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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

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Often imitated, never bettered. M.R. James isn't called the master of horror for nothing. He creates fear through subtle suggestion, plants the seed in your mind and lets your imagination complete the full horror. The effect is infinitely more unsettling than any graphic description could ever be. James understood the psychology of fear better than any other writer. He terrifies you by suggestion, gently nudging away your certainty that nothing will come and get you in the darkness, or indeed in broad daylight. Don't read this alone at night...
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on 6 September 2017
I have read M.R. James many times and I purchased this book to replace a copy that I lost,
let me just say that if anyone, anywhere, ever wrote ghost stories as well as M.R. James
I've never heard of them, the stories are measured, intelligently written with true British understatement.
There is no blood and gore, it's all in the imagination, usually leading to a satisfactory conclusion.
Needless to say, James would definitely be included upon my desert island reading list however, it would have
to be well lit, airy paradise for me to read James in such isolated circumstances.
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on 21 November 2016
A master class in ghost stories.
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on 15 July 2017
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on 30 June 2017
There isn't enough praise I can, or need, to give to the absolute master of the ghost story M.R. James. So I will instead briefly review this particular edition from Oxford University Press.

Included are all four published books, plus a short biography of James, plus in the appendix James' original prefaces to each book and 'Stories I have tried to write'.

Fairly comprehensive as far as the published takes go, along with some useful explanatory notes from Darryl Jones.

A fine hardback volume, perhaps only lacking a dust jacket (although the hardback cover is nicely presented in the modern style) and the original illustrations (from Mcbride et al) would have been a lovely touch. However these things are not essential as the true value is in the written word here.

A nice accessible edition for a very reasonable price. A good copy for your bedside table or holiday portmanteau alike. ;)

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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 November 2014
Good evening, I notice you are selecting your bedside book. Perhaps you were expecting to find a collection of gentle Victorian ghost stories? But this volume you have chosen is the work of the Master, Montague Rhodes James, and his - acquaintances - are altogether "more formidable visitants".

Surely the greatest ghost-story writer of all time, he is a timeless weaver of atmosphere and a vanished Victorian and Edwardian world of gentlemen antiquaries, college rooms and libraries, country houses, quiet hotels, books, manuscripts and ancient artefacts. James' friendly voice makes us all honorary members of `the club', invited to hear him recount the latest of his chilling tales and, in our imaginations, join his ill-fated heroes as they encounter our worst nightmares ... listen ...

There was, for example, the case of Canon Alberic, who combined a magnificent (but I fear illicit) scrapbook of priceless religious manuscripts with unfortunate experiments in dark magic and the raising of demons; most unfortunate, in that he enjoyed complete success. Or the traveller in Sweden who spoke, whimsically, three times to the long-entombed Count Magnus; poor man, such an unpleasant way to depart. And that wretched young fellow who made the archaeological discovery of several lifetimes - an Anglo-Saxon crown! It was the final discovery of his lifetime and a severe warning to the curious, that much is certain.

Too unsettling for late-night reading? I think there is milder fare on offer; the story of a quiet golfing holiday on the east coast perhaps? If only the Professor had not actually blown that whistle he discovered; still, at least he survived to tell the tale, although he is understandably nervous now around scarecrows and the like. What about this one - a diligent Archdeacon, hard at work in his cathedral close, nothing untoward there surely? Oh, no, perhaps not - the newspaper reports were distressing; strange, he kept no cat, and yet something with claws must have ...

This story will be safer - a report on a college purchase of an engraving, a mezzotint I believe, just a depiction of an attractive country house seen under moonlight. A figure on the lawn? Carrying - oh, dear me how horrible. Ah, now I have it, just the thing, guaranteed not to disturb your sleep. A description of an attractive old hotel here in Viborg; why yes, it IS the one in which we are staying, an interesting account but not, I think, too alarming as the gentleman evidently lived to publish his work. Yes, he was staying in room number 12, exactly like you. My room? Number 13 of course ...

... a wonderful collection of undying classics to read again and again. Do remember to put the light out - pleasant dreams.
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on 26 April 2017
No doubt that James is a great writer of the paranormal. Well worth a read.
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on 14 April 2017
Great products, thank you!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 December 2012
Readers will understandably be divided on these stories: some will prefer the tight early pieces, others the wordier later ones. The reason is that they were written over a lifetime, and thereby chart the writer's growing abilities in the craft of writing, and his changing outlook.

The narrator of most stories is an antiquarian bachelor employed in academia or the church, which gives them a sense of social insularity. A number of James's tales are heavily immersed in the culture of Anglicanism in the late 19th century, assuming that the reader understands what disputes were current within the church. This can pose a problem for current readers. For example, the splendidly crafted "An Episode in Cathedral History" relies on a knowledge of the Gothic revival that swept through the Church of England in the mid-19th century, as well as the frictions between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic churchmen.

Also James was clearly a fan of Anthony Trollope, whose "Barchester Chronicles" novels (eg. Barchester Towers) have left an impression on some of the later stories with their colourful casts of eccentric clergymen and cathedral staff. One odd tale is actually titled "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral". There are extremely convincing and well rendered portrayals of character types that hold up so well against Trollope, Charles Dickens and George Gissing - this is good writing.

Having said that, as stories of ghosts and supernatural events go there are some real gems in this volume: including "The Mezzotint", "The Ash Tree", "Whistle and I'll Come to You Lad", "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas", "The Haunted Doll's House'", "An Uncommon Prayer Book" and the gruesome "A View from a Hill".
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on 19 March 2017
What more is there to say? At just under three pounds,this collection
of short stories by one of the greatest story tellers of supernatural tales
is essential. M.R James still remains the pinnacle for which many writers
in this field aspire to.Just ask Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and John
Connolly. "A Warning To The Curious" is still as frightening as ever.

A class act.
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