Sunday, 18 October 2009

More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

I don't need much excuse to start reading some ghost stories, so it's no surprise that my break to Sandsend, in that haunted month called October, would include a whole volume of spooktacular tales finding their way onto my reading list. This second collection of creepy tales doesn't quite match M.R. James' first Antiquarian collection. The first three stories are nicely told but not quite up to being part of the ghost story top of the pops that filled the first volume. The last four are much better, including the brilliant Casting the Runes, which has been adapted for television twice and was also made into the classic horror film Night of the Demon (must rewatch this one soon) from 1957. Like many of James stories it doesn't include a conventional ghost but in this case focuses mainly on the misuse of witchcraft. The Stalls of Barchester is also pretty good and was one of the BBC's Christmas ghost story adaptations from the 1970s. The strength of James work lies in bringing such stories into the everyday world, diminishing the reader's sense of distance or disconnection from the proceedings even now a century after their first publication.

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