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Great Ghost Stories

Posted by demonik on April 22, 2009

R. Chetwynd-Hayes and Stephen Jones (eds.) – Great Ghost Stories (Cemetery Dance, Carroll & Graf, 2004)

[image]

Les Edwards

Foreword – Stephen Jones
Introduction – R. Chetwynd-Hayes

Amelia B. Edwards – The Four-Fifteen Express
Richard Middleton – On the Brighton Road
Ambrose Bierce – The Moonlit Road
G. B. S.- The Whittaker’s Ghost
S. Baring-Gould – The Leaden Ring
Sir Walter Scott – The Tapestried Chamber
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu – Ghost Stories Of The Tiled House
F. Marion Crawford – The Dead Smile
Daniel Defoe – The Ghost of Dorothy Dingley
Anon – The Dead Man Of Varley Grange
E. Nesbit – John Charrington’s Wedding
Sydney J. Bounds – The Night Walkers
Amyas Northcote – Brickett Bottom
John Kendrick Bangs – The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall
Stephen King – The Reaper’s Image
Jerome K. Jerome – Christmas Eve in the Blue Chamber
Steve Rasnic Tem – Housewarming
Ramsey Campbell – The Ferries
Tina Rath – The Fetch
Washington Irving – Guests From Gibbet Island
Garry Kilworth – The Tryst
Guy de Maupassant – An Apparition
Brian Lumley – Aunt Hester
Tony Richards – Our Lady Of The Shadows
R. Chetwynd-Hayes – She Walks on Dry Land

Can anyone see the sense in this? Take a series of everyman pocket paperbacks like The Fontana Book Of Great Ghost Stories, which, in their day were available in just about every newsagent and supermarket up and down the country, and like as not got several people on here reading the stuff. Make a random selection from volumes 17-20. Get Les Edwards to design you a terrific cover, fully in sympathy with the original series. Now, have the thing printed, making sure it’s as unnecessarily bulky as possible, and run off just enough copies so that it sells out prior to publication. Appealing to the “I’ve still got my factory sealed, never been opened, worth a bomb!” non-reading market is all very well, but it’s also driving another stake into the heart of what’s supposed to be ‘popular fiction’. Hope they won an award for it.

Anyway, here’s the Blurb:

Eerie atmospherics, a sense of foreboding, then the unease, a chill, a shudder, ghosts, terror — again and again, in the twenty-five superbly scary tales of this standout anthology, they’re conjured artfully, both by modern masters of the macabre, among them Stephen King, Garry Kilworth, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, and Tony Richards, and by literary greats like Ambrose Bierce, Washington Irving, Sir Water Scott, and J Sheridan Le Fanu. Culled from the renowned Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories series, which was edited from 1972 to 1984 by horror fiction writer and erudite anthologist R Chetwynd-Hayes, these highly original, and often long-obscure tales reflect the enduring fascination in our literary tradition with phantoms, specters, ghouls, and wraiths. There’s a fetch (i.e., doppelganger) too — in Tina Rath’s nasty take on a violent husband, his shrinking wife, and a scheming woman. And behind Guy de Maupassant’s simply titled “An Apparition” lurks a tale that Chetwynd-Hayes places among the top ten most terrifying ghost stories ever written. From Daniel Defoe’s engaging period piece, “The Ghost of Dorothy Dingley,” set in 1665, to the subtle slice of contemporary ghostly life in Stephen King’s “The Reaper’s Image,” dread takes many fearsome guises in the three centuries of chilling fiction collected here, and solace lies only at the feet of a very dark angel.

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3 Responses to “Great Ghost Stories”

  1. Oh, to complete my collection of the Fontana Ghost Story anthologies.
    The books were so-so – cheap paper and all that, but I thought most of the stories were knock outs.
    But I do like my ghosts laden with clanking chains whilst the prowl the drafty corridors of ye olde ancient castle.

  2. Thank you for your comments Titus.

    However, I should point out that the book you are complaining about is merely the limited edition version.

    GREAT GHOST STORIES was also published as an inexpensive trade paperback at the same time by Carroll & Graf and has, to date, gone through three very successful printings.

    In fact it was so successful that C&G published a follow-up volume, TALES TO FREEZE THE BLOOD, containing more selections from THE FONTANA BOOKS OF GREAT GHOST STORIES.

    Both these books were a way of getting classic ghost stories out there at an inexpensive price as well as keeping Ron Chetwynd-Hayes’ name alive.

    Sorry you were not impressed.

    — Stephen Jones

    • demonik said

      Thanks for replying. It wasn’t Titus who wrote the rather catty remarks about ‘Great Ghost Stories’, it was me, grumpy at how difficult it can be to land the books that appeal because often it seems that, unless you pre-order them, you’re at the mercy of the abebook profiteers. I appreciate that the book was reissued, and i’m certainly in favour of keeping RCH’s memory alive, but surely you realise that many people would be attracted to the Cemetery Dance edition on the strength of Les Edwards’ artwork alone?

      No offence intended, and i assure you i’ve had far more positive things to say about ‘Summer Chills’ and ‘New Terrors’. ‘Great Ghost Stories’ just caught me in one of my moods.

      All the best, and good luck with the WHC next year.

      demonik
      vault

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