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British Fantasy Award-winning editor J.A. Mains presents an all-female anthology of supernatural stories, first published between 1854 and 1900. Mains has trawled the archives to find fifteen tales which have not seen print since their original publications. Featuring cover art from multiple time British Fantasy Award-winner Les Edwards, and an introduction by Lynda Rucker, A Suggestion of Ghosts is an important volume for those interested in the Victorian era of supernatural tales.
Black Shuck is very proud to announce the first of two ghost story anthologies from Johnny (A J) Mains, an all-female anthology of ghost stories written from 1826 – 1897. Johnny has been deep in the cobwebbed archives of decaying periodicals, collections and newspapers and has found British, Irish, American and Australian stories that have never been anthologized since their original publication up to 190 years ago. Mains is thrilled that he can also attribute the correct authorship to ‘The Closed Cabinet’ to Lady Gwendolyn Gascoyne-Cecil, which has been continuously published under the by-line ‘Anon’ since its original appearance in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in January of 1895.
Mains feels that A Suggestion of Ghosts will be an invaluable book for those desperately seeking to read and research supernatural tales which have long faded away and have been forgotten about.
There will be a limited hardback edition of 100 numbered copies, with artwork by Edward Miller (Les Edwards) and Mike Mignola. The book will also be signed by Mains and Edwards. A Suggestion of Ghosts will also contain original publication dates of stories and biographies of the authors.
Two months after the publication of the hardback, there will be a simultaneous paperback and e-book release, this will contain two stories less than the hardback.
Excerpt from Story 1: “The Man-Wolf” by Leitch Ritchie…
Introduction by Eleanor Dobson…
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
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This is first-rate prose. I am enamoured of the style. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Yesterday I saw Jamie Goodwin burst into flame.
He was just sitting on one of those cheap aluminum-back chairs we all have, eyes closed in the shade of Hester’s old RV, trying to get some relief from the heat, same as everyone else. I was checking the stock of coolers, seeing if any held even a bit of water left to siphon out, when Jamie let out a tiny gasp like he woke from a bad dream. If it was a bad dream he had, he woke to something worse, ’cause little glints of light popped and fizzed off him like the sparklers we used to wave around on Fourth of July. Smoke or steam or something else rose up, then Jamie’s eyes went cartoon-big and he turned into a fireball.
Jamie’s the fourth person to spontaneously combust this month. Two women burned last Wednesday, and old Tom Puddingpaw blazed the week prior. Before that, we averaged only one or two fireballs a month, but now it’s getting worse. And after Jamie burned, Ms. Crankshaw didn’t even cancel lessons like she normally did, as if coming to terms that folks fireballing was the new natural order of things.
“That’s another lesson in evolution. One day we’re apes, then we’re humans, now we’re fireballs.”
She didn’t really say that, but she might as well have.
At least Loud John and Rudy were there when Jamie burned, and they contained his cinders so it didn’t spread like when Quiet John caught flame. But I still saw the whole thing, and it still scared me, even if others pretend to somehow be getting used to it.
“I watched him die,” I tell my friends. “Jamie didn’t scream. I think he tried, since his mouth opened wide, but nothing came out except flames.”
“Why is this happening for no reason?” Ogre asks, though that question is rhetorical because he doesn’t expect an answer. His voice hitches and he overcompensates for it by yelling, “When’s it going to stop?”
That’s rhetorical too.
We’re not supposed to be outdoors because of the heat, but we’re wearing protection, and sometimes out in the desert is the only place we can talk without everyone else listening in.
“I told you we weren’t safe,” Liz says. “Ms. C.’s wrong or she’s lying to us. Anybody can fireball.”
“No one ever tells us the truth,” Tommy adds. “It’s stupid going to lessons if everyone shields us from what’s really happening. I mean, what’re we learning? Facts or make-believe?”
Me and Tommy and Liz and Ogre are shooting at sand lizards with a pair of slingshots. I oughta clarify we’d shoot at anything daring our range of rocks and marbles, but it was too hot for anything but lizards to come out under the sun.
“The adults don’t want us to know…” A red bandana covers half of Liz’s face, so her voice is muffled. “I think we’re all gonna die.”
It’s always a delight to discover scholarship on the ghost story, such as the following essay by Michael Newton. It is my favorite subject—ghosts in literature that is—hands down. I read them—new ones, old ones. I dread them (and dream them). I love both short stories and novella-length ones; novels, too, but real good ones are rare. I also like true stories of specters and spirits, haints and hauntings—they scare the bejeezus outta me, but they also fill me with a ferocious glee! I suppose it’s the idea that we may never know for sure—right?—whether they’re real or a figment of the global imagination. Either way, I love my ghost stories. I trust you do, too. So, here’s Newton’s Introduction from the Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, published in 2010. (I highly recommend every story in this collection. I recently finished Elizabeth Gaskell’s creeper “The Old Nurse’s Story.” It was superb.)
Leave a light on!
Note: Any photographs or images that follow—along with accompanying captions—are additions of mine, and are not part of the Introduction as it originally appeared in The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories. —Sanguine Woods
“The ghost is the most enduring figure in supernatural fiction. He is absolutely indestructible … He changes with the styles in fiction but he never goes out of fashion. He is the really permanent citizen of the earth, for mortals, at best, are but transients.”
—Dr. Dorothy Scarborough*, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction
GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
“It is the haunted who haunt.”
—Elizabeth Bowen, ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’
Someone is afraid. In a dark house or on an empty railway platform, at the foot of the staircase or there on a lonely beach. When critics discuss the ghost story, they often pay no more than lip-service to the intended impact of the tale itself. The critics’ words remove us from the place where the story’s words first took us. In the ghost story, through the representation of another’s fear, we become afraid. We take on the sensation of terror, the alert uneasiness that translates random sounds into intentions, a room’s chill into watchfulness, and leaves us with the anxious apprehension of an other’s presence. The stories fix images of profound uneasiness in our minds. These images remain and act afterwards, when the story is over, as paths to renewed anxiety. From the stories in this collection, memories rise up of Thrawn Janet’s crooked walk, like a rag doll that has been hanged; the bereaved mother desperately reaching for the bolt to the door in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, with the visitor outside; or in M. R. James’s tale, on a sunless day, in a dream, a man running along the sands, breathless, worn out, pursued inexorably by a blind, muffled figure.
The ghost story aims at the retention of such pictures; it intends the production of such fears. It wants sympathetic shudders.
The October Country…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…
In celebration of fall, I am always drawn back to the fiction of the late Ray Bradbury—it’s a gross understatement (quantitatively and qualitatively) to say Bradbury taught a generation to write…he’s still teaching us to write. His style lightly macabre, flickered like a candle; it was also wondrously garish, carnivalesque. Ray Bradbury, like Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, and Shirley Jackson, was a stylist. And we don’t see many of those in any generation. I relish them. I envy them. I yearn for them, innocent—like that shiny red apple bobbing in the basin—its poison silent, and resting.
‘The red glass did things to Mr. Koberman. His face, his suit, his hands. The clothes seemed to melt away. Douglas almost believed, for one terrible moment, that he could see inside Mr. Koberman. And what he saw made him lean wildly against the small red pane, blinking.’
He remembered how carefully and expertly Grandmother would fondle the cold cut guts of the chicken and withdraw the marvels therein; the wet shining loops of meat-smelling intestine, the muscled lump of heart, the gizzard with the collection of seeds in it. How neatly and nicely Grandma would slit the chicken and push her fat little hand in to deprive it of its medals. These would be segregated, some in pans of water, others in paper to be thrown to the dog later, perhaps. And then the ritual of taxidermy, stuffing the bird with watered, seasoned bread, and performing surgery with a swift, bright needle, stitch after pulled-tight stitch.
This was one of the prime thrills of Douglas’s eleven-year-old life span.
Altogether, he counted twenty knives in the various squeaking drawers of the magic kitchen table from which Grandma, a kindly, gentle-faced, white-haired old witch, drew paraphernalia for her miracles.
Douglas was to be quiet. He could stand across the table from Grandmama, his freckled nose tucked over the edge, watching, but any loose boy-talk might interfere with the spell. It was a wonder when Grandma brandished silver shakers over the bird, supposedly sprinkling showers of mummy-dust and pulverized Indian bones, muttering mystical verses under her toothless breath.
“Grammy,” said Douglas at last, breaking the silence, “Am I like that inside?” He pointed at the chicken.
“Yes,” said Grandma. “A little more orderly and presentable, but just about the same. . . .”
“And more of it!” added Douglas, proud of his guts.
“Yes,” said Grandma. “More of it.”