Glimpses of the Unknown – Review
By Sarah Morgan
I like books and I love horror stories. Put the two together and you basically have my life and spending habits on a plate.
I’ve got so many short horror anthologies that I must have the same stories repeated several times over, and there comes a point when collectors like me begin to wonder if they’ll ever find anything new. So imagine my delight when Glimpses of the Unknown came into my world.
Mike Ashley (not the Sports Direct, House of Fraser and Newcastle United owner) is well known in the book world for editing the long-running Mammoth Book series of short stories, as well as the four-volume History of the Science Fiction Magazine and several other anthologies during the past 40-odd years.
His research on such projects has been second to none, but he really excels himself here, having found 18 short stories that have never been republished since their original appearance. Some of them are more than 100 years old, with a date range covering 1899 to 1929.
The fact that they haven’t been reprinted might make wary readers think that perhaps they didn’t deserve to be, and that they were never really very interesting to begin with. And it’s true that a couple are not exactly sparkling, but let’s face it, that could be said about any anthology – there’s always at least one duff plot you skim over to get to the good stuff.
The vast majority, however, are sparkling, genuinely chilling tales; it’s baffling why they’ve been ignored for so long. Of most interest to fans of the genre will be ‘The Woman in the Veil’ by EF Benson, a well-known master of the genre who appears in this case to have been inspired by Agatha Christie’s infamous 1926 disappearance.
“Well worth reappraising”
Ashley states in a short biography ahead of the story (there’s one for each of the writers featured, although some have seemingly disappeared without leaving any other trace) that it was even unknown to Benson expert Jack Adrian, who didn’t include it in his otherwise exhaustive five-volumes of Benson’s weird tales.
Other outstanding offerings include the decidedly odd ‘The House of the Black Evil’ by Eric Purves, while Philippa Forest wrote various tales featuring her lead characters Carwell and Wilton. They feature in ‘When Spirits Heal’ here, but I’m hoping somebody collects the rest of their adventures together soon because if this is anything to go by, they’re well worth reappraising.
Glimpses of the Unknown is an excellent tome that will delight and surprise long-standing fans of the genre, while newcomers may become hooked – and end up haunting bookshops like me
‘Glimpses of the Unknown’, edited by Mike Ashley is published by The British Library, £8.99