Archive | February, 2013

The Alabaster Hand

24 Feb

In the field of supernatural fiction, it is fair to say no author casts a longer shadow than M R James. It is arguable, however, that no author has come closer to inheriting the mantle of the great James than ghost story writer Alan Noel Latimer Munby (1913-74). The son of an architect, he was, like James, educated at King’s College, Cambridge. It was here that his fascination with ancient books began, and he later became librarian of the college. Munby also became a leading figure in the antiquarian book trade and for many years was associated with the legendary book dealer, Bernard Quaritch. He wrote several bibliographical studies and a number of his short stories combine his interest in books and the supernatural, as well as being written in an elegant and scholarly style reminiscent of his role model, James. Curiously, however, Munby’s only collection of ghost stories, The Alabaster Hand, published in 1949, was largely written to pass the time away while he was a German POW at Eichstatt in Upper Franconia from 1943-45. Whilst a prisoner of war camp would not, perhaps, ordinarily be thought conducive surroundings for the creation of a classic collection of ghost stories, The Alabaster Hand is strong evidence of the way in which creativity must have helped some who found themselves in this position to preserve their sanity.

Continue reading

The Lord Lucan Affair

10 Feb

The 7th Earl of Lucan, Richard John Bingham, better known as Lord Lucan, is one of the most infamous fugitives in British criminal history. Born in the 1930s, he was a charismatic man with expensive tastes: he raced power boats and, like James Bond, drove an Aston Martin. In 1963 he married Veronica Duncan, who bore him three children, and for a time his life seemed perfect. Then, at the start of the 1970s, Lucan’s marriage collapsed, he moved out of the family home and a bitter custody battle with his wife over the children ensued. This dispute seemed to change Lucan fundamentally – he spent most of the money he had on drink and gambling, became obsessed with regaining his children and began to spy on his family. Things came to a head in 1974 when the Lucans’ nanny was found brutally bludgeoned to death, apparently by Lord Lucan. Lady Lucan, who had also been present during the attack, indicated that her estranged husband was the murderer. Almost immediately, one of the largest manhunts ever organised in Britain began – one that to this day has still not resulted in an arrest. The last confirmed sighting of Lord Lucan was a few days after the body of the nanny was discovered, when he left a friend’s house in Uckfield, Sussex, never to be seen again. Since then, there have been almost as many alleged sightings of Lord Lucan as there have been of Elvis, Bigfoot or Jimmy Hoffa. Lucan’s true fate remains a fascinating mystery for the British public. Hundreds of reports of his presence in various countries around the world have been made following his initial disappearance, although none have been substantiated. Despite a police investigation and huge press interest, Lucan remains missing (presumed dead?).

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: