The Scarecrow and Other Stories
G Ranger Wormser
Edited by William P. Simmons
Shadow House Publishing (161 pages, October 26, 2020)
Originally published in 1918, this collection of short stories is the first installment of a Macabre Mistresses series aiming to unearth forgotten dark fiction, much to the joy of genre fans.
As William P. Simmons points out in his insightful Introduction, Wormser’s work has nothing to do with the horror genre in its more blatant expressions, but relies upon subtlety, introspection and psychological uneasiness.
The volume assembles twelve stories, some of which are particularly worth note.
The title story is a subtly disturbing piece in which a scarecrow made from the uniform of an old soldier comes to life to signal to his grandson what he has to do with his life.
A somehow similar concept is developed in “China-Ching,” in which a quiet dog kept restrained becomes the symbol of an unhappy marriage.
“Haunted” is an atmospheric, perceptive story where the power of nature parallels the strength of human feelings, while “ The Shadow” is an offbeat cautionary tale, portraying a selfish, arrogant writer whose success depends on a tiny but essential detail.
In “ The Effigy” harsh family relationships are brutally resolved thanks to a portrait hanging to the wall, while in the emotional “The Faith” the paranormal becomes the vessel to face human tragedies and in the vivid “The Wood of Living Trees” the eternal struggle between good and evil is described in an oblique but effective way.
Readers willing to explore new avenues in the area of dark fantasy will find this collection extremely interesting and refreshing.
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 last review for us was of The Women of Weird Tales, from Valancourt Books.