Sunday, 19 September 2010

A-haunting we will go...

Gosh, look at this, sticking to my promise to post again today! What IS the world coming to??

It's not very often that I sit down and read a novel, I don't have the stamina for them. I tend to get very bored by novels very easily, but I do occasionally enjoy reading short stories, and especially SPOOKY short stories.

I'm a fan of M.R. James (the M.R. stands for Montague Rhodes) who is considered to be the finest ghost story writer of them all. The stories have contemporary settings when James wrote them (between 1904 to 1925) and many reflected his academic background and his expertise on medieval history, and it is this where most of his inspiration for his ghost stories comes from.

Some of my favourite stories of James' are "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad", in which a man discovers a very old whistle with inexplicable powers; "Number 13" which pertains to a hotel room number which doesn't exist... or does it? But perhaps "A View From a Hill" is to me the most horrific, mostly because of a very eerie pair of home-made binoculars.

Many of James' stories have been dramatised for television (some of which are available on YouTube), although I particularly like the audiobooks read by the wonderful David Collings (who also played Silver in the late 70s/early 80s paranormal drama 'Sapphire and Steel', and was the voice of Monkey in the fantastic series of the same name (sometimes called 'Monkey Magic' but I always called it just 'Monkey').

Anyway, I was recommended to read 'Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror' by my friend Claire's eight-year-old son, Elliot.  As you may guess, the name 'Uncle Montague' is a nod to James himself, so how could I resist?  And to read a ghost book aimed at children seemed like not too much of a strain on my very short attention span. However I wasn't prepared for what turned out to be a real treat!

Chris Priestley has crafted a wonderful collection of very uncanny stories, tied together within the unsettling setting of Uncle Montague's creepy house, and by the very creepy Uncle Montague himself who tells the stories to the book's protagonist, Edgar. The stories are satisfyingly short and to the point, but with enough substance to linger in your mind for some time later. I am a slow reader by nature, but towards the end of each story I was racing through the last paragraphs as the pace quickened and the tension gathered.

Every story is accompanied by two black-and-white line drawings by David Roberts.  I really like Roberts' style of spindly, spidery lines, shadowy cross-hatching and uncanny settings, which go so well with the tales.

If you want to read an intelligent and short collection of spooky stories, now that the nights are starting to draw in and the leaves are starting to fall, this is an ideal book, whatever your age.

I've already read the sequel, "Tales of Terror from the Black Ship" and just started "Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth"; both are full of imaginative twists and the same creepy atmosphere of "Uncle Montague" that I've come to expect. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more like this to satisfy my taste for dark, creepy tales.

Further reading: 
Uncle Montague's very own blog! Which is humourously called "Uncle Montague's Nether Regions."
the author, Chris Priestley's blog:
Tales of Terror site (this is a beautifully-designed site with lots of creepy sounds things to look at, well worth a look!)

Hope you have a lovely Sunday afternoon, everyone!
Best wishes
Joey x


  1. Oh OH! these look great - thank you for sharing this. Have you looked at Edward Gorey's stuff, books and illustrations - I thought that's what these were at first so I'm sure you'll like them (the books are really short!) - start with my fav, The Doubtful Guest, and also try the Gashlycrumb Tinies.

  2. Cheers, Ms Moll! No I haven't looked at Edward Gorey's books, I will check on the Sheffield library online catalogue right now! Thanks for the tip!
    Best wishes

  3. Oh these books are right up my street! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. Hi Nicole! Glad that I've whetted your booky appetite! Only don't read them on a dark, lonely night... :-)
    Best wishes

  5. Hooray for Uncle Montague! Great book - I can't wait to read the next two - thanks for pointing out that they exist :-)

  6. Hiya Claire! Yes they're fabby... At the Tunnel's Mouth is very creepy so far, and he's publishing a book called The Dead of Winter in October , which is a full-length supernatural novel, review here:

    Joey xx


I love to read your comments, so please go right ahead! Thanks in advance for your message. :-)


Related Posts with Thumbnails