Thursday, December 21, 2017

and now, one of THE greatest ghost story writers ever -- The Dead of Night: The Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions

Wordsworth Editions, 2010
657 pp


I feel absolutely  monotonal by reading and posting about all manner of ghost stories, and I'm sorry about that,  but I just can't help myself.  They're like the comfort food of reading for me, and I say the more the merrier (and the older the better).   I finished this collection back at the beginning of the month after starting it towards the first of November, and it actually did take me the entire month to get through it, reading it only late at night.  To be honest, some stories took longer to get through than others because they were just plain tedious, but the joy came in finding the really, really good ones that I'll probably never forget.

Onions is probably best known for his excellent "The Beckoning Fair One," which will live in my head as one of the greatest ghost stories of all time, one that explores the tenuous connection between, as editor David Stuart Davies says in his introduction, "creativity and insanity."    That one I've read several times and I'd read it several times again because it's so good.  It's his lesser-known stories that captured my attention here, and there are twenty-four of them in this collection:

Hey - it's easier than typing them all. Sorry about the blur --
While several of these tales follow on in the same thematic mode as "The Beckoning Fair One," there are many that branch out in other directions, including (but not limited to) more traditional ghostly fare, time slips, reincarnation, murder,  ghosts who enter the present via objects from the past, and strangely enough lycanthropy and a bizarre Kali-like cult.   All are a beautiful blending of the supernatural and the psychological, which is actually why I'm drawn to this author in particular.  Even though I read this sort of thing for fun, I also read in order to extract what I can about different aspects of human nature, and Oliver Onions has this uncanny knack of moving deep into the psyche.

So, let's see... favorites...hmm:
aside from "The Beckoning Fair One," there's "Benlian," "The Honey in the Wall," "The Rosewood Door," which is just bloody creepy when you give pause for thought,  "The Painted Face," "Hic Jacet," which is probably my second favorite after "Beckoning Fair One," and one that  all would-be authors should read, as  it comes down to the question of writing for love or money.  "The Rope in the Rafters" is another one that chilled, as was "The Woman in the Way" and "The Master of the House."  That last one was just downright creepy and considering that I'm not big on the subject matter involved as a general rule,  well, that says a lot.

While the stories are not all what I'd call perfect, The Dead of Night  is a must-have collection worth owning for the home library and definitely a no-miss collection for the avid ghost story reader.  I love Oliver Onions' work, and he should certainly be read by anyone aspiring to write horror.  Not that I fit that bill, but he has a lot to offer anyone who does. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say what you will, but do it in a nice way.