Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The House with the Brick-kiln

Fiction ~ short story
Published in London Magazine, November or December 1908
Collected in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories (1912)
4,450 words
(First read 25/04/2012) 

The ingredients of an E. F. Benson spook story:
(1) Two gents in an old rented house in the English countryside
(2) The house is haunted, obviously
(3) The two gents get haunted ...
(4) ... the narrator is a bit of a wuss; his pal is made of sterner stuff
(5) The haunting gets so bad they flee the house
(6) They find out the ghost was of a former tenant, who murdered someone ~
And there you have The House with the Brick-kiln ... and a whole host of other yarns.  Utterly formulaic; entirely predictable; crashingly dull.
Still, don't let me put you off [!]: you can read it online here.

For an alternative version of the EFB Spook Story Formula see here.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Other Bed

Fiction ~ short story
Published April 1908
4,305 words
(First read 16/04/2012)

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Room in the Tower

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Pall Mall Magazine, January 1912
Collected in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories (1912)
5,290 words
(First read 09/04/2012)

Our Unnamed Narrator has had a recurring dream for 15 years or so.  In it he goes to stay at the country home* of a former schoolmate he barely knew, is shown out into the garden where the family are assembled for tea, then to his room in the tower, where he encounters an unseen horror.  Obviously this premonitory dream eventually comes true.
For me the most interesting aspect of this yarn was the nature of the dream itself: as the years go by in U.N.'s waking world, so too do they pass in his dream ~ members of the family age or get married and disappear from the 'stage', new details emerge, but always the 'punchline' remains unchanged.  The climax is nicely handled, reminiscent of the ending of The Dance (1934) in that the attacker is invisible.  Sadly, though, as with so many of EFB's spook stories, the sewing-up of the story somewhat flattens the effect.
It's available online here

*In 'the Ashdown Forest district of [East] Sussex'. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Terror by Night

Fiction ~ short story
First published in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories, 1912
2,880 words
(First read 06/04/2012) 

Somewhat unusually EFB starts this spook story with a bit of background 'theory' on what he calls the transference of emotions:
[...] to take the analogy of wireless telegraphy, we are all of us probably 'receivers' to some extent, and catch now and then a message or part of a message that the eternal waves of emotion are ceaselessly shouting aloud to those who have ears to hear, and materialising themselves for those who have eyes to see.
Jack Lorimer, a friend of our Unnamed Narrator's, has been forced to pack his new wife Daisy off to Davos to recover from consumption in the pure Swiss air.  Obviously as soon as EFB/UN says "She's making a spectacular recovery" we know the poor lass is doomed.  Meanwhile, back in London, Jack and UN, now living together at the latter's house for convenience's sake, start to feel exactly the same sensation of dread ~ of what they don't know ~ at the same time.  In a bid to shake off this inexplicable fear the two pals invite a third (Philip) to come to the theatre¹.  That evening, as they're getting ready to go out, Daisy expires in Switzerland, but not before 'manifesting herself' to no fewer than four people: our three friends and (perhaps a shade incongruously) UN's 'man'.
For some unknown reason I've always been partial to stories about moment-of-death revenants, and this is a good example of the genre.  It also has the advantage that it's only about half the length of the average EFB spook and so seems to go at a decent clip, for once.
It's available online here

¹ To see The Man from Blankley's, by F. Anstey, another favourite author of mine.