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Short Fiction

M. R. James

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Montague Rhodes James was a respected scholar of medieval manuscripts and early biblical history, but he is best remembered today as a writer of ghost stories. His work has been much esteemed by later writers of horror, from H. P. Lovecraft to Steven King.

The stereotypical Jamesian ghost story involves a scholar or gentleman in a European village who, through his own curiosity, greed, or simple bad luck, has a horrifying supernatural encounter. For example, in “ ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,’ ” a professor finds himself haunted by a mysterious figure after blowing a whistle found in the ruins of a Templar church, and in “Count Magnus,” a writer’s interest in a mysterious and cruel figure leads to horrific consequences. Other stories have the scholar as an antagonist, like “Lost Hearts” and “Casting the Runes,” where study of supernatural rites gives way to practice. James’ stories find their horror in their atmosphere and mood, and strike a balance in their supernatural elements, being neither overly descriptive nor overly vague.

This collection includes all the stories from his collections Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, More Ghost Stories, A Thin Ghost and Others, and A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories.

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