Ghostly tales seem to have had a resurgence of popularity lately, as has the horror genre in general. Which is awesome—there’s nothing I love more than a deliciously creepy tale. Not gore or gratuitous shock, but something that makes me think and wonder, and keeps me up at night. Something that gives me the shivers.
Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense, edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger, is a collection of supernatural tales by authors you recognize: Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, etc. But the stories themselves are not as well known. In some cases, the stories are not a part of the genre the author usually wrote in, so were discounted or forgotten. In other cases, the stories might have not been published as widely as other stories by the author, or are really good stories by an author not known for their work in the genre, and so readers didn’t pick up on them in other places.
Notes from the editors accompany each story, giving the tales context both literary and historical. The stories themselves cover a period of about two hundred years, starting with a ballad from the 1700s and going through to the early 1900s. This is a well-rounded anthology with tales that are chilling, of course, but some have a bit of humor thrown in, and there are others that are political commentaries. There are a couple of stories that explore a similar theme, but that were written almost a generation apart, so readers can see how stories developed over time. Several of the tales packed an emotional punch, because what is a ghost story if not the story of ultimate loss?
All in all, this is a great addition to a horror-lover’s shelf, as well as for those who want a good introduction to the ghost story genre. The only thing I think I might have wanted to see in this book were a few more female voices—it would have been meaningful in this time when gender equality in the horror genre is such a hot topic.
Lisa Morton and Leslie Klinger prove themselves masterful anthologists who really put the legwork in on their subject, and I encourage folks to not only pick up this anthology, but some of the others they have worked on separately.
Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense is available in hardcover and ebook now from Pegasus books wherever books are sold.
Melanie R. Meadors is an author of middle grade fantasy, a role playing game designer/editor, and a blogger with The Once and Future Podcast and GeekMom. She also loves science, sewing, music, comics, DMing for a couple of gaming groups…In other words, she is a professional nerd. You can learn more about her at her website.