The Little Blue Flames and Other Uncanny Tales by A.M Burrage – Review

The Little Blue Flames and Other Uncanny Tales by A.M Burrage Review logo

By Karl Hornsey

This beautifully presented collection of short stories by A.M Burrage is a must for anyone with a keen interest in tales of the supernatural, written by an author whose work seems to have become somewhat lost in the mists of time in comparison to others in the genre. Whilst alive, Burrage was best known as an author of books for children, and even some in the romantic genre, and only after his death did his horror stories supersede that.

Including an excellent and detailed introduction by Nick Freeman, this collection brings together 15 short tales, which seemingly seek to mildly disturb, unsettle and provoke thought, rather than rely on outright shock, terror and gore for its inspiration. While M.R James has become the most well remembered and recognised author in this genre, he himself lauded Burrage’s work, and if these tales are good enough for James then they’re good enough for me too.

The Little Blue Flames and Other Uncanny Tales by A.M Burrage Review cover“Seeping paranoia”

The Little Blue Flames of the title was first published in 1930, but it’s his work from Christmas of the following year – One Who Saw – that is widely regarded as Burrage’s masterpiece, and it’s the tale for me that best sums up this collection. While the middle of summer, even if it might not feel like it at the moment, may not be the best time to be reading a Christmas novella, it still sends tingles down the spine, focusing as it does on the visit to the French city of Rouen by a writer who spies a ghostly apparition from his hotel window. While the story in parts may seem tame and ‘light’ by modern horror standards, it’s a great example of the sort of seeping paranoia and mild hysteria that Burrage imbued his stories with, and works best with full concentration and lights down low to really savour the mood.

Even some of the titles seem to invoke a bygone era when the imagination was triggered by deft descriptions and characterisations, with the likes of The Waxwork, The Green Scarf and Someone in the Room among my favourites. These aren’t stories that will leave you shaking or afraid to go upstairs in the dark, but they slip into your consciousness as you read them, and left me thankful that I’d stumbled on an author who deserves wider recognition, and one for whom this delightful package by The British Library does great justice.

‘The Little Blue Flames and Other Uncanny Tales’ by A.M Burrage is published by The British Library


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