{Book + Short Stories} What Went Back to the Library Today

Took a couple of #RIPXIV / #somethingWickedFall books back to the library today:

Cover via Goodreads

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

Two chilling ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black, both set in crumbling English houses that are haunted by the spirits of thwarted children.

In The Small Hand, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn and stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house with a lush, overgrown garden. Approaching the door, he is startled to feel the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, almost as though a child had taken hold of it. Plagued by nightmares, he returns with the intention of figuring out its mysteries, only to be troubled by further, increasingly sinister visits. In Dolly, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his forbidding Aunt Kestrel at Iyot House, her decaying home in the damp, lonely fens. With him is his spoiled, spiteful cousin, Leonora. And when Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful doll is denied, she unleashes a furious rage which will haunt Edward for years afterward. (via Goodreads)

Read both The Small Hand and Dolly. I enjoyed them well enough, but really don’t have too much to say about them. Neither was as good as the other Susan Hill book I’ve read, The Woman in Black, but that *is* considered a ghost story classic. I probably liked Dolly better because The Small Hand felt a little padded out. Still, some nice reading for autumn nights.

Cover via Goodreads

Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub

From the incomparable master of horror and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twenty-five writers representing today’s most talented voices in the genre.

Horror writing is usually associated with formulaic gore, but New Wave horror writers have more in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe than with the sometimes-predictable hallmarks of their peers. Showcasing this cutting-edge talent, Poe’s Children now brings the best of the genre’s stories to a wider audience. (via Goodreads)

I find it funny that a this anthology of “new” fiction is over 10 years old at this point… It’s my habit when I go to the library to pluck a couple books from shelves, give some a 10-page test, and maybe read a short story from a random anthology. A few weeks back I picked up Poe’s Children and started reading “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” by Thomas Ligotti, since I hadn’t read any Ligotti before. Unfortunately, it was a too long to finish at the library. So, I took it home. I meant to read a few more of the stories, but I only fit in one more. “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” was clever with an excellently twisted ending. The other story I read was “The Bees” by Dan Chaon. The setting was great but I thought the ending was a little flat.

Happy Halloween from The Black Cat, Vol. 1


For the past year, I’ve been reading through issues of The Black Cat, a magazine that began publication in October of 1895. It might sound a little sadistic, but I wanted to read popular literature from the turn of the 19th century, but not just “the good stuff” that has survived to be anthologized. Some of the stories I’ve read in the past year were not very good. Some were very…problematic. And some were quite good. Not all the stories were speculative, but many were and almost every month included a “spooky” story. I figured October would be a good time to share some of my favorites. Below are links to five stories and I’ll post another five later in the month.

Our unnamed narrator rents the Chateau Blanc in hopes of curing his melancholy. The house appealed to him due to the strange picture of the previous owner that hangs in the bedroom and the stuffed pet swan that somewhat floats on the lake. He’s sure there is a mystery to these objects…

Link to “The Secret of the White Castle” by Julia Magruder

Our narrator assures us that he never would have thought to go into the house if the lady he were with hadn’t confidently let herself in. They go upstairs and sit down to dinner. Around the table are a group of strange characters including a man that our narrator thinks is his old friend, Bill, from college. Except Bill has been dead for eight years…

Link to “The Interrupted Banquet” by Rene Bache

Our narrator falls in love with the beautiful Aidu. When he meets her she seems to be in some trouble. She agrees to help (and later to marriage), under the condition that she be allowed her freedom and she not be followed when she leaves the house. Aidu is a strange woman; she is never seen eating and once a week she goes for a walk alone and returns re-invigorated. Of course, we know how this story goes. Our love-struck narrator, follows her one evening…

Link to “Aidu” by Hero Despard

A friend finds Mr. Paul Fancourt in a state. What’s wrong? Fancourt tells of his marriage to the lovely and tempestuous Leila. His wife’s temper drove him away for five years and, when he returned, Leila was a different woman. Possibly, quite literally.

Link to “The Little Brown Mole” by Clarice Irene Clinghan

It’s a “very attractive modern house with a history.” The (presumably) first owners of the house die mysteriously, leaving behind a tale and ghosts.

Link to “To Let” by Alice Turner Curtis

Find out more about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 12, September 1896

Welcome to the September 1896 issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Over the last month or two, I’ve wondered if continuing with the Black Cat Project is worthwhile. Some issues have been…not so great. But then there are issues like this one with two really interesting stories and one that’s pretty fun.

Stories

“The Reapers” by Batterman Lindsay

A man and woman on the run settle in a deserted Boom Town. Their crimes are never enumerated, but they have a good-sized box of money. Their plan is to lay low in this town for a year and then head to South America. Everything is fine for a while. The couple obviously love each other and enjoy the freedom of having a whole town at their disposal. But when they are forced to move into the old hotel, the woman starts hearing a small voice asking, “Mama?”

This is perhaps the most well-written story I’ve read in The Black Cat. I couldn’t find much biographical information on (Annie) Batterman Lindsay, but she does have a novel Derelicts of Destiny that I’m interested in reading

“A Kindergarten Hold-Up” by Mabell Shippie Clarke

Young career criminal Sam Murphy coincidentally meets up with this sister who was put into a foster home after he left home and their mother died. And it turns out he’s not such a bad guy after all.

Was Clarke’s other tale this sentimental?

“The Guardian of Mystery Island” by Dr. Edmond Nolcini

An old salt, Tom, tells Sam (Lenartson, this time) of a treasure on Mustery Island (in Maine, according to Google). It’s guarded by a dorg, in Tom’s words, which Sam assumes to mean “dog,” but said with a really bad accent. After braving a squall to reach the island, Sam does encounter a dog, a fairly friendly one, that leads him to a dilapidated mansion. There he finds a invalid  woman with dimentia. She believes she’s a refugee from the French Revolution and goes on about some devil-weed on the island, protecting the treasure. It all seems too fantastical to Sam…until he meets the devil-weed…

There are a lot of things in this story that I would consider Jamsean or Lovecraftean if this story were written 40 years later. According to Urban Dictionary, which I’m not sure is reliable, there is a thing called a dorg. It “bears similarities to both a plant and a canine animal.” There’s no other information though.

“A Mental Mischance” by Thomas F. Anderson

One day Albert Reeves finds that he can read minds. What does one do with that ability? Crime fighting? Journalism? Stock trading? It’s always good to remember that sometimes thoughts are fancies.

“The Barber of the Alpena” by J. Harwood

J. Harwood provides a harrowing little tale. A barber, with a very strange visage, attends a dissection class and becomes a little obsessed with the potential to flay a client’s face instead of giving them a nice close shave. He confesses this tale to a group of travelers, one of whom meets the Barber of the Alpena again… or does he?

Like many of the horror stories in The Black Cat, this one doesn’t really “pay off” but it gives plenty of chills in the meantime.

“Which Was Like a Woman” by William Albert Lewis

This is another one of those inconstant women stories. Dorothy Moore’s husband is in prison for life. With three kids to support, she takes in a male boarder, which is unseemly. So, Dorothy procures a divorce (or rather the legal status of widow) and marries her boarder Brian Lett. Brian’s a good guy. Her kids like him. Everything is going well. Until her first husband is pardoned. And Dorothy is made to feel bad—how horrible that she should have sought a secure future…

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The ad is for Mellin’s Food, which was a infant formula.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. #, Month, Year

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

{Book} The Other

picture of a book, The Other
My copy of The Other along with a nice bookmark from the library.

The Other by Thomas Tryon

Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
The Other is on a lot of classic horror best-of lists. It’s considered pretty scary and very influential in the genre of horror.

What Did I Think?
There is a problem sometimes with influential genre books…they’re *influential*. Meaning their tropes and twists get used in other stories (when they’re not being entirely ripped off). I can’t think of any story that specifically like The Other, but nothing about this novel’s twist surprised me. I figured it out really early on despite some obfuscation in the narrative. Or maybe it’s a matter of my “learning” horror in a post-M. Night Shyamalan world. I kind of meta-analyzed this book as I read it and that perhaps that robbed it of some enjoyment for me. I will admit, an event near the end of the book did surprise me.

Original Publishing info: Knopf, May 1971
My Copy: mass market paperback, Fawcett Crest, acquired via Book Mooch
Genre: horror, psychological thriller.

Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

Spooky Salon, 9/22

Spooky Salon
(A little rebranding for September & October)

Peril the First

Haven’t been super-duper in the mood to read lately. Most things just haven’t been catching with me. The exception has been Moby-Dick although I’m keeping the leisurely pace of Brona’s readalong. Instead of what I have on my Fall TBR list, I decided to read The Two Sams by Glen Hirshberg. It’s an “old” favorite. I posted my thoughts on it on Thursday, using my new, more relaxed review format.

The Other The Small Hand and Dolly

I’m going to give The Other another go. I got bogged down reading it, but I don’t think it’s without merit. And as long as I don’t have to take it back to library on Tuesday, I’ll be reading The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill next.

Continue reading “Spooky Salon, 9/22”

{Book} The Two Sams

The paperback The Two Sams and a bookmark.
My copy of The Two Sams along with a bookmark made from a birthday card sent to me by my friend Tania.

The Two Sams: Ghost Stories by Glen Hirshberg

With this unique collection, acclaimed author Glen Hirshberg breathes new life into an age-old literary tradition. In the title story a husband struggles with the grief and confusion of losing two children, and forms an odd bond with the infant spectrals that visit him in the night. “Dancing Men” depicts one of the creepiest rites of passage in recent memory when a boy visits his deranged grandfather in the New Mexico desert. “Struwwelpeter” introduces us to a brilliant, treacherous adolescent whose violent tendencies and reckless mischief reach a sinister pinnacle as Halloween descends on a rundown Pacific Northwest fishing village. Tormented by his guilty conscience, a young man plumbs the depths of atonement as he and his favorite cousin commune with the almighty Hawaiian surf in “Shipwreck Beach.” In “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” a college professor confronts his own dark places in the form of a mysterious haunted house steeped in the folklore of grisly badlands justice. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
‘Tis the season, but as I was reading some of the other books on my #RIPXIV and #SomethingWickedFall pile, I kept thinking about these stories. The Two Sams is a reread for me. I first read it in 2015, but I believe I’ve read “Struwwelpeter” separately since then.

What Did I Think?
These stories are so good.

I had forgotten the endings of “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” and “The Two Sams.” They are shocking and discomfiting by turns. I had more appreciation for the two stories I considered weaker during my the first read-through (“Shipwreak Beach” and “Dancing Men”), but I haven’t put my finger on exactly why. Maybe I’m a little more accepting of these “warm weather” horror stories, one set in Hawaii and the other in New Mexico. Each story is set in a different place and Hirshberg goes out of his way to make the settings distinct. Plus, there is such wonderfully creepy subtlety to character motivations.

Hirshberg has become one of my favorite writers and The Two Sams is probably in my top 10 books of all time.

Original Publishing info: Carroll & Graf, 2003
My Copy: paperback, acquired via PaperbackSwap
Genre: horror


Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

Review ~ The Count of Monte Cristo

Cover via Goodreads

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (Translator)

A popular bestseller since its publication in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great page-turning thrillers of all time. Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, Alexandre Dumas’s grand historical romance recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantès, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal. As Robert Louis Stevenson declared, “I do not believe there is another volume extant where you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of romance.” (via Goodreads)

The Count of Monte Cristo was one of those books that, despite everyone else having read it and loved it in high school, I had never been required to read. Honestly, I’ve never been required to read any Dumas and picked up The Three Musketeers for fun in college. But everyone kept telling me that The Count of Monte Cristo was Dumas’ better book. And it is!

I also hadn’t ever watched an adaptation of the novel, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there was revenge, but I expected more of the “My name is Inigo Montoya; prepare to die!” swashbuckling-style of revenge. Instead, Edmond Dantès revenge is an intricate puzzle that envelopes generations. It’s melodramatic and delicious. I have no idea how you’d manage to do it well in a movie. While there is some musing on the righteousness and awfulness of revenge, much of this book is just so sensational, so “popular literature.” And occasionally, The Count of Monte Cristo feels a little padded out as Dumas (and his probably collaborator Auguste Maquet) wrote for serialization.

I read this as part of Nick’s Chapter-a-day Readalongs and that was a great way to experience the story. I had made reading The Count of Monte Cristo part of my morning ritual for over 100 days and I miss it! I sought out Robin Buss’ translation. I’d read the first chapter in the commonly available public domain translation and it was just a little too stilted. There are also many abridged editions out there—I own one of them and have it around here somewhere. I wonder what parts you’d leave out of this tale…

Original Publishing info: 1846
My Copy: Trade paperback, 2003 edition, purchased at Barnes & Noble
Genre: adventure