Sunday, December 6, 2020

Chill Tidings - Edited by Tanya Kirk

A Tanya Kirk anthology is a particularly good Christmas present. Her selection for 'The Haunted Library' is a fabulous mix of spooky book related tales, and her 'Spirits of the Season' is one of my favorites amongst the weird tales collections. 'Chill Tidings' is just as good - and depending on your taste, possibly even better.

The big treat for me in this one is Jerome K. Jerome's 'Told After Supper'. I had a copy of this in the Alma classics edition of 'After Supper Ghost Stories' but wasn't particularly excited by any of the other bits in it - all amusing enough in their way, but none half as much fun as 'Told After Supper' - and I think I passed on my copy. If I haven't, I will now. This is Jerome at his best in a novella length parody of the Dickensian ghost story tradition. It's something I'd love to read aloud with a group of like minded people (in my fantasy Christmas - my actual friends would probably consider this an affectation to far, but it is a funny set of stories and I'd really like to hear them read or performed). 

'Chill Tidings' is a much better setting for 'Told After Supper' where it finds itself with like minded humorous company, properly creepy Christmas ghost stories, and a few benign ones too. L. P. Hartley's 'Someone in the Lift' is the real stinger in this lot. It's a sobering note of real horror amongst the rest - which are mostly fun. H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Festival' is classic horror in the slightly over the top mold.

Marjorie Bowen's 'The Crown Derby Plate' is a peach, as is 'Old Applejoy's Ghost' by Frank R. Stockton. I really liked Charlotte Riddell's 'A Strange Christmas Game' and Louisa Baldwin's 'The Real and the Counterfeit' (light hearted all the way through, gets you at the end), but every one of the 13 tales here has something going for it.

I feel a bit like I used to when I had to write descriptions for wines in Oddbins days - by the 5th Cabernet Sauvignon it there was nothing new to say, and by the 25th I felt like I'd gone past the point of parody - but just as every one of the dozens of Cabernets had something going for it, so has every one of the short story collections I've written about recently. My copy of 'Chill Tidings' came as a review copy, I've already bought another to give as a gift (there's really no higher compliment) and if I didn't already have it, it would have been top of the list to go in my Christmas Stocking.


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