If it isn't already obvious, I have developed a deep and abiding love of vintage horror/supernatural tales -- the more obscure the better, since a huge part of my enjoyment is in discovering works I've never read before. That is the appeal of this particular collection: with the exception of Algernon Blackwood (whose work I just love), the rest of the authors in this book are all new to me. Giving Up the Ghosts focuses on "short-lived" series featuring occult detectives whose time span in the public eye was quite brief before sort of fading into obscurity.
Coachwhip Publications, 2015
Next up are three stories featuring Enoch Garrish, who was created by Gelet Burgess of "I never saw a purple cow" fame: "The Levitant", "The Spectre House" and "The Ghost-Extinguisher," all of which have a humorous, rather sarcastic edge. Gerrish is a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and has several supernatural encounters which he writes about in reports. The snark factor looms large here; Mr. Gerrish, it seems, is highly eccentric.
Gerrish's rather bizarre experiences are followed by those of Jim Shorthouse, created by Algernon Blackwood: "A Case of Eavesdropping," "The Strange Adventures of a Private Secretary in New York," "The Empty House," and "With Intent to Steal."
Leaving Blackwood, we come to the adventures of Diana Marburg, created by the extremely-prolific L.T. Meade with Robert Eustace, where we make a slight detour from the world of ghosts to crimes in the physical world, but that's okay. Marburg, it seems, reads palms, and is very popular among the upper classes where her readings are in great demand. She lasted for three stories: "The Dead Hand," "Finger Tips," and "Sir Penn Caryll's Engagement."
A.M. Burrage makes an appearance next, with his hero Derek Scarpe, who appeared in only two stories in Novel Magazine. Scarpe is "not a medium," nor is he "any kind of a mystic." In "The Severed Head," he takes up the case of a client who has seen the apparition of a "head of a middle-aged woman" "Perhaps twenty or thirty" times at home in Dodfield Hall. He returns in "The House of Treburyan" where the ghost of the client's uncle is driving everyone "mad."
Last, but by no means least is Conrad Richter's Matson Bell, "sometimes called the Spook Cop" who "only survived for two stories." The brevity of Bell's career is a definite shame, since both of these stories have a mystery-like quality to them and are just plain fun, especially his "Monster of the Dark Places," which follows "The Toad Man Specter."
Kudos to Mr. Prasil for collecting these tales and rescuing them from oblivion. While Blackwood's work is read widely and is very well known, Jim Shorthouse I knew only from "The Empty House." John Silence, of course, is the much more popular and more well-known supernatural sleuth, a name much more familiar to readers of this sort of thing. It's a lovely anthology, perfect for someone like myself who delights in these old stories -- not just in the reading, but also in the discovering.
Two things happened when I finished this book. First, I scoured the internet looking for more supernatural works by these authors since Prasil has definitely piqued my interest; second, I visited Coachwhip's website and discovered that this press also specializes in obscure crime/mystery novels from the past, many of which were written by women. I see a lot of Coachwhip books in my immediate future.