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on 4 October 2012
This impressive, weighty and nicely produced volume collects all of M.R. James's ghost stories, including obscure and unfinished ones. The quality of M.R. James's ghost story writing is well known and extends to many of the rarer and lesser-known stories included here but not in most of the other collections.

As my fellow reviewer points out, some of the stories have been amended punctuation-wise. The editor Stephen Jones argues this is to appeal more to modern readers by removing some of the more long-winded and antiquarian sentence constructions. Whilst I take his point I'm not sure I agree; this isn't Chaucer, it was written in the 20th century and it's hardly difficult to follow. Nevertheless, Jones has produced a very impressive collection.

Another minor niggle is the use of italics and a typewriter-style font for the elements of the stories where quotations and excerpts are used, which is not an improvement as it's simply not as comfortable to read them. That said, the book as a whole is beautifully produced and a joy to read, and illustrated here and there with wonderfully atmospheric illustrations.

As one would expect all the stories from the various editions of the collected Ghost Stories are here, together with the novella "The Five Jars" and the fragments that never became full stories. Some of these, such as "John Humphreys" and "Marcilly-le-Hayer" are as atmospheric and chilling as the better known greats. Unfortunately some of them have bits missing, and no attempt has been made to fill in the gaps or reconstruct what might be. That said, nobody would agree on what these should be so it's probably for the best.

Jones presents an impressive postscript in the form of publication and dramatisation history of all things Jamesian. He runs through the various TV adaptations, presents a nice selection of posters for the film "Night of the Demon" and suggests further Jamesian reading. Regarding the material actually written by the master, all of the stories here can be found in the legendary Ash Tree Press publication A Pleasing Terror, now cheaply available on Kindle, with the exception of the enjoyable poem "Living Night". Nevertheless, this looks and feels like the lovely book that it is and no doubt even those who have much of this already will want to add it to their libraries.
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on 20 March 2014
What a pity, when the Afterword is valuable and the fragmentary stories so rarely found, that the editor Stephen Jones has taken it upon himself to muck around with James's punctuation to make him more "accessible" - on the grounds that the original author was "not much of a stylist". Hmm.

Perhaps it had not occurred to him that many of us read these stories for the style as much as the substance. Mr Jones claims that he has not cut a word or altered the meaning. In the event, he often obscures James's meaning without clarifying it in the slightest. Sometimes he does worse. Here is just one, rather shocking example.

The original first paragraph of "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" reads:
'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now Full Term is over, Professor,' said a person not in the story to the Professor of Ontography, soon after they had sat down next to each other at a feast in the hospitable hall of St James's College.'

Here is the "accessible" Jones version, which adds a full stop after 'now':
'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now. Full term is over, Professor," said a person not in the story to the Professor of Ontography, soon after they had sat down next to each other at a feast in the hospitable hall of St. James's College.'

This introduces the baffling impression that the Professor needs to be told, rhetorically, that "Full term is over," rather in the manner of a bad Hollywood script. The extra punctuation turns James's elegant first sentence into bad writing. It destroys the rhythm and ruins the sense.

Such examples abound on nearly every page. Goodness knows what Mr Jones thought he was doing, but unfortunately his condescending and tin-eared interference has rendered one of the greatest ghost writers in the language down to the level of a penny-dreadful hack.

Add the fact that unattractive, modish and (in some cases) nearly unreadable italic and typewriter fonts have been used to let us stupid readers know when the stories quote "manuscripts" or "inscriptions", and we have a car-crash of the worst order.

The depressing series of own goals reduces the value of this collection to zero. What arrogance. How frustrating!
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on 26 July 2012
This is a handsomely bound (leather?) book containing all the ghost stories by the master of the form, including rarities and extra material on tv adaptations etc. But, as editor Jones admits, he will tick off a lot of purists with his re-punctuating these classics for a modern audience. Nothing's cut, but changing antique phrasing like "to-day" into "today" detracts from the flavour of the language. And rendering one tale almost entirely in italics, however justified in context, makes it a pain to read. Classic material, handsome book, big mistake.
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on 25 November 2014
What an awful edition. In "Ghosts - Treat them gently" James warns against "excess" in writing ghost stories. What a pity the publisher didn't heed this. The gimmicky, morbidly funeral black edges to the pages add nothing to James' stories and soon become scuffed and make the book look tatty. The style of the illustrations by Les Edwards are more suited to something by Ramsey Campbell that to James.

To cap it all, as has been pointed out by other reviewers, the editor, Stephen Jones has the temerity to mess around with the author's punctuation and sentence structure - see other reviews below for examples of Jones' incompetent, bungling interference in this respect.

As Jones points out, if one wants the original texts, then there are plenty other editions that contain them. It's just a pity that one wasn't warned before purchasing this edition.

James deserved something better than this as an anniversary edition. The publisher should be haunted by James' ghost.
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on 29 April 2016
Produced in 2012 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of M. R. James’ birth, this collection is edited by horror editor extraordinaire Stephen Jones, and includes just about every scrap of supernatural fiction MRJ wrote, plus some of his essays on ghost stories and an afterword from Jones. So, this book reprints all the four collections James oversaw, plus the stories collected for the first time in the 1932 Collected Ghost Stories, the three fugitive post-1932 stories hunted up by Michael Cox and all the extant drafts and fragments – most of the drafts and virtually all of the fragments though really are fragmentary. We also get ‘The Five Jars’, MRJ’s one foray into children’s fantasy and even an extract from a letter. Jones’ afterword is useful, accompanied as it is by lots and lots of James-related book covers and other illustrations, and the new illustrations by Les Edwards are pretty good too.
The one small worry is that Jones has taken it upon himself to change the set-up of James’ stories, nay “to re-punctuate his fiction for a modern audience” no less – which seems to mean putting in new paragraph breaks, breaking up sentences (which really is a no-no I reckon) and going a bit OTT on the funky fonts. The stories survive this treatment and very little damage is done really but it seems (frankly) like a rather arrogant and pretty useless thing to do to what is the best body of ghost stories in the English language.
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on 24 February 2016
A wonderful, definitive edition of James' ghost stories, including those less anthologized ones. Own this edition and you shouldn't need any other editions of the great man's fictional works - unless some more as-yet undiscovered stories turn up in future (a somewhat unlikely event, I suspect).
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on 10 May 2014
By far the most satisfying collection available. The illustrations, which perfectly capture the tone of the stories, are worth the price alone.
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on 27 February 2013
The best Ghost writer there is, as his tales always have a twist in them and keep you on the edge of your seat.
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on 30 May 2013
M R James is the king of ghost writers his stories are always disturbing and unsettling and no matter how many times I read them they are always new and fresh I would recommend this volume to anyone who has a genuine interest in macabre and superior ghost stories
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on 26 December 2012
Collections of M.R.James' ghost stories, both complete and incomplete, are legion. This is not surprising, as to most connoisseurs he is one of, if not the greatest exponent of the genre. As a long-term fan, I can only say that for me this is the ultimate and only collection. It includes everything James ever wrote on the subject, and includes at the end a review of all the published works, including film and television adaptations.
The Editor, Stephen Jones, in his Introduction admits to making some minor punctuation modifications to the stories, to compensate for the fact that James intended his stories to be narrated rather than written down. To me, the result is definitely rewarding; the stories flow well although not a word is lost.
The book contains a relatively small number of very good illustrations by Les Edwards. Usually, I find the illustrations in M.R. James collections to be a big disappointment , in that they inevitably fail to convey the sheer horror of the scenes they are suppose to be depicting, and are frequently merely laughable. These, while still not ideal, are certainly better than most, in my opinion.
An added bonus, to a long-standing book-lover like me is that this is one of the most beautifully bound and presented volumes (by Jo Fletcher Books) I have come across in many years.
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