Tuesday 11 December 2012

THE 13 GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS Edited by Simon Marshall-Jones

202 pages.
Published by Spectral Press
Wraparound cover by Vincent Shaw-Morton. 
Comes in limited edition hardback and an unlimited paperback –published in December 2012.
Introduction by Johnny Mains
Stories by John Costello, Jan Edwards, William Meikle, Raven Dane, Richard Farren Barber, Nicholas Martin, Thana Niveau, Martin Roberts, Paul Finch, Gary McMahon, Neil Williams, John Forth & Adrian Tchaikovsky

This is the first volume of a proposed annual collection of ghost stories from the appropriately named Spectral Press. There are thirteen stories in all – and a bonus extract from Whitstable by Stephen Volk – which also has a touch of the supernatural.

A pleasing feature of this delightfully scary collection is that each story is preceded by an author bio and some discussion of the writing process. As a writer I find these very interesting. To avoid spoilers, next year I hope they put these enjoyable little interviews as after words.

The stories are varied and distinctive – it’s like a chocolate sampler. All have an enjoyably dark coating but the flavour inside varies from the nostalgic eerie tale echoing M. R James to something folky with a tinge of The Wickerman. Like a selection box, there is something to suit a variety of tastes. Not everyone will like the same – there is horror, a tinge of the erotic, and the surreal. These stories are not bland, though some are
more subtle than others. The reader should savour them slowly, one at a time, I suggest.

If you like ghost stories, this is an enjoyable beginning to what I hope will be a revival of the tradition of Christmas collections. I just wish there were more women writers included: only three out of thirteen is a pity. Perhaps not so many women offered their stories? I expect this will improve over time.

The cover on my reviewer’s PDF is attractive in a wintery and eerie fashion. Due to some of the language and subject matter, this is recommended for older teens and adults.

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