A while back my kindle broke and my books didn’t transfer automatically to the replacement one and phone calls to the service center in Ireland were required. Whatever enthusiasm I had for e-books and Amazon pretty much dwindled at that time, and now I generally stick to downloading free stuff off of Project Gutenberg, which is great, because Gutenberg has so much weird random classic stuff on it. Like the other day I was reading Greek and Roman Ghost Stories by Lacy Collison Morley and was on the chapter about necromancy when my 4th graders arrived and began causing a ruckus and … well, let’s just say they’ll get theirs the little ankle-biters.
But I wanted to give a shout out to the Project Gutenberg Project, a great website sifting through the depths at Project Gutenberg. They’re definitely worth checking out.
How about that crow cover? That’s pretty nice.
I found a used copy of this at What the Book in Seoul. It was published in the 1980s but the most recent story in it is an Aickman from the 1960s. The majority are from the 1920s, but all are from the 20th century.
In his introduction Dahl talks about the ghost story as a world tradition and the sheer wealth of source material available. This didn’t prevent him from putting together a mostly British table of contents. In fact my biggest complaint against this book is that it’s irritatingly British. Everyone is prim and proper and ducking into corner shops in search of bric-a-brac. Dahl also talks about how bad most authors’ ghost stories are. Even the big name folks’ stories are atrocious. He feels the same when it comes to children’s books too. People think they can write one easily, when the results are quite different.
There is a logic to Dahl’s selections and if you’ve ever read one of his stories you’ll see a kinship between them and his selections here. Most of them have zinger endings of the morbid sort.
Another little chestnut from the introduction is that Dahl records his surprise at how well women write ghost stories. After making a few wince-worthy generalizations, he applauds women as horror writers. They were so good he feared that the whole book would be nothing but women authors. But in the end the men roused themselves and prevailed, thirteen testicle-endowed individuals to eleven uterus-bearers.
Imagine if it had been otherwise. The horror!