Tag Archives: J S Le Fanu

Supernatural Sleuths

22 Apr

The Gateway of the Monster… The Red Hand… The Ghost Hunter… To Sherlock Holmes the supernatural may have been a closed book but luckily for us other great detectives have always been ready to do battle with the forces of darkness instead. There are the casebooks of the Victorian haunted house investigators John Bell and Flaxman Low; Thomas Carnacki, William Hope Hodgson’s Edwardian battler against the abyss; horror master Arthur Machen’s Mr Dyson, a man about town and meddler in strange things; Robert Barr’s Eugene Valmont (who may have inspired Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot) and Donald Campbell’s young explorer Leslie Vane, the ‘James Bond of the jazz age’, who battled against occult enemies of the British Empire. More modern times have seen the introduction of Phil Rickman’s ‘Deliverance Consultant’ (diocesan exorcist) Merrily Watkins and James Herbert’s psychic investigator and ghost hunter David Ash to the genre. Sherlock Homes may have shunned all suggestion of supernatural agency, but thankfully his many rivals and literary descendants have not, leaving us with a delightfully large number of deliciously dark detective cases to enjoy for generations to come.

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Irish Gothic: The Ghost Stories of J S Le Fanu

3 Oct

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) was a ghost story writer who left an impressive legacy – any author who M R James says “stands absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories” demands to be taken seriously. J S Le Fanu was born in Dublin, the grandson of the famous playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and eventually became a journalist in his native city. After graduating at Trinity College Dublin (which was later to become the alma mater of that other master of the macabre, Bram Stoker), Le Fanu was called to the bar but never practised, for he saw a career in writing as his true calling. He had been fascinated by Irish folklore, with its tales of ghosts and hauntings, from an early age and he soon produced a vast body of novels and short stories which earned him an early comparison with Edgar Allan Poe.

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