Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Collected Fiction

William Hope Hodgson; Jeremy Lassen (editor): The House on the Borderland and Other Mysterious Places (The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Volume 2) (Night Shade Books; 2004; ISBN 978-1-892389-40-4; cover by Jason Van Hollander).

I first came across William Hope Hodgson in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of books that introduced me to so many wonderful authors in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I encountered him again when I was running the horror RPG from Chaosium, The Call of Cthulhu and was mining the horror and fantasy genres for ideas and settings. I was lucky enough to find (in a New York City specialty shop) the Sphere editions of most of his tales, including a full version of The House on the Borderland (the BAF version had been abridged).

Of particular interest, both as something to read but also as source material for The Call of Cthulhu, were the stories of Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder. Carnacki was a detective, following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, who investigated hauntings. Armed with both science (for example, a pentacle made out of neon light tubes) and knowledge taken from various dusty and musty tomes, Carnacki investigated haunted ships, haunted houses and more.

The framework of the stories were all essentially the same. The narrator (Hodgson, slightly renamed) and several of Caracki's friends would receive an invitation to dinner (think of the dinners held by the nameless Inventor in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells). No conversation other than the ordinary was allowed during the dinner. After dinner, when the group had sat in their usual places and were smoking their usual pipes, cigars, etc., Carnacki would recount his most recent adventure. Sometimes it was a real haunting, sometimes it was a fake (and the best stories were fakes that had elements of a real haunting thrown in...much to the surprise of those running the fake!). Carnacki would pepper his tales with references to his equipment, his research and (tantalizingly to us!) references to many other adventures that were never written down (!).

I started reading this batch on Halloween, after the trick-or-treaters had been driven away by the rain. I read all ten in one night, shivers all around! Best of the batch were The Whistling Room, The Horse Invisible, and The Pig (a very scary tale).

The Night Shade Books editions (five on my shelf so far) are somewhat expensive; I'm not sure if other editions of these stories are currently available. Luckily, there are alternatives; eBook editions of a lot of Hodgson's stories are available at sites such as Project Gutenberg.

Made up of: Editor's Introduction (Lassen); The House on the Borderland (novel); Carnacki the Ghost-Finder: The Thing Invisible; The Gateway of the Monster; The House Among the Laurels; The Whistling Room; The Searcher of the End House; The Horse of the Invisible; The Haunted "Jarvee"; The Find; The Hog; Other Tales of Mystery and Suspense: The Goddess of Death; Terror of the Water-Tank; Bullion; The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship; The Ghosts of the "Glen Doon"; Mr. Jack Danplank; The Mystery of Captain Chappel; The Home-Coming of Captain Dan; Merciful Plunder; The Haunting of the "Lady Shannon"; The Heathen's Revenge; A Note on the Texts (Lassen).

Counts as 10 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

2 comments:

Steven Hart said...

I think the abridged BAF you refer to was The Night Land. The WHH works reprinted in that series were The Night Land and The Boats of the 'Glen Carig.'

For some reason, I never got to the Canacki stories before now. Gotta add those to the to-read pile.

Fred Kiesche said...

They (Carnacki) are a good crossover between, say, Sherlock Holmes and Eich-Pee-El's "investigative style" stories (e.g., "Call of Cthulhu" with a lot of "facts" presented in articles and diary entries and the like).

You're right on "The Night Land"! It's been so long since I've read any of the BAF entries (I really have to do that reading project I planned, of going through them again, in the order of the original releases). I knew about the "Boats" release later when I started buying them again a few years ago, but missed it when it was first released. "Night Land" was in the local drug store (which is where I bought many of my books until a "real" bookstore opened in town and a couple of second-hand shops opened up in the next town over), so that one I did read...once...need to revisit!