Wednesday, 25 April 2018

'Something in the Fog'

One thing about reading a collection by an author whose work you are very familiar with is that you get to re-examine said author's influences. In this tale from Kate Haynes' new book there's a distinct feel of between-the-wars writers such as L.P. Hartley and Hugh Walpole.

The story follows Jill, a woman who decides on impulse to attend a school reunion. Her journey to the venue takes her through a fog-bound London, in which she encounters a mysterious cyclist and other shadowy figures. At the same time Jill finds herself thinking of a very pretty girl whose name she can't remember - someone she disliked. Revelations follow. When Jill heads home another encounter in the fog has terrible consequences.

As well as being a well-constructed story of supernatural payback, there's a nice twist to this one. More from this running review in due course! I seem to have quite a backlog of books to review...


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Vote, Vote, Vote for Something Spooky!

Over on the right (and up a bit) you'll find a poll on the stories in ST#37. At the moment of writing Mark Valentine is doing well, but it's early days yet. Will Mark continue to pull away from the pack? Or will one of the other authors manage to catch him?

Over to Steve Cram...

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"Well, Dave, I reckon the lad Valentine has got the stamina for a long poll, but don't underestimate any of these other wordsmiths. Schliewe has the advantage of a very long, substantial story, Helen Grant's an award-winner with a lot of kudos, Chloe Clark has a poet's visionary insights, and C.M. Muller looks very poised and subtle."

"So it's anybody's race at this stage, Steve?"

"Why aye, man. Have some of me chips."

The point is that you should read the magazine, then vote for your favourite story/stories if you have not yet done so. That's what I'm trying to convey here.

Monday, 23 April 2018

'The Second Crown'

This story from Kate Haynes' collection Waiting in the Shadows (Sarob Press) is a pendant to M.R. James' 'A Warning to the Curious'. The second of the three crowns of East Anglia, as you may know, is held to have been lost when a Saxon palace was inundated by the sea. In this story we find a diver with modern gear who thinks it's possible to recover the 'lost' crown.

That, in itself, is a pretty good premise. What's interesting is the way in which the treasure hunt is the 'A plot' that runs alongside the 'B plot'. The diver's wealthy girlfriend, who funds his expeditions, is the protagonist, and she is pregnant when the story begins. It is her pregnancy and concern for her unborn child that takes us forward as much as the revelation that the second crown has a guardian - and a familiar one to MRJ fans.

'The Second Crown' is an unusual story. Not by any means a Jamesian pastiche, it instead combines the Gothic element - a woman deceived/misused - with the supernatural plot. No way could Monty have written this, which makes it an interesting exploration of the world of scholarly spookery he created.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Friends of Count Magnus

A shadowy occult organisation has asked me to publicise their activities here, and to be honest I was too scared not to. You can't be too careful in this game.

The Friends of Count Magnus are holding a two-day conference in York on all things M. R. Jamesian. This will mark the 120th anniversary of James' visit to York 'to examine the painted glass of twelve of its mediaeval parish churches. His notebooks from the time are filled with descriptions of angels, demons and scenes of the Apocalypse…'

If you click on the link above you will find details galore! (I'm going, but don't let that put you off, I'm very quiet unless someone spikes my port and lemon.) What's more, the intellectual shindig is being held in the Bar Convent, which sounds fascinating. The dates are 26th and 27th of September.

Speakers include Helen Grant, Paul M. Chapman, Peter Bell, and Gail-Nina Anderson. In addition, Robert Lloyd-Parry will be giving a performance of one of MRJ's tales. Expert talks, panel discussions - it's the Full Monty, basically.

So why not come along? I promise to behave.