Sunday, 13 January 2013

Christmas ghosts and others

Spectral Press has acquired a dedicated following (including yours truly) in recent past. Last Christmas, it undertook an ambitious ‘project’: reviving the Christmas annuals, primarily dealing with ghost stories, in ‘Dickensian’ fashion. Although the book (a very nice hardcover) arrived in the week during which I was trying to decide which resolutions can be allowed to be broken, I read it over 4 nights, sticking to at least one resolution of savouring good things in small sips. And now, I would like to share my thoughts about the book.

To avoid the structure of formal reviews, I would desist from trying to summarise the stories as well, and would like to mention the contents only:

·         Introduction by Johnny Mains
1.      “An Odd Number at Table” by John Costello
2.      “Concerning Events at Leinster Gardens” by Jan Edwards
3.      “Carnacki: A Cold Christmas in Chelsea” by William Meikle
4.      “A Taste of Almonds” by Raven Dane
5.      “Where the Stones Lie” by Richard Farren Barber
6.      “All That is Living” by Nicholas Martin
7.      “And May All Your Christmases” by Thana Niveau
8.      “Now and Then” by Martin Roberts
9.      “December” by Paul Finch
10.  “Ritualism” by Gary McMahon
11.  “We Are a Shadow” by Neil Williams
12.  “The Green Clearing” by John Forth
13.  “Lost Soldiers” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
·         Publisher’s Acknowledgements by Simon Marshall-Jones
·         Bonus: “Whitstable” novella (by Stephen Volk) preview

Except the last story by Adrian Tchaikovsky, not a single one contained a spot of humour or positive (happy?) ending. John Forth’s story was brilliant in dealing with coming-of-age angst and combining it with old legends. Gary McMahon’s story, despite being non-supernatural, was one of the most accomplished & chillingly bleak pieces that I have read in recent times. William Meikle continued giving a refreshingly fresh spin to Carnacki. But everybody else followed the easy way out of depicting imploding families, tragedies rearing their heads at the most festive times, and despair. It was astonishing (at least from my perspective, to whom Christmas has neither religious nor societal appeal) that so many English authors could view Christmas as something so totally dark! Perhaps something to do with present Tory-Lib administration?!