Arguably the major living expert on the body of work of Rev. Montague Rhodes James, the cult British author of classical “ghost” stories, Rosemary Pardoe has been the editor of the journals Ghosts & Scholars, The Ghosts & Scholars MR James Newsletter, and the three volumes of the anthology series The Ghost & Scholars Book of Shadow (Sarob Press).
Here’s yet another short story anthology by Pardoe, entitled A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror.
Traditional folklore is the basis not only for a good portion of Jamesian stories, but of classic British horror in general, so the new anthology is consistent with Pardoe’s previous work in this area. It assembles seventeen tales, ten of which are reprinted from the journals mentioned above, and seven which are original to this anthology.
Let me tell you right away that, not surprisingly, the best contributions are to be found among the reprints, first of all the outstanding “Meeting Mr. Ketchum” by Michael Chislett. This superb, creepy tale, perfectly in keeping with the anthology’s theme, depicts how ancient horrors come back to terrify a couple of accidental tourists exploring a desolate landscape.
Other excellent offerings include “Where are the Bones..?” by Jacqueline Simpson, a delightful story featuring MR James himself, in which old legends cast a dark shadow on an innocent boy, and” The Walls” by Terry Lamsley, a very unusual tale of supernatural horror, describing the eerie trip taken by two men to find a friend lost in a deserted area near abandoned lead mines that hide unfathomable secrets. Lamsley’s recent disappearance from the British horror scene is still sorely lamented.
The book features also some very conventional yet effective ghost stories such as CE Ward’s “The Spinney” and Kay Fletcher’s “The Peewold Amphisbaena,” both quite enjoyable and well worth reading. The same applies to “Loreley” by Carol Tyrrell, an offbeat tale portraying a case of unconventional vampirism.
Among the new stories, I’d like to mention three: Helen Grant’s “The Valley of Achor,” an atmospheric, grim tale about the unlucky fate of a researcher probing the secrets of an ancient crain lost in the middle of a Scottish glen; David A Sutton’s “The Dew-Shadows,” a solid story of exotic horror in which Greek folklore provides the explanation for the mysterious deaths of some scholars; and SA Rennie’s “Out of the Water, Out of the Ground,” a predictable but entertaining piece with a Lovecraftian taste.
The other contributors are Chico Kidd, Ramsey Campbell, Philip Thompson, Geoffrey Warburton, Gail-Nina Anderson, Tom Johnstone, Christopher Harman and John Lewellyn Probert.
The book is beautifully produced by the always dependable, excellent Sarob Press. The cover is by Paul Lowe. Order copies here.
Mario Guslandi was born in Milan, Italy, where he currently lives. He became addicted to horror and supernatural fiction (too) many years ago, after accidentally reading a reprint anthology of stories by MR James, JS Le Fanu, Arthur Machen etc. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, he has contributed over the years to various genre websites such as Horrorworld, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, The Agony Column and many more. His previous review for us was of Simon Strantzas’ Nothing is Everything.