More Ghost Stories (1911) is another excellent collection of quietly dreadful horror stories by M.R. James, run through with an undercurrent of wit and meta-awareness. James knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it about as well as anyone else ever did. I would dare say he has to be one of the finest writers of horror who ever lived, and maybe the best I’ve encountered before the more modern era.
James’ main gifts are two-fold: 1) a great sense of humor that never turns his stories into farce, but rather allows for some forgiveness for the hoary, sillier parts before the true fear begins, and 2) a grasp of the weird, the truly weird, as men stumble into a brush with the otherworldly through things (mostly objects) like books, mazes, etc.
More Ghost Stories has less heavy hitters than Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, for sure, but no bad tales.
The highlights include:
“A School Story” – an exploration of school folklore that turns very weird in an almost Fortean way.
“The Rose Garden” – a really fun story of a henpecked husband forced to deal with what turns out to be a cursed garden by his wife.
“Martin’s Close” – a fantastic story mostly in the form of a 1600s court document of the trial of a murder where most of the evidence is supernatural.
And, best of all – – –
“Casting the Runes”, where scholars run on the wrong side of a genuine alchemist with a strange and terrible method of revenge.
Apparently, James wrote most of his ghost stories for Christmas but I find that they get one in the mood for Halloween, as well.