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on 21 November 2016
While, personally, I still think the great Sir Michael Horden remains the master when it comes to narrating the stories of MR James (there was just something about his voice that seemed to suit the material perfectly), here, Sir Derek Jacobi still does an excellent job in reading these tales from the great ghost story writer.

This 2CD collection has 5 tales ("A view from a hill", "rats", "A school story" (which is split across the two CDs), "The ash tree" and "The story of a disappearance and an appearance") and is about 2.5 hours long. I'm sure everyone has their own personal favourites from his writings and while these five are not at the very top of my own list, they are very well brought to life by Jacobi and I still found them very atmospheric. Great fun to listen to in bed!
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on 12 January 2011
The only really scary ghost stories I have ever read. Each story begins with the usual calm of 19thC prose and gradually reality begins to fray at the edges and you end up being frightened out of your wits by a pile of linen bedsheets.
Not for the faint of heart but definitely for people who like to read a genre done supremely well.
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on 16 August 2006
For anyone who can think of no better way to spend a dark winters' evening than to curl up by the fire and read a good ghost story, then this book is for you. M.R. James, perhaps the most famous of all English supernaturalists, delivers stories of such consistent quality and style that it is difficult to think of anyone, except perhaps Algernon Blackwood, that ever has or ever will match him. James' stories reflect an England that has long since faded into memory. He himself was a lifelong academic and a highlight of the Christmas term for his students would be an invite to his study where they would hear his latest tale of terror. These stories are beautifully crafted with an elegant prose that conjours up an age long since past. Despite being written over eighty years ago these stories have not lost their ability to send shivers down the spine and indeed on occasion, even shock. With James' work, it is often the unexpected that leaves a lingering shadow in the readers mind long after the book has been put down. Highlights and true classics of supernatural fiction, include his most famous tale 'Oh Whistle, and I'll Come To You My Lad' and other genre classics such as ' Lost Hearts,' 'The Mezzotint,' and 'The Ash Tree.' So imagine , if you will, it is night, you are sitting in an old leather arm chair alone in a dark room, you are drifting off to sleep. Your arm falls from your side and your hand brushes something that is crouching in the dark on the floor beside you. It is large, the size of a man, but it is covered in thick coarse hair and it has started to rise!
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on 15 January 2010
What can one say of the ghost stories of M.R. James ? It was the only type of story in which he was interested in writing. And he is the absolute master of this genre. For a wonderful and chilling "read", there is nothing better than these stories.

Louis des Préaux
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on 28 September 2011
The following review is for the Penguin paperback book "Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories: The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James (volume 1)", not the audiobook.

This Penguin edition, when combined with its sister volume The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Ghost Stories (volume 2) form the most definitive binding of M.R. James's ghost stories that is widely available. Comprising James's first two ghost story books ("Ghost Stories of an Antiquary" and "More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary") this edition is fully annotated and with a few extras thrown in. Although James's works are supremely accessible and highly readable, there are a few references which may be just a bit too oblique for us nowadays - there are few Edwardian scholars like James around. The editors come to the rescue here with comprehensive notes at the back, together with translations of passages of Latin which James left as it was.

The most interesting added bonus here is "A Night In King's College Chapel", thought to be M.R. James's very first ghost story, and not included in the other widely available published works. It's ultimately a little disappointing, and having none of the terror and atmosphere of his other works, but nevertheless it's a real privelige to read this rare work and see where it all began.

As for the stories themselves, many of James's best known are in this volume; "Lost Hearts", "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas", and perhaps the best known "Oh Whistle, and I'll Come To You My Lad". The best way to enjoy these is to space them out - they are all quite short and read one after another they loose their impact. Most follow the well known Jamesian formula of an academic or member of the clergy inadvertently summoning a malevolent force. Widely considered to be the master of his genre, James creates a superbly chilling atmosphere in just a few pages.

There are lots of different editions of M.R. James's ghost stories available. These Penguin ones do work out among the most expensive considering two volumes are involved, but they are worthwhile for the bonus stories and essays not found in the others, and for the annotations for the interested reader.
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on 17 January 2008
I was intoduced, 50 years ago, to the delights of the ghost stories of M.R. James by my Latin master at school who usually read one of these superb stories at the end of term. These made such a deep impression on me that, to this day, ghost stories fall into 2 groups - those by M.R. James and the rest!

By far and away the best recordings of M.R. James' ghost stories were those recorded by the incomparable Michael Hordern on the Argo label, now sadly long deleted. His voice characterizations seem to hit exactly the right note.

Unfortunately Hordern did not record all the stories, so this CD is a very welcome addition to my audio library, as it contains two that Hordern didn't do - A View from a Hill & The Story of a Disappearance & an Appearance. Derek Jacobi's characterizations are of a wider range than Hordern's, but the general narrative style doesn't quite do it for me in the same way that Hordern's does.

It has to be said that recordings of all James Stories are being released, narrated by David Collings (if, that is, the publisher ever get round to releasing the 2nd tranche - I've been waiting 10 months!!). However Collings' characterizations are, by a long way, the poorest of the three. He has a flat & monotonous intonation which I find tedious, so in terms of material available today, Jacobi's recording is to be greatly commended.
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on 17 January 2008
A must have for lovers of ghost stories in general and particularly those of M.R. James. Superbly read by the great Derek Jacobi who really makes the stories come alive. A real treat.
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on 4 August 2009
The Wordsworth Classics edition of MR James's works is still the best one-volume edition available. I've dipped into my copy so many times I think I need a new one. But just when I thought it was all the James I'd ever need I came across this Penguin edition.

If you're looking to start reading MR James then get the Wordsworth, but if you've read him and want more, or want to get the best edition of his stories right from the very beginning, then buy this peerless book.

This has got to be one of the best Penguin Classics editions in a long time. ST Joshi's introduction is masterly and insightful. He clearly knows and loves these stories well and his intro serves to whet the appetite for the newcomers while shedding new light on James and his stories for those who already know them well.

For students and scholars, Joshi's suggestions for further reading also indicate that this is man with a serious, SERIOUS command of the subject.

As if this weren't enough we get Joshi's notes for each story. These are especially useful for clarifying some of the more obscure references in James's stories, as well as the numerous latin phrases and allusions with which his tales are littered. And then there's the appendices which print uncollected matter which is hard to come by.

This book really is a fine example of its kind and is worth every penny.
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on 5 October 2017
Awful - dry and dusty stories.
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on 17 December 2011
I have always thought that the Ghost Stories of M.R. James were meant to be read aloud. To my mind no one has managed to capture his imagry on film or T.V.

Some readers of his work leave me cold. Not with fear unfortunatly but with their lack of understanding of the material.
Sir Derek Jacobi, with his rich voice and uncomplicated accents, captures the essence of what M.R.James is all about. The stories are good enough without having to over do the accents (which are emphasised in the original books)or have overwhelming musical accompanyment.

For any real scholar of M.R.James you cant go wrong with this or Volume two - a rare treat in the days of 3D films and television. Just put it on and relax - if you can!!!
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