Sunday, October 18, 2009

Great Short Stories: #51-60

51. "The Voice in the Night" (1907) by William Hope Hodgson. Two men at sea hear a voice in the night, coming from a rowboat. The voice asks for food, but does not want to be seen. The men comply and some time later the rowboat returns and the voice tells them its tragic story. What is it? Well, I can tell you this: this is the story which inspired Matango ("Attack of the Mushroom People")!

"The Voice in the Night" can be found in The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume 3. You can read the text online here.

52. "The Willows" (1907) by Algernon Blackwood. A disturbing tale in the style Lovecraft would later popularize. Two men on a canoeing trip spent a night on a tiny island. With them is an unearthly presence so terrible that their only hope is to not think about it, because the moment they perceive what is with them will be the moment of their destruction!

"The Willows" can be found in The Willows. You can read the text online here.

53. "Ancient Sorceries" (1908) by Algernon Blackwood. Chilling story about a man who gets off at a small village to make a point to another travler. Although he chose the village at random, the lcoale seems strangely familiar. And the people seem to recognize him, watching him, waiting for something to happen.

"Ancient Sorceries" can be found in Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories. You can read the text online here.

54. "To Build a Fire" (1908) by Jack London. A taut tale about a man in the frozen north whose cruelty gets the best of him when he faces the danger of freezing to death; his only prayer is to build a fire in time.

"To Build a Fire" can be found in To Build a Fire and Other Stories. You can read the text online here.

55. "Tobermory" (1909) by Saki. An amusing story in which a cat obtains the ability to speak; after an initial burst of enthusiasm, the people who the cat knows become terrified of the feline because it knows all of their secrets and has no compunction about sharing them!

"Tobermory" can be found in Great English Short Stories. You can read the text online here.

56. "August Heat" (1910) by William Harvey. Haunting story about an artist who makes a picture of a murderer. Then he meets the man, who turns out to be a tombstone carver; the carver has just inscribed the artist's name on a display stone. The two men gradually realize that they are war with destiny and must somehow prevent the inevitable.

"August Heat" can be found in Masters Choice. You can read the text online here.

57. "The Blue Cross" (1910) by G.K. Chesterton. This might be the best of Chesterton's Father Brown stories. In this one, a man sets about perform seemingly random acts, not unlike the character from Doyle's "Adventure of the Six Napoleons." As in that story, there's more going on than appears on the surface and it takes Father Brown to discern the "madman's" intentions by behaving "mad" just like the criminal!

"The Blue Cross" can be found in Favorite Father Brown Stories. You can read the text online here.

58. "The Grove of Ashtaroth" (1910) by John Buchan. Buchan wrote very few tales of the supernatural and when he did delve into such matters, he often evoked strange compulsions which cling to environments, rather than conventional ghosts and spirits. In this tale set in South Africa, the narrator recounts the tale of his friend who became suddenly invested in a piece of South African land containing a certain grove circled by doves. On evenings he heads into the grove and performs certain acts - acts of worship to the goddess Ashtorah!

"The Grove of Ashtaroth" can be found in The Moon Endureth: Tales and Fancies. You can read the text online here.

59. "Casting the Runes" (1911) by M.R. James. An unforgettable tale of a man who derides the forces of darkness, then finds himself beset by them. Everywhere he goes, something follows upon his footsteps. The haunting is fated to end eventually, but that brings little relief: it can only end in death.

"Casting the Runes" can be found in Complete Ghost Stories. You can read the text online here.

60. "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" (1913) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This was the story which first interested me in Sherlock Holmes. Holmes lies dying in his bed and refuses to let Watson treat him. Watson speeds off to find a specialist, but it seems the specialist is all too aware of Holmes' precarious condition.

"The Adventure of the Dying Detective" can be found in The Complete Sherlock Holmes. You can read the text online here.

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