Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ghosts of things past...and of things yet to be

A while ago, I blogged about the first Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows, published in 2012 by Sarob Press, as a beautiful limited edition hardback. The book was a collection of prequels and sequels to the classic ghost stories of M.R.James, including my own story Alberic de MaulĂ©on, a prequel to Canon Alberic's Scrap-book.

I am thrilled to say that the book was so well received that Sarob are bringing out a second volume, which is scheduled for publication in September 2014. You can see the gorgeous cover art by Paul Lowe on the left. Anyone who is familiar with M.R.James' stories will recognise it as being from Count Magnus! 

Volume 2 of the Book of Shadows again includes one of my own stories, The Third Time, a sequel to James' A Neighbour's Landmark. If you haven't read the original story, you can find it here: A Neighbour's Landmark on A Thin Ghost. Incidentally, if you want to know more about this particular tale, there is a super episode about it on the M.R.James-themed Podcast to the Curious. You can listen to it here: Podcast episode 26.

So why did I choose to write a sequel to this particular tale? When the idea of the first Book of Shadows came up, writing something about Canon Alberic's Scrap-book was a no-brainer for me, really. It's one of MRJ's best known stories (with good reason) and I have spent a lot of my own time researching it: I visited St. Bertrand de Comminges, where it is set, and I also wrote an article about the demonology of the story. You can read that online, here: The Nature of the Beast. For the first volume, I chose to write a prequel, set in France in the late 1600s. I aimed for a rather old-fashioned, perhaps Edwardian tone to the prose.

When it came to the story for Volume 2, I wanted to do something completely different. I decided to write a sequel set in the present day, in all its modern grubbiness. I also chose as the starting-point a story of MRJ's that I have enjoyed many times, but that I have never particularly researched nor pored over.

I've always found A Neighbour's Landmark particularly creepy, although it is not one you hear many people mention when asked which of James' tales is their favourite. Perhaps the shrieking ghost is a little too subtle? However, I must say for me it is one of his most frightening stories. The idea of hearing that terrible scream when you are not expecting it, and then the suspense of waiting to hear it a second time, is just appalling! Even if you are not interested in modern sequels, do read the original story; it's fabulous and chilling.

Other contributors to this new volume include David Longhorn, better known perhaps as the editor of Supernatural Tales, and Reggie Oliver, who is a playwright, biographer and writer of many excellent ghost stories. I have not yet read any of the contributions other than my own, so I can't wait to get my contributor's copy so that I can devour them!

Details of how to order the Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows Volume 2 are here, on the Sarob Press website.

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