Any reader who only gives this book One Star has to be out of his tiny mind. I've only read two of Bierce's collections of short stories - "In the Midst of Life", and "Can Such Things be?" But these include "An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge", "A Watcher by the Dead," and "The Man and the Snake." The first is one of his great Civil War stories, and the last two are horror, and are to be found in many highly-rated anthologies. I haven't read this collection of his complete stories - but any reader worth his salt, on the strength of those I have mentioned, would want to try them all. So try them!
I was 'introduced' toi this book when i was about 14 by my grandfather, a literary geniu and teacher of English. I never had a copy of the book but the stories stayed in my head for years-indeed until today.... I have sought out a copy before only to see it was out of print but today i find it has been reprinted! I shall make a purchase after writing this. I managed to find a library copy about 10 years back and refamiliarised myself with the stories. It suprised me that at 14 I had managed to read them. I wasn't much of a reader and the language is rich and requires a bit of processing. The stories are set in very different settings and are so imaginative and the great thing about short stories is often the ending..its what you are reading for. The journey is compelling and the final lines that hold the twist never let one down. This is a literary masterpiece in my opinion unlike some of the rubbish that is currently regarded as such. I bought a William Boyd collection of short stories as he was heralded as a literey genius by Fi Glover on Saturday Live recently (BBC 4 radio) but it is really weak compared to Ambrose Bierce. Buy it!
I was given this book to read whilst researching for my own American Civil War novel by a friend. While not a collection of stories I would readily go out and read, I found them compelling and all with such an unexpected twist (similar to Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected) that I was eager to read through just to find out what this twist would be.
The one that stands out in my mind is the one where a child witnesses the wounded Confederates dragging themselves back from the Battle of Chickamauga, something Bierce would know all about as he was actually there. For those who like this sort of thing - ghost/surreal stories - this is meat and drink to you. They all have a tale to tell, of ordinary people caught up in the terror and destruction of a civil war.
I agree with the comment about giving this a one-star review, whoever this person was must surely not have known what was within these pages and expected an all-action adventure novel. It certainly isn't dull, but don't go expecting a Gods & Generals or Gettysburg type of thing.