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Collected Ghost Stories Hardcover – 13 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (13 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199568847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199568840
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 3.8 x 15 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 312,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


first-rate introduction (Ferdinand Mount, London Review of Books)

Atmospheric, spare and dangerous: these are classics of a master. (Daily Echo)

The definitive edition of James's stories... a treasure trove for every horror lover. (Politico)

For those who like their flesh to creep, there is an inimitable cumulative pleasure in reading these stories (Daily Telegraph)

This collection is perfect both for longstanding M R James fans or those new to his chilling tales. (The Oldie)

An outstanding new edition... exemplary. (Boyd Tonkin, The Independent)

About the Author

Darryl Jones's other publications include Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film (London: Arnold; New York: OUP, 2002).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By T. Bobley on 15 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
It's surprising how many of these 30 short stories of ghosts, demons and other infernal trouble-makers seem familiar. I recognised over a dozen of them. "Casting the Runes" was the biggest surprise. It's just 18 pages long and easily recognisable as the original story that one of my favourite films from childhood (which I've been trying to get hold of on DVD for ages - my old video copy of it having worn out) is based upon. The film is called "Night of the Demon" (1957). Several of these stories have been read on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Digital Radio 7 recently and others have been made into films for television. The film of "A View from a Hill" (a mere 7 pages long in this book) was shown on one of the BBC channels only a week or so ago. The films are all excellent, but they can't improve on James's writing. It's hard to put a finger on what is so terrifying about his spooks. Some of them crawl. Anyone opening a door or turning on a light and seeing some strange, cadaverous looking thing crawling down a corridor towards them should certainly scream or faint. Some are hairy with long finger nails. After living through the hairy 60s and 70s, hair holds no fear for me - but those finger nails are a different matter. Some are more along the lines of animated skeletons held together by scraps of mouldering flesh and others are toad-like. I wonder James didn't give himself nightmares -- perhaps he did. You really need to give your imagination free-rein to properly experience the delightful tingle of fear M R James was hoping to generate for his audience. These tales are almost entirely goreless. Readers who prefer the blood and guts sort of horror probably won't enjoy this book. There are no rabid psychos leaping about with veins and gizzards dripping from their teeth. This collection is far more subtle and interesting than that.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By RIJU GANGULY on 12 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are classics that deserve no separate review apart from mere stating of the fact that these stories have been shaping the contours of horror fiction for the past century, and since 1931 (when these stories were brought out together, except 3 stories that were later collected) they have remained continuously in-print. However, this book was special in the sense that the stories often mention certain details that require gentle ministrations in the shape of annotations & explanations for Latin-challenged readers like us (who must be 99.9% of the total readers), and this book does it to some extent. Of course, its comparison with the gold-standard of annotated editions set by "A Pleasing Terror" published by the Ash Tree Press would be made, and the book would be found short on many grounds (esp. in terms of non-inclusion of certain non-fiction written by MRJ himself that have immense relevance in understanding the stories themselves) rather inevitably. Nevertheless, it is very reasonably priced, and deserves to be appreciated, esp. since the Penguin volumes (edited by S.T Joshi) are ridiculously overpriced, and since the Ash Tree Press is not coming out with their long-awaited 2nd edition of "A Pleasing Terror" (in 2 volumes!) any time soon. Recommended.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
Mr James was born in 1862. He was the son of a clergyman. He became a biblical scholar and vice-chancellor of Cambridge University. So you might expect from his life and his writing style that his stories are sedate things that the Victorian reader could read without too much upset. They would be free of troubling undertones, macabre inages, they would be comforting.
You'd be dreadfully wrong. The first story in this collection is Lost Hearts, a brutal and twisted story of scholarly detatchment, unethical experiments and gory murder. Going through the book we discover other classics showing just how physically and mentally violent James' imagination could be. There's the desperate attempt to shake the curse in Casting the Runes, the deadening claustrophobia of The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral, and the final story, Wailing Well, stuns the reader by beginning as a comedy and ending so blackly that few Hollywood horror films, shall we say, would dare to film it as written.
This is not sedate. It has an undeniable power that lingers after the book has been shut. I would actually put it above Lovecraft. There are weak points, it must be said; several times stories don't seem to get going before they end, creating a sense of anticlimax. But this does not detract from the achievements made in the other stories, and it's not going to stop me giving the collection five stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
Readers will understandably be divided on these stories: some will prefer the tight early pieces, others the wordier later ones. The reason is that they were written over a lifetime, and thereby chart the writer's growing abilities in the craft of writing, and his changing outlook.

The narrator of most stories is an antiquarian bachelor employed in academia or the church, which gives them a sense of social insularity. A number of James's tales are heavily immersed in the culture of Anglicanism in the late 19th century, assuming that the reader understands what disputes were current within the church. This can pose a problem for current readers. For example, the splendidly crafted "An Episode in Cathedral History" relies on a knowledge of the Gothic revival that swept through the Church of England in the mid-19th century, as well as the frictions between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic churchmen.

Also James was clearly a fan of Anthony Trollope, whose "Barchester Chronicles" novels (eg. Barchester Towers) have left an impression on some of the later stories with their colourful casts of eccentric clergymen and cathedral staff. One odd tale is actually titled "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral". There are extremely convincing and well rendered portrayals of character types that hold up so well against Trollope, Charles Dickens and George Gissing - this is good writing.

Having said that, as stories of ghosts and supernatural events go there are some real gems in this volume: including "The Mezzotint", "The Ash Tree", "Whistle and I'll Come to You Lad", "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas", "The Haunted Doll's House'", "An Uncommon Prayer Book" and the gruesome "A View from a Hill".
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