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Ghost Stories (Wordsworth Classics) [Paperback]

M. R. James
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1992 Wordsworth Classics
The tail piece Stories I have tried to write accompanies 30 classic tales of their genre set against convincing backgrounds to afflict chilling terror on the reader.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853260533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853260537
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An infernal collection 15 Feb 2007
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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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave your preconceptions at the door 23 Nov 2004
By A Customer
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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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spooky Stuff 10 Mar 2005
By A Customer
Having seen the short season of MR James classics on television at Christmas, I decided to keep the tradition of ghostly readings on Christmas Eve, I decided to buy this book and was not dissapointed,scared more likely.
It has to be said that out of the 30 or stories that are included, I was left a trifle dissapointed with perhaps about ten, but overall the content of the other stories were chilling and disturbing.
Reading these short tales whilst alone with just the sound of a ticking clock really takes you back to the time when most of the stories are told (1850's). Three stand out tales are 'Two Hearts,Whistle and I'll come to you and the atmospheric A Warning to the curious' are not for the faint hearted. In summary, I would decribe most of these stories as 'chilling classics from a bygone age' Enjoy
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A taste for Victorian Gothic 26 Dec 2012
By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book of creepy stories
Published 2 days ago by Jicky
5.0 out of 5 stars As described, well packaged and promptly sent. Quintessentially ...
As described, well packaged and promptly sent. Quintessentially English supernatural stories by a master of the short story form. Tales to be read after dark!
Published 21 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars m r james
Recommend you read, "whisper..." at night on your own with the wind whistling at your window... brrr
Published 2 months ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Curl up in front of the sofa in front of the fire with a mug of cocoa and wait for a thunder storm. If this proves a little awkward, a few pages of M R James will certainly put you... Read more
Published 7 months ago by David Williams
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
A colleague had said that MR James was tedious, and he was right.
Why seven more words? Isn't this enough?
Published 8 months ago by Selby John Starkie
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghost story's
Great bed time reading if you like a little shudder down the spine b 4 the lights go out i bought this book to take camping superb.
Published 8 months ago by trevpoddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Terror.
I've read the collected ghost stories of M.R James many times, most recently on kindle. It is a fantastic collection of tales which sent shivers down my spine. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Humour And Horror, Delightfully Delivered
M R James' tales can chill the blood, make one laugh out loud and purr with pleasure at the elegance of his prose. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jack Point
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly spooky stories!
Having just read Overheard In A Graveyard and Other Stories I was reminded of this classic master of the supernatural and was curious to know if you can get his works on the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Reclusive Muse
4.0 out of 5 stars ghostly tales
heard a couple of stories on the radio, so wanted to read his collected tales. 30 stories. Especially good was The Haunted Dolls House
Published 19 months ago by sue orwin
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