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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six haunting tales of the supernatural
Here we have a collection of six short stories by the English writer of ghost stories and supernatural fiction, Algernon Blackwood (1869 – 1951). Blackwood was born in Shooter’s Hill, and after attending the University of Edinburgh, he enjoyed a varied life of farming in Canada, operating a hotel, mining in the Alaskan goldfields, and working as a newspaper...
Published on 21 Feb. 2006 by Chris Hall

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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suffering With Silence
I suppose with a name like "Algernon Blackwood" you would be more or less forced to become a writer of mysterious stories, it would certainly be a shame not to. Sadly, none of the fictional characters created here are as original or unusual as the author's own name.
Blackwood suffers, not uniquely, from comparisons both with writers who immediately precede and follow...
Published on 9 April 2003 by Rotgut


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six haunting tales of the supernatural, 21 Feb. 2006
By 
Chris Hall "DLS Reviews" (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
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Here we have a collection of six short stories by the English writer of ghost stories and supernatural fiction, Algernon Blackwood (1869 – 1951). Blackwood was born in Shooter’s Hill, and after attending the University of Edinburgh, he enjoyed a varied life of farming in Canada, operating a hotel, mining in the Alaskan goldfields, and working as a newspaper reporter in New York City before moving to England and starting to write ghost stories. His tales became very successful, and he went on to write ten books of short stories and appeared on both radio and television to tell them. Blackwood’s passion for nature and the mysterious world around himself captured his imagination, which is reflected within many of his following short stories. H.P. Lovecraft once wrote about Blackwood “He is the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere”. Never was a truer statement made.
This compilation contains six ghostly and harrowing tales that range in length from “A Case Of Eavesdropping” that is a mere 20 pages long, to the much longer tale “The Nemesis Of Fire” that runs for a total of 98 pages. The stories included are as follows:
The Empty House – written in 1906 (Taken from the book ‘The Empty House’)
Here we have a dark supernatural tale of an evil that has manifested itself into an old house that lies deserted in the middle of a street. A young man named Shorthouse decides to pay his Aunt Julia a weekend visit, which leads to them exploring the empty house in the middle of the night. The house turns out to hold terrible secrets, which torment the two curious onlookers. The story is a simple idea of a haunted house, yet holds an eerie undertone to it that keeps the reader gripped throughout the tale. Blackwood’s use of suspense is fantastic, as he builds upon the mounting tension throughout their experiences within the house. A very creepy and enjoyable read.
A Haunted Island - written in 1906 (Taken from the book ‘The Empty House’)
This next tale is that of a ghost story set in the remote Canadian backwoods. Written from the first person point of view, the story builds from an atmospheric scenario with an underlying tension that spirals to a breath-taking conclusion that will leave you gasping. The plot sees a lone student wishing to take advantage of a desolate island in order to catch up on some much needed revision. During his time there, he encounters some ghostly visions of Indians circling the island in an ancient canoe. As the tension mounts, the harrowing situation builds to a dramatic turn of events as the two Indian figures force their way into the house in which the student is staying. The story is packed with tension from early on, creating this powerful and disturbing tale of the supernatural.
Keeping His Promise – written in 1906 (Taken from the book ‘The Empty House’)
This tale concerns a young man by the name of Marriott who is a fourth year student at Edinburgh University. One night he is cramming for his finals when a friend from a long time ago knocks on the door in a terrible state. His friend is close to starvation, and so Marriot feeds him and sets him to sleep. As his friend sleeps, Marriott discovers that nothing is quite as it seems with the situation. A promise that was made a long time ago seems to have come back to haunt him – literally. This is a very intriguing and well-written short that keeps the reader gripped with the air of supernatural mystery that surrounds it.
A Case of Eavesdropping – written in 1906 (Taken from the book ‘The Empty House’)
This short story uses a classic haunted house situation where the unfortunate character of Jim Shorthouse finds cheap rented accommodation with a large run down building. During a rather restless night he overhears some German voices through the walls and learns of a terrible crime that unfolds. When he finally takes action he soon realizes that all is by no means as they seem. A very simple idea that is tackled well, creating a dark and atmospheric piece of short fiction.
Ancient Sorceries – written in 1908 (Taken from the 1908 book ‘Secret Worship’)
A tourist returning from a trip becomes too enchanted with a strange French town and its people to leave. He is slowly drawn more and more into their realm of secrets and talk of ancient memories. Eerie from the start, this creepy tale deals with the psychological side of horror with paranoia screaming out at you from every page. The story winds towards a weird and haunting conclusion that lingers with you for a long time to come. This is another John Silence story.
The Nemesis of Fire – written in 1908 (Taken from the book ‘John Silence, Physician Extraordinary’)
This final tale is by far the longest in the book. The story is a psychic detective story involving Dr. John Silence and his assistant. Written from the first person point of view of the assistant this creepy and surreal tale involves weird happenings taking place within a large plantation that overlooks the home of a wealthy retired solider. As the story unfolds, we learn of a ancient curse that has been placed on the surrounding area. The characterization within the tale is superb as Blackwood keeps the reader guessing along with the assistant at each bizarre turn of events. The story builds to a massive conclusion where everything is revealed, drawing to an end this impressive collection of haunting stories.
A truly enjoyable read from start to finish, each short story kept me gripped and on the edge of my seat. Well worth picking up!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable collection of supernatural tales from a great author, 25 April 2014
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grrr-woof-hoot (South Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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From the back cover: "In his search to systematize the supernatural, Dr John Silence, Blackwood's psychic detective, confronts anything from the nocturnal cat people of a sleepy French village with a really sinister secret to a reincarnated Egyptian fire-elemental embodied in a bowl of hot blood. Fear becomes a thread drawn so tightly it jangles, but never snaps. But *you* might."

Thankfully the book is better-written than the blurb on the cover. This 1974 Penguin edition contains six stories, four taken from Blackwood's first book - his 1906 collection "The empty house and other ghost stories" (The Empty House, A Haunted Island, Keeping His Promise, A Case of Eavesdropping) and two others taken from his 1908 collection "John Silence - Physician extraordinary" (Ancient Sorceries, The Nemesis of Fire).

This is a reasonable selection of Blackwood's well-regarded early work, the stand-out story being 'Ancient Sorceries' which is included in many different collections of his work. I must admit I bought this particular edition mainly because of the rather stylish Penguin cover!

It can be a bit of a headache trying to collect Blackwood's short stories without getting the most same stories appearing multiple times in different collections. The Penguin volume "The Insanity of Jones" (out of print like this one but available second-hand) would make a great companion to this book as none of the stories overlap. However, for a single-volume collection I would recommend the Dover edition "Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood" instead of this one.

As for the writing itself, some of the stories in this volume are fairly traditional supernatural tales, but Blackwood's ability to describe the psychological element of fear adds a lot to the enjoyment of reading them. It's not for nothing that HP Lovecraft singled out Blackwood as one of the "modern masters" of supernatural fiction. The title story is an engaging, enjoyable classic, and gives hints of the more mystical outlook that appears in much of the author's work. I intend to read a lot more of Algernon Blackwood.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good old fashioned atmospheric thrillers, 4 Jan. 2012
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I enjoyed this old book and once I got into the old fashioned and charming use of language it added to the atmosphere. These are "ghost" stories of the imagination, as a good ghost story should be. Not a lot of actual meeting doom but the escaping of physical harm while leaving the mind perturbed for ever more.
There was a certain sameness to the stories so it was good to pick up and read one story then have a break.
Also if one is interested in writing such stories this is a good style to follow. Get back to the chill and away from the overtly gruesome. I recommend it.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suffering With Silence, 9 April 2003
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Rotgut "rotgut" (Warrington UK) - See all my reviews
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I suppose with a name like "Algernon Blackwood" you would be more or less forced to become a writer of mysterious stories, it would certainly be a shame not to. Sadly, none of the fictional characters created here are as original or unusual as the author's own name.
Blackwood suffers, not uniquely, from comparisons both with writers who immediately precede and follow him...in this case, Sherlock Holmes' mighty shadow falls over supernatural sleuth John Silence, and, more obviously, the slightly later weird tales of H P Lovecraft (another great name!) are constantly invoked in the reader's mind in the best of these stories.
Some of the pieces in this collection are very slight indeed, the longest feature Silence, a rather poorly defined magic wielding investigator. The title work is rather dull, a shaggy cat rather than shaggy dog story, were-cats stalk a French village to little purpose, Silence is involved only after the event.The best is "The Nemesis Of Fire" where our hero is called to investigate mysterious deaths in a cursed wood.
Hope Hodgson's "Carnaki the Ghost Finder" dealt with a similar premise in a more interesting way, but these stories of Blackwood's, while limited in scope are usually interesting, and, with the exception of "Ancient Sorceries" itself, are compact enough not to outstay their welcome.
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ANCIENT SORCERIES and Other Stories
ANCIENT SORCERIES and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood (Paperback - 2004)
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