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The birthplace of modern horror
on 3 March 2004
I own a twenty year old paperback copy of Carnacki the Ghostfinder, bought for me as a Christmas present by one of my Uncles when I was but a child. I'm now in my thirties and I've returned to this book regularly ever since, no matter which way my literary leanings have taken me.
You see, despite the relatively simple writing style, and the occasional tweeness, all of the stories in this collection have something in common - they are believable and genuinely tense and scary.
Carnacki is a psychic sleuth - Edwardian Britain's answer to Jonathan Creek - sent to investigate ghostly goings on that may, or may not, be caused by unexplained phenomena. What sets Carnacki apart from many similar creations is that he isn't presented as a "know-all" and is often as scared of the situation he is in as the reader is meant to be . What sets the stories apart from similar creations is William Hope Hodgson's refusal to let them become supernatural freak-fests; the terrifying events are described in down-to-earth terms and their impact on the characters in the stories is more important than the explanations given to them.
There are three absolute gems in here - The Hog, The Horse of the Invisible and, in particular, The Whistling Room, which is both chilling and utterly believable.
William Hope Hodgson's stories heavily influenced HP Lovecraft (widely regarded as the father of modern horror) and it's easy to see themes Hodgson created being built on in Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Later horror and occult authors, including Tremayne and Wheatley, have acknowledged Hodgson's impact on their writing. Hodgson was out of print in the UK from 1913 to 1973; American publishers kept his writing alive during this period. That Carnacki is still being read now, nearly a century after the stories were written, should be evidence enough of their strength, and I would recommend them to everybody. Especially the writers of Jonathon Creek, who seem to need a nudge in the right direction.