Ghosts from the East
Let’s leave Egypt behind for a while.
Last week my friend Lucy published her new novel, the first with Acheron Books. It’s called Nightbird and it’s a ghost story1.
So we had the opportunity of talking a lot about ghost stories, and our favorite novels, movies and what not. It was fun. It also turned out that Lucy would love to write a vampire novel, while I’d love to write a few ghost stories. And as we talked about books, I realized that while I love Peter Straub’s Ghost Story or James Herbert’s David Ash books, what I really like is ghostly short stories. The sort you can read in one sitting, and be scared and entertained.
And so I started compiling a list of my favorite collections of ghost stories.The list is long, and should open with an fine, odd book I read as a kid – Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery, a lavishly illustrated collection of ghost stories for younger readers. Back when I was eight or thereabouts, I loved Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the old TV series, and this caused me to read all Three Investigators books and also this one, that I found at the local bookstore. It was 1978, so I was all of 11 years old. A great collection, that includes works by Stevenson, Blackwood, Kuttner, a few Robert Arthur Jr.2 stories, and my absolute favorite, F. Marion Crawford’s The Upper Berth. Boy was it scary!
That was the book that made me a fan of ghostly fiction.
Other favorites include William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki tales, and of course the M.R. James collections of ghost stories. Those wonderful collections that the late Richard Dalby put together through the years…
And as I was compiling my list, planning maybe a post or three, I started drifting east, and soon my list included Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw and other Eerie Tales, Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan, Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, and finally Ueda Akinari’s two masterful volumes, Tales of Moonlight and Rain and Tales of Spring Moon…
So I made a belated and uncertain promise to myself: I’ll go and reread those volumes, and in the meantime I’ll post about each one. Trying to do compact but substantial, informative posts, possibly linking the texts when available in some Gutenberg or Internet Archive nook.
It would be nice to resurrect my old podcast and do a short episode for each book, but let’s not aim too high.
For starters, I’ll try and do justice to these Oriental Ghost Stories here on Karavansara, in writing.
Let’s say one book per week, for the next five weeks, what do you think?
Shall we start with Kipling?
Say, next week?
You can actually find a copy of the first edition from 1890, in a variety of different formats, in the Internet Archive.