Tag Archives: Victorian

Ghost Writers

6 Jan

Tales of mystery and the supernatural hold an almost endless fascination for me, as all regular readers of this blog will be well aware. I remember that the first ‘grown up’ ghost stories that I read were in an anthology named Ghost Breakers that I picked up in the library at my old primary school. This volume had been cunningly packaged to appeal to younger readers and I must admit that, as a child who had grown up in the 1980s, it was mainly my interest in Ghostbusters (and perhaps the hope that the anthology was somehow related) that led me to pick it up. My initial disappointment that the tome had nothing to do with the aforementioned Hollywood blockbuster faded rapidly when I was sucked completely into a world of haunted mansions, ancient curses and restless spectres. I finished the half dozen or so supernatural tales in the Ghost Breakers anthology in the space of a week and immediately afterwards sought out more of the same – a process which has absorbed me ever since and which indeed goes on to this day. Although my initial attraction was to the old-fashioned (that is ‘Victorian’ as opposed to modern) ghost story, it was not long before my interests widened. I looked to the past for the Classical, Medieval and Gothic predecessors to the Victorian ghost story as well as to the present for the modern horror fiction that was inspired by these traditional tales of the supernatural. I grew fascinated by the continuity I saw in hundreds of years of story-telling – the linked themes, the literary techniques and the recurring settings. I also noted the differences, how each generation adapted the ghost story to its tastes, adding something new to continually refresh and expand the genre. I became familiar with the founders and foremost exponents of the ghost story form, from its misty beginnings in antiquity to those pushing its boundaries in the modern age. Most of all I became determined that the short ghostly tale should remain alive and well. I wanted future generations to enjoy the stories that I had grown up with and also, for those (like me) who feel so inspired, to add to the corpus of supernatural fiction. It was this desire that led me to write my own  ghost stories and create this website, where I’ve so far talked about ghost stories and their writers in a somewhat haphazard manner. To provide some context, I thought that it might be useful at this stage to say something about the evolution of the ghost story from its very beginnings to the present day.

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Thomas Carnacki: the original ghost-buster

16 Sep

A few years ago Wordsworth Editions, a highly respected publishing house most famous for its range of classic literary fiction, published a line known intriguingly as Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural. This was a collection of works written by Victorian and Edwardian ghost story writers, including giants such as Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, M R James, H P Lovecraft and Rudyard Kipling as well as far less well known (but perhaps equally gifted, in this field at least) writers such as W F Harvey, Algernon Blackwood and Sir Andrew Caldecott. Their aim was to bring those works which have been forgotten undeservedly back to a mass audience for the acclaim that they deserve. Many of the short story collections that made up this line of Wordsworth editions had been out of print for decades, despite being some of the finest examples of the short story form in any genre. Sadly, the Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural are no longer being published, although there are still plenty available in the right bookshops (and online of course). I hope to talk about a number of the writers in this range in future posts but I thought I’d start with one of my favourites: William Hope Hodgson.

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