Friday, January 20, 2017
The Antiquary and the Crocodile: M.R.James resources
One of MRJ's stories, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, was part of the inspiration for my novel The Glass Demon, which is about a set of haunted stained glass windows created by the same master craftsman who made the ones in MRJ's story. (MRJ's windows were real ones, however, from Steinfeld Abbey; mine are fictitious.)
I've also occasionally dabbled in Jamesian stories - Alberic de Mauleon, a prequel to Canon Alberic's Scrap-book, appeared in The Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows 1, and The Third Time, a sequel to A Neighbour's Landmark, appeared in The Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows 2. I have also written a completion to MRJ's unfinished tale The Game of Bear - it appeared in the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter and was later republished in my collection The Sea Change and Other Stories. So my love of MRJ's stories has been quite creatively stimulating for me.
What I never really envisaged was that I would also end up writing quite a lot of non-fiction articles about M.R.James! It came about because of an accident of geography. We moved to Germany in 2001 and found ourselves living very close to Steinfeld Abbey, so I visited it, and wrote an article about the ways in which the real-life abbey differs from the imagined version of it in The Treasure of Abbot Thomas. This led me to visit some of MRJ's other foreign story locations, and write about those too. One thing led to another, and by 2008 I had eight published articles about MRJ and his work, all of which appeared in the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter.
A large proportion - but not all - of my articles are still available on the Ghosts and Scholars website, and some of them are available on my blog. However, I have long had it in mind that it would be a great idea to collect them all into one inexpensive eBook, so that anyone who shares my unreasonable passion for the ghost stories of M.R.James can read them easily and conveniently. I finally found time recently to do this, and the result is a kindle book, The Antiquary and the Crocodile.
Although The Antiquary and the Crocodile is a collection of non-fiction articles, I took the decision to include as a "fiction extra" my completion of MRJ's The Game of Bear. The story first appeared in the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter, and was later reprinted in The Sea Change and Other Stories. It was also republished in Weird Tales in 2014. Periodically I receive enquiries from people who have a particular interest in MRJ and would like to read my completion of it out of curiosity, so it seemed a good idea to include it in the eBook. I also feel that in some ways the story belongs with my other writings about M.R.James, because writing it was the one occasion when I consciously tried to meld my literary style with MRJ's (a task which, frankly, seems a bit terrifyingly ambitious in retrospect!).
Anyway, I very much hope that The Antiquary and the Crocodile will prove interesting and useful to both scholars and fans of M.R.James's ghost stories. The crocodile on the front cover, by the way, is the actual stuffed crocodile hanging on the cathedral wall at St. Bertrand de Comminges, as described in Canon Alberic's Scrap-book. My father William Bond took the photograph when we visited Comminges.