DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson
Edited by Richard Dalby. Foreword by Joan Aiken
ISBN: 0786709804
ISBN: 1-894815-63-7 (May 2003)

Cover The prolific (more than 100 books including biographies, sports books, and a children's fantasy) E.F. Benson (1867-1940) wrote stories he hoped would offer his readers "some pleasant qualms" at bed time. Benson, after a friendship of 50 years with the matchless ghost story writer M.R. James, became his heir apparent.(Since a mid-80s television series based on the books, Benson has been best known in England for his Mapp & Lucia novels of 1930s manners and social mores.) Benson and James shared similar Victorian backgrounds as well an elegant literary style. Their primly structured stories both offer an immaculately respectable 19th century British attitude that turns to terror when the supernatural intrudes. Benson's tales tended more toward the nicely spooky, however, while James could be truly terrifying. The 54 stories in this volume were first collected in The Room in the Tower (1912), Visible and Invisible (1923), Spook Stories (1928), and More Spook Stories (1934). The collected collections were then published simultaneously by British publisher Robinson and U.S. publisher Carroll & Graf in 1992, reprinted in 1996 in the U.S., again in 2001 in the U.K., and now again by Carroll & Graf in the U.S. None of the editions mentions that the 15 stories collected by Jack Adrian in The Flint Knife (Equation, UK 1988) are not included. Still, the not-quite-complete compilation is an academic necessity and a joy to those with an interest in the era or author, but it can become a bit tedious for the average modern reader. We'd be well-served with a slimmer "best of" collection, but too much of a good thing is far better than too little. Perhaps it's best to read them, as Benson intended: one at a time and just before bed.

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.