a Hammer film that's firmly in the science fiction genre - except for the black magic, the demons, the poltergeist activity, and the contact with 'spiritual evil'. Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is arguably the best British sci

Halloween Movie Ideas 7 - Ringu

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The movie that started the Asian horror boom. Genuinely disturbing and owing something - at times - to M.R. James (the central idea of the living picture, plus the 'thing' with long hair, not to mention a scene down a well).

Halloween Movie Ideas 6 - Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary

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Yes, it's a ballet-theatre version of Dracula. I think it's rather good. One for the dance lovers.

Halloween Movie Ideas 5 - Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

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Halloween is a Hammer-y time of the year, and who doesn't like a bit of Ancient Egyptian folderol, complete with a severed hand that crawls about a bit?

Halloween Movie Ideas 4 - The Last Broadcast

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This was released before Blair Witch, and is vastly superior to it IMHO. A modern media tale of terror, with found footage of an expedition to find the fabled Jersey Devil. This is, for me, one scary movie, despite a notable lack of gore. 

Halloween Movie Ideas 3 - Tales of Terror

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Not just Vincent Price, but also Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre in three Poe stories. It's played for laughs at times and camped up a bit, but is great fun. Not Roger Corman's best, perhaps, but one of the jolliest.

Halloween Movie Ideas 2 - The Fog

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John Carpenter's classic, remade recently as forgettable tosh. If you like ghost leper pirates and Jamie Lee Curtis, not to mention Adrienne Barbeau, this is one for you.

Halloween Movie Ideas 1 - Kwaidan

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Hairy hands...

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Just been to see the Mervyn Peake exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. It's fascinating, and offers quite a rich selection of the artist/author/poet's book illustrations. As well as drawings for the Gormenghast novels and other of his own works, Peake illustrated several classics. The pictures on show are for Treasure Island , The Hunting of the Snark , Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde . Each illustration is accompanied by the usual little notice telling you something about it, and in the case of the classics they often include quotes from the books. In the case of Jekyll , one is particularly interesting. Peake - after some preliminary attempts - decided not to show Hyde's face, because it's described as pure evil (always tricky to draw, I'd guess) and also because nobody who sees it can remember much else about it. So in the drawings actually used for the book we never see Hyde's face, only his back or his h

Review: A Bracelet of Bright Hair

The first collection of ghost stories by Jane Jakeman has just been published by Sarob Press in a fine volume illustrated by the always excellent Paul Lowe. (At time of writing, the book was still available from various dealers listed on the Sarob blog - check the link.) Two of the eight stories have appeared in ST, three appeared in Ghosts & Scholars , and one in All Hallows . The other two stories consist of one that is wholly new and another that's only appeared on the author's website. So, what kind of a collection do we have hear? Firstly, these are academic ghost stories by an archaeologist with an Oxford pedigree. Traditionally Oxford is seen as more 'establishment' than the artier Cambridge. Prime ministers come from Oxford, satirists from its great rival. For my money, any establishment that produces leading politicians must have gone over to the dark side a long time ago, and these stories tend to confirm that opinion. That said, the academic world

Irish Ghosts on Stage

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The Irish playwright Conor McPherson is, I suspect, unique in having written several ghost stories for the stage that have been taken seriously as 'proper' modern theatre. I can recommend Shining City, The Weir, and The Seafarer (I was privileged to see Jim Norton star in the latter). His latest, The Veil , is also ghostly in content, but I've yet to have the opportunity to see it. In the non-supernatural vein I can also recommend Port Authority, a moving triple-stranded tale of Dublin life. Shining City is a particularly interesting example of the sub-genre that goes 'psychiatrist talks to man who claims to see ghost'. The ending is extremely memorable. Here's another video, which gives some flavour of the playwright's work. You can probably guess who this gentleman is.

Curfew Reviewed!

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Having greatly enjoyed Curfew and other Eerie Tales , let me again recommend this fine volume from Swan River Press . It's unusual in that, as well as offering a small selection of short stories, it also contains the author's only play. Lucy M. Boston was obviously interested in the witch mania that beset this country in the 17th century, and 'The Horned Man' is a remarkably economical treatment of the theme. Set in a small rural manor house, it shows how the crazy logic of the persecutors (if there are accusations, there must be witches) plays into the hands of genuine evil. Not everyone enjoys reading plays, but for me there's something refreshing and direct about a story told almost wholly through dialogue. The script - intended from an amateur company - is straightforward and doesn't mire the reader in flummery-tushery dialogue. Instead Boston employs clean, direct language to show how a culture of suspicion and terror turns people against one another. Th

Also survived encounter with yetis...

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Remember the competition...

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Legendary editor Rosemary Pardoe is holding a competition to write a prequel/sequel to an M.R. James ghost story. Just a reminder that anyone can enter and the story doesn't need to be in the style of MRJ, which is probably just as well for all you trendy modern writers. Here's what Ro says on her blog: Following the very satisfying level of interest in the "Merfield Hall/House" and "The Game of Bear" story competitions (for the texts of the winning entries, see recent  Newsletters ), I'd been considering the possibility of a third competition when Dan McGachey came up with the suggestion that writers might like to produce sequels to MRJ's completed tales. All the people I've sounded out about this agree with me that it's a fine idea, but I want to extend it to include prequels too. Of course, there have already been examples of sequels - David Sutton's "Return to the Runes" in the second issue of  G&S , for instanc

ST20 on the way

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The latest issue of Supernatural Tales is being posted out this week, and indeed some subscribers' copies have already been sent. I noted the contents in an earlier post . I hope everyone enjoys the selection of stories - all new, all interesting, and of course all good for my money.

Shadows & Tall Trees

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Issue 2 of this excellent annual Canadian magazine is selling out rapidly. S&TT is dedicated to 'quiet, literary horror fiction'. The second issue demonstrates that the category is a very broad and interesting one. Excluding the easy cop-out of visceral cruelty requires an author to use their imagination. The result is a very diverse range of stories. Editor Michael Kelly is to be congratulated on attracting such an eclectic group of contributors. Thus the first story, Richard Harland's 'At the Top of the Stairs', might almost be a gritty realist account of a family in crisis. Two children are left in an apartment at the top of a grim tenement building while mother goes out to work. Father has departed in troubling circumstances. When mother is out a man climbs the stairs and knocks on the door. Will be gain admittance? As with all such stories told from the perspective of children, there is something nightmarish about the timeless simplicity of the tale. &

Curfew and Other Eerie Tales

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Swan River Press in Dublin has just published this very elegant volume of stories by Lucy M. Boston, who is best known for her Green Knowe children's books. Boston's work has rather passed me by, but as Robert Lloyd Parry explains in his introduction this is partly because she published few ghost stories. I noted with great interest that, as well as unpublished tales, this volume includes a play - a Jacobean drama of witch-hunting entitled 'The Horned Man' (no relation). You can mosey on over to Swan River and order a copy. You might also care to purchase a CD of Mr Parry reading 'Curfew' and 'The Tiger Skin Rug'. It can be ordered from Nunkie Productions , along with many other interesting things. Now I must settle down to read the rest of the stories, and that intriguing play...

A Bracelet of Bright Hair

Sarob Press is about to publish a volume of stories by Jane Jakeman . Two of the stories in A Bracelet of Bright Hair - 'Vrykolakas' and 'Adoptagrave' - first appeared in ST. If the others are of the same standard, and I'm sure they are, this will be another winner from Sarob. Find out more here . But if you can't be bothered to click, here's a cut-and-paste description: Jane Jakeman: A Bracelet of Bright Hair Eight dark, terror-filled ghostly stories, perfect for the long winter nights to come … some Jamesian , some not – all pleasingly traditional. You'll want to sleep with the lights on. If you can sleep … The title is a quotation from “The Relic” by John Donne. Jane Jakeman is the author of  Death in the South of France ,  Death at Versailles  and the Lord Ambrose Malfine historical crime novels. She lives in Oxford where some of the stories in  A Bracelet of Bright Hair  are set. Jane's ghostly fiction has been previously published in  Ghosts

Ice Age

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I've just reviewed Iain Rowan's new Kindle eBook on Amazon , and thought I'd share it here. Iain's story 'The Walker on the Wall' appeared in ST7 and a new story of his will feature in ST21. In the meantime, you could try this excellent collection and give a boost to an author who deserves to be better known. Here's the review: Iain Rowan is a rising star of what's loosely termed the horror genre, though perhaps 'chiller' would be a more apt term for the stories in this remarkable collection. The collection is arguably linked by a common theme of loss and isolation - Rowan's protagonists are usually lost in some way; to society, to loved ones, to hope, to themselves.  Thus in the first story, 'Lilies', the protagonists is a solder in a nameless city riven by what may be civil war. It rapidly emerges that the conflict is at least in part about conflicting attitudes to the dead, who in this world can come back to us - but only for

ST20 Cover and Contents

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The new page has just gone up - this is it, basically. Out soon (as in, early October), this latest issue contains 99 pages, most of them filled with stories by: Daniel Mills Andrew Kolarik Brian Day Katherine Haynes Philbampus Michael Chislett Fans of Mike Chislett's work might like to know that his story, 'The Friends of Faustina', features two familiar characters getting involved - yet again - with naughty beings of the feminine persuasion. Cover: 'Breach' by Stephen J. Clark

Leslie Nielsen and M.R. James

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I'm working on ST20 and - with a bit of luck - should be mailing out copies at the end of the month-ish. Certainly be with subscribers in time for Hallowe'en, which is my cunning plan. Meanwhile, wouldn't you like to see an early TV adaptation of 'The Tractate Middoth' starring Leslie Nielsen? Of course you would. It's just over 20 mins long and should, I feel, be watched in a darkened room at twilight. But each to his or her own...

Quiet Houses

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Shadows gathered around his feet and under the tables nearby, pools of dirty light through which the floor glimmered, the tiles ill-formed and murky. He looked again at the recorder, at the time counter rolling implacably onwards, and thought again of Amy and the way she had of making the world feel brighter, lighter. “Who would I tell?” asked Wisher again, and Nakata couldn't answer him. Instead, he asked another question. One of the greatest British movies was Dead of Night , which famously employed the portmanteau format for supernatural stories. If you haven't seen it (what's wrong with you?) the basic premise is simple: man arrives at country house, meets bunch of nice people, but gets nagging sensation that he's 'been here before' – in a dream. Guests are prompted by this to tell supposedly true stories of ghostly encounters. The film ends rather cleverly with a plot twist that makes perfect sense but also comes as a genuine surprise. The portmanteau

ST9 Sold Out

Sorry, folks, the last ever copy of ST9 has officially gone. It was a double-sized 'annual' issue, too, with a rather interesting three-eyed owl on the cover. But now it is sold out. I suppose this makes it a collector's item - there are around 150 or so copies out there. While I'm on the subject, ST8 is looking a mite thin on the ground, too.

Day Terrors

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DAY TERRORS Edited with an introduction by Dru Pagliasotti pp257; The Harrow Press 2011; ISBN-13 9780615406404 www.theharrowpress.com When I receive an unsolicited horror anthology, my heart does not sink. Nor, however, does it leap from my bosom in unrestrained joy and gambol round the living room – dear me, no. Firstly, ST is not a horror magazine, and secondly a lot of modern horror leaves me cold. Not disgusted, not morally outraged, just unmoved by variations on the same old themes and ideas. Recycling is fine for saving the planet, but it can doom a genre. Some horror writers do little more than describe a series of derivative schlocky movies  playing in their heads, and I just can't sit down with my popcorn and sit through the whole feature. That said, Day Terrors has a fair number of stories that rise above genre cliché and cardboard characters. Of these, a decent number are supernatural. And, though Harrow Press is a California outfit, I was pleased to find that so

Rats by M.R. James Trailer

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Worse Than Myself - Review

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A somewhat late review, this, for the second edition of a remarkable book . Adam Golaski is a poet, and while many poets have written short stories relatively few have written tales of the supernatural. Walter de la Mare is generally considered to be the main man in this regard, but he is also deemed rather challenging – perhaps a bit too elliptical, seldom doing the decent thing and saying what he means. Stories like 'Crewe' and 'All Hallows' do not grab you by the throat. Well, here's another poet who shows no interest in writing slick horror stories that you forget as soon as you finish them. They make demands on the reader, and offer no simple pay-offs. That said, the subject matter in Worse Than Myself is often very straightforward. A diverse bunch of passengers on a Greyhound bus have strange dreams heralding a nightmarish experience; a family stop for a break during a long drive and find a strange museum; someone goes to a party and hears talk of strang

Readability issues

Okay, somebody complained  that the blog is hard to read. So far as I can see it's easy to read with Firefox, Chrome and Opera. So maybe it's a problem with Internet Explorer, or perhaps Macs? Please let me know if you have problems with this, gentle reader. Assuming you can read this at all, of course.

Cold Hand in Mine

If I had to pick a favourite book by Robert Aickman, it would be  Cold Hand in Mine . I suspect it will sell rather well, even to those of us who bought the original Tartarus two-volume Aickman, back in the day. CHIM was the first book by Aickman I'd read, and I well remember seeing the Robinson paperback edition on a shelf in WH Smith's. I pondered whether to buy it, because it seemed to be outside the normal horror genre, but not fantasy or sf. I didn't buy it, but later found a library copy and finally encountered Aickman's strange dreams of... Well, what? Life, death, truth, art. Perhaps the secret of the man's appeal is that his stories defy analysis. That said, some stories are less baffling than others. 'The Swords', with its run-down funfair and fishnet-clad temptress called Madonna, seems to share some DNA with New Wave science fiction of the sort produced in the Seventies by M. John Harrison. 'The Same Dog', 'The Hospice' and