Monday, 24 September 2012

R.I.P. VII short stories

This weekend I thought I would read a few short stories for Carl's R.I.P. VII.

I have so many books of ghostly or macabre short stories that it's ridiculous but I couldn't part with any of them, especially as a few are no longer that easily available. Anyway, I dug out a few new stories and a couple of ones that I'd read before.

I started with a favourite book of stories of the macabre by John Connolly: Nocturnes.

I'd read almost all of this book but had come to a halt at the Charlie Parker novella, The Reflecting Eye, mainly because I'd not read any of this series back then and didn't want to start here. It fits, according to the author, between The White Road and The Black Angel which is exactly the place I'm at so it was time. And it was a terrific story, introducing a character known as The Collector into the series. But the story actually concerns the Grady house, where a serial child killer died after being caught with children in his basement. The house is now owned by the father of the child who died that day but is attracting a lot of unwanted attention, mainly to do with the mirrors in the house. Charlie, Louis and Angel set up a stake-out. Fantastic little story.

I then read on and finished the four final stories in this collection - The Cycle, referring to the female 'cycle', The Bridal Bed, The Man From the Second Fifteen and my favourite, The Inn at Shillingford, a very traditional story of an inn with a nasty reputation where in Insurance man spends the night. Good one.

This collection of stories by John Connolly is fabulous and really not well known enough, which is a tragedy.

Next, inspired by Susan's post at You Can Never Have Too Many Books, I picked up The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, a book which I read back in the early 1990s but not since.

Susan read The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford, so I went for that first and was not disappointed. It's told as an after dinner tale in the best tradition of ghost story telling. The narrator was a frequent traveller by ship across the Atlantic and explained why he would never again use a certain ship. He'd been put into a cabin with a bad reputation and, despite warnings from a steward and the ship's doctor, spent the night there. During the night the stranger sharing his cabin jumped from the top berth, ran through the ship and jumped overboard. One might have thought this would tell the narrator something but not a bit of it. LOL. I do love these stories where People Refuse to See Sense... Good yarn though.

The second story I read from the collection was The Lost Ghost by Mary E. Wilkins. It was neither set in England nor by an English author, so how it made it into the collection I'm not sure. It matters not. It was in fact set in New England and is told by a woman reflecting with a friend about the strangeness of some houses. As a younger woman she had been a school teacher and lodged in an old house with two elderly sisters. She'd got home one evening and left her wet coat in the hallway to dry out. She thought it was odd when one of the sisters advised her not to leave it there, but did it anyway. When she woke up in the night to find a young girl standing in her doorway, holding the coat and saying, 'I can't find my mother', she thought it was odder still. This was another terrific little story, very sad and thought provoking.

Next and for my final story I moved on to a slim viloume entitled A Night on the Moor and Other Tales of Dread by R. Murray Gilchrist. Don't you just love some of these titles? ;-)

Not an author I've previously been familiar with, I must admit, I believe I grabbed this in a cheap bookshop somewhere and there are in fact quite a few of these little Wordsworth published ghost collections around. I decided to read the title story, A Night on the Moor. It was a fairly straightforward tale of a Victorian gent lost on the moors in the Peak District, in a snow storm, after a day out shooting. He finds a shepherd's bothy to sleep in but is awoken in the night by a woman knocking on the door. She's clearly a lady, but dressed in an old fashioned way. She's hiding a pet fawn from her husband so leaves the fawn in the bothy and takes the stranger back to her house for the night, warning that her husband might react badly. The outcome of this was fairly obvious but it was still a well written, entertaining yarn.

So that was my weekend of ghostly short stories. Huge fun, I enjoyed some excellent writing, particularly the Victorian stories which are always so beautifully crafted. Hope to read a few more in a couple of weeks but in the meantime I'm back with Charlie Parker, chasing after Black Angels. Such fun.


DesLily said...

Ohhhh I see Michael Cox's name on that one book! I loved the two books I read by him! What a loss, he was such a good writer! (of course I am assuming this is the same Michael Cox lol)

You make me want to read the short stories of hauntings by Wilkie Collins.. not sure I can the print is rather small and the ink is not very dark .. I'll check on that when I finish Drood..of course that will be a while lol.. I am close to 200 pages into it though! In a heartbeat I'd go see this if they ever made a movie of it!

You will beat me this time with how many books you are reading!!!!

GeraniumCat said...

It sounds as if you're having fun with RIP! I'm struggling to keep up at all, but hope that I'll get a chance to read and post this week. Maybe I should be reading short stories :-)

Susan said...

Cath, what a lovely post! It sounds like you are having a discussion about my post, which is so much fun! I'm so glad you wrote what you did about the Berth story, since now readers have a good sense of it between you and me.

I HAVE to get Nocturnes! see, you're going to get another point the story about the house with the serial killer and the mirrors sounds fascinating.

I'm glad you are having fun with short stories this year, I am too. I read some more in the Year's Best Dark Fantasy I'm reading, and they are very good. I just seem to be in the mood for them this year.

Cath said...

Pat: Yes, it's the same Michael Cox and yes, what a tragic loss.

I hope you find you can read the Wilkie Collins book, a real shame if you can't.

Well, after failing dismally at OUaT in the spring I thought I'd make a real effort with RIP. My present book is 600 pages long so I know what you mean about long books!

GeraniumCat: Yes, having a lot of fun but I had similar problems for you with OUaT in the spring. Just couldn't finish it.

Susan: Glad you enjoyed the post, I had a lot of fun writing it.

Nocturnes is so good... a bit M.R. James in flavour. The serial killer story with the mirrors is the Charlie Parker novella. I realise I forgot to put the title in so have rectified that. It was a terrific story. The Black Angel, book 4, that I'm now reading is fabulous. Much more horror orientated than the previous 3 books, with a lot of history. Some amazing ideas in it. And the writing! Just fantastic.

DesLily said...

600 pgs? what are you reading??

Cath said...

Pat: It's The Black Angel by John Connolly. I'm almost two thirds through but it's quite densely written with a lot of history bits in it. A great book but it's taking me a while.

DesLily said...

you are way ahead of me.. I am only a bit over 300 pgs in Droods 778 pgs!

Cath said...

Pat: I got completely hooked on The Black Angel, (loads of wonderful history in it) and couldn't stop reading so have now finished that. LOL.

DesLily said...

that's what I like about Drood too. a lot of historical facts and many true ones about Dickens and Collins.. sometimes I find myself wondering what are truths and what are not???? lol glad you enjoyed your books so much!!!!!!

Cath said...

You're tempting me muchly with Drood, Pat! As we move into autumn and winter something dark like that might suit my mood.