on 20 August 2009
Ambrose bierce is the somewhat enigmatic cult figure whose 'Devil's Dictionary' and mysterious disappearance brought him fame. Judging the tales contained within this book by themselves, I must conclude that they are well written, journalistic (not surpringly so, if you consider that Bierce was actually a journalist) discriptions of 'occurences', and 'strange phenomena'. His writing style, in addition to being precise, has a bleak sense of humour to it, sometimes even cynical. Furthermore, Bierce knows how to bring across dread, and fear of the unknown. While he never writes in gruesome details of some contemporary horror (cinema) he uses suspense to a, perhaps, even greater effect.
There are quite a lot of tales in this book, and not all are about ghosts, fear of ghosts, and mysterious appearances. That said, each story has something unique. What is striking is that some tales are only a few pages long (I counted at least one of only two pages) while others take up 10, 20 or, in one case, even 30 pages. Interesting is that Bierce chose his topics from everyday life, knowing that he was born in the 1840's this means that the American civil war is the background for a few stories, as are there goldminers/ cowboys; not topics frequently chosen in the horror genre, but that can be considered a refreshingly new take on the gothic horror genre.
This book is a nice anthology of Bierce's horror prose and well recommended to Lovecraft / Machen fans as well as the Poe reader, as for all the fans of imaginative horror.