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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 1/18/22

Phantasmagoria by Sir Walter Scott, Hippocampus, 2021, $20, ISBN 978-1-61498-354-5 

Sir Walter Scott is best known for the Waverly novels, particularly Ivanhoe, but he did write a handful of weird stories. They would probably be considered dark fantasy today, if they could be published at all. I only managed to read two of his novels even when I was in high school devouring everything. His stories are inflated by long and irrelevant diversions from the plot – not uncommon in his era – and there is not the slightest bit of suspense in any of the five stories collected here, of which “The Tapestried Chamber” was the only one I liked. There is a good selection of his poetry with supernatural themes, but the best part of the book is actually a small collection of essays about gothic fiction – Shelley, Radcliffe, etc. Nice to see the stories collected but they are of historic interest only. 1/18/22

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson, Pan, 1910 

Carnacki was an occult detective who sometimes found mundane explanations for weird events, sometimes realized they were truly supernatural and used magical objects or rituals to banish them. His nine adventures are collected here. They are actually quite repetitive and only “The Horse of the Invisible” really stands out. The others tend to be variations on the same theme, and three of them turn out to have perfectly rational explanations. “The Haunted Jarvee” has some nice description of life on a sailing ship but the story itself is mediocre. His non-series short stories are generally much better. 1/17/22

Can't Find My Way Home by Gwynne Garfinkle, Aqueduct Press, 2022, $20, ISBN 978-1-61876-212-1

I'm old enough that this somewhat nostalgic ghost story worked exceptionally well for me. The protagonist is a woman who - many years earlier - failed to go with a friend to a protest in which she died under circumstances not entirely clear. Now the ghost of her friend has appeared to her and wants closure. Although this is not a particularly original concept for a comparatively gentle ghost story, it is wrapped around a much more compelling story about the frustrations and contradictions of that era, of protesting in general. It examines how we change views on political matters - or at least tactics - over the course of time and it touches upon the tenuous but real connections we retain to friends, even those no longer alive. The protagonist is compelled to relive that fatal night over and over again, each time with subtle - or not so subtle differences. Very moving story. 1/15/22

The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, Ace  (originally published in 1908) 

The author’s most famous novel is the diary of a man who discovers his house in remote Ireland is actually a nexus point between realities. Swine creatures besiege him in his house after he has had a mental journey to a mysterious world where ancient gods may still live. He eventually has a trip through time to witness the death of the sun and see other amazing events. His journal comes to an abrupt end when something never described enters the house. Very atmospheric and it is easy to see why Lovecraft valued it so highly. 1/2/22