on October 14, 2009
William Fryer Harvey's short stories are dark, ambivalent, murderous & sometimes slyly humorous. In this regard, he pre-dates Robert Aickman. Like some of Aickman's best tales - "Trains" & "Bind your hair" spring to mind - quite a few of Harvey's best tales are based around wanderings and the strange encounters that ensue. In "The Tool" a man takes a walking tour and somehow loses a day, a day in which a heinous crime has been committed; perhaps by the narrator? In "The Hearthside Fire", another murder is committed at midnight in an isolated public house on the moors & the perpetrator finds no rest ; in "August heat", a painter leaves his garret, goes for a stroll and is astonished to meet the murderously visaged person he has just painted an hour before. It's a dangerous business stepping beyond your doorstep, as Bilbo Baggins once observed. There is also the title story, which is one of the slickest black comedies since "Arsenic & old lace"; the "Follower" & "Miss Avenal", which are respectively a tale of elliptic horror a la Conrad & a tale of psychic vampirism. All of these tales were written in the Twenties & Thirties. The prose is clear, and always in the service of telling a lean story. I've read and re-read these stories many times with growing pleasure & appreciation.
on February 20, 2013
This is a great collection of short fiction by W.F. Harvey, a writer whose career spanned the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One of the pleasures of this collection is that Harvey worked in several diffferent genres. Some of his stories are gentle portraits of village life, others are satires of detective and supernatural fiction, He writes short sketches where seemingly inconsequential events change a character's life. There are several striking ghost stories in the collection, but my personal favorites are the twelve linked mystery stories that conclude the book. Harvey was a doctor who saw service in World War One. He used his medical training and skill in observation to create the character of a perceptive, middle aged nurse who solved the mysteries that were part of her patient's lives.
on November 8, 2013
Here's how much I loved this book: despite the fact that the book itself was so poorly bound it fell apart upon my first read...I read every story and I'm ordering another copy!
I'm hoping for better luck with the binding this time, but you could hardly ask for a better bunch of stories, some of which are genuinely creepy--like keep you awake at night thinking about them creepy. if you like M. R. James but have read all his ghost stories a million times, you will love W. F. Harvey.
on February 22, 2014
"Meh--only so-so," I thought after finishing the Oliver Onions collection. "I'm finished with ghost stories for a while; if I want scary tales, I'll go back and re-read M.R. James for the fiftieth time. Well, just one more; this one looks interesting, and I remember liking 'August Heat' from the hundred or so anthologies that include it--so we'll give Harvey a try." And I am very glad I did.
"August Heat" is, of course, the most well-known of these stories. However, I was quite pleased to discover that not only the quality, but the technique, of that deservedly famous vignette is sustained throughout this collection. If you've read that story, you will remember that what really happens, the truly unnerving part, takes place after the story ends. (If you haven't read it, I absolutely do not want to give away anything.) In this collection, Harvey uses that technique repeatedly in story after story: After you finish the story, you suddenly realize that you know, from slight hints dropped here and there, either what is going to happen, or what actually did happen. You've heard of "hiding in plain sight"? That's what these stories do.
For example, in "Mrs. Ormerod," after you finish the last sentence, it dawns upon you how terrible the title character is--that she is actually willing to sacrifice.... But there I go again. You'll just have to read it yourself.
Just a quick review of the physical product, not the written content. These Wordsworth Editions are quite nice, providing lots of obscure weird fiction authors, at great values. They are large format paperbacks. The cover artwork is elegant and the skull logo in the upper lefthand corner is slightly embossed. While they are not on par with offerings from collectible genre fiction small press companies, you can't complain for the price.
on September 11, 2013
I've read too many ghost/horror stories to count. I discovered Mr. Harvey in a collection of short stories. The story I read was so delightfully creepy, I had to google him! I immediately went to Amazon to order one of his collection and I have been pleasantly delighted with his talent for writing good and creepy stories. I believe that anyone who truly loves the paranormal will enjoy WF Harvey as much as Poe, Lovecraft, King or any of the other talented writers of the scare!