On Halloween, what better than to look at a couple of enjoyable - and very different - anthologies of ghost stories? I've always been interested in stories of the supernatural, and with a few notable exceptions I think the ghost story usually works best in the short form. I've even tried my hand at this kind of fiction, with a story called 'No Flowers' that appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (and the editor Janet Hutchings even recorded me reading it a few years ago), and I may return to it before too long.
Ghosts from the Library is the latest collection edited by Tony Medawar. It's a companion volume to his Bodies from the Library series, and Tony kindly inscribed the books for me recently, when I was his guest at a fascinating crime-themed dinner in London. It's no secret that Tony and I are old friends, so naturally you'd expect me to like his books, and this latest title definitely reflects his reputation as the best in the business at finding unknown stories by leading authors of the past.
One astonishing find also happened to be my favourite story in the whole book. This is 'The Green Dress' by Anthony Berkeley. I never knew it existed, but I really enjoyed reading it - for me, that story alone justifies the book! But there's plenty more beside, including a good story by Christianna Brand, another by Edmund Crispin, and an excellent Agatha Christie that I'd previously heard in an audio version.
Louise Welsh is someone I've never met, but I've admired her writing for a long time. Ghost is a massive anthology (with lovely cover artwork by the admirable Ed Bettison) which includes no fewer than one hundred stories, with contributions from Pliny the Younger to Fay Weldon. With so many good things included, it's impossible to pick out favourites, but I must say that I was impressed that Louise Welsh managed to find so many gems that I'd never come across before, rather than sticking to a predictable line-up. So just to whet your appetite, the author list includes Kafka, Richmal Crompton, Tove Jansson, P.G. Wodehouse, Sir Alec Guinness, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Hilary Mantel. Not to mention two of the finest short story writers of all, Shirley Jackson and William Trevor. A terrific book.