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Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories Paperback – October 1, 1984
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Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a prickly, colorful character who wrote maliciously funny short stories for adults (The Best of Roald Dahl) as well as better-known works for children (James and the Giant Peach). As he relates in the introduction, he started the research for this book by making a call to the celebrated ghost-story anthologist/writer, Lady Cynthia Asquith. He then went to the British Museum Library, and read a total of 749 tales before selecting 14 for this anthology. His criterion: "Spookiness is, after all, the real purpose of the ghost story. It should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts." Included here are not only acknowledged classics by Robert Aickman, Edith Wharton, J. S. Le Fanu, and F. Marion Crawford, but also tales by lesser-known writers such as L. P. Hartley, Rosemary Timperley, Jonas Lie, Mary Treadgold, and A. M. Burrage. The Washington Post writes, "Dahl's taste, it will surprise no one, is impeccable."
“Roald Dahl has selected fourteen of his favorite ghost stories that will deliver chills and goose bumps. "This is the best book of its kind in years.” ―The Washington Post Book World
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Top Customer Reviews
Dahl explains in his introduction that he had an idea for a television series back in 1958. He would use his writing prowess to write a screenplay for each episode based on an excellent ghost story. Dahl set out to find the best ghost stories for this project. He relates that by the end of a marathon reading session, he had read no fewer than 749 ghost stories. I’m pleased with his discernment.
However awesome the ghost story television series could have been, it flopped. What we’re left with is a remarkable collection of 14 ghost stories that one of my favorite storytellers read and loved. You may have heard of some of these authors, such as Sheridan Le Fanu. Others were new for me: Rosemary Timperley, Cynthia Asquith, and Mary Treadgold. My favorite out of the whole crop is Timperley’s “Harry.”
I feel that any fan of Roald Dahl’s short stories (the ones for grownups) will certainly admire this collection. Knowing that he recommended them tells me they’re going to be satisfying. As he remarks, “Good ghost stories are damnably difficult to write.” So let’s sit back and enjoy this spectacular little collection!
This line is from the late Roald Dahl's delightful introduction to a collection of ghost stories he selected in the late 1950's for a proposed t.v. series that was never picked up by a network. Not a single one of these stories was written by Roald Dahl, although he tells us in the introduction that he tried valiantly. His conclusion is that not just everyone is capable of writing for this genre and he apparently is one of those who is not.
The stories are beautifully written, every one, and present a nicely balanced variety of chills, from the eerie, oh-so-British, "Harry" by Rosemary Timperley to the primitive and gripping "Elias and the Draug" by Norwegian, Jonas Lie.
Be prepared, however, for these stories to be a bit subtle for a generation raised on the likes of Stephen King. They are the faint scritch-scratching of a ghostly hand on the chamber door -- as opposed to a bloodied corpse body-slamming through the door and clutching the reader by the throat.
I bought this book to read to my children, based on how much we adore Roald Dahl's children's books. This was not necessarily the best choice, not because the stories are too graphic or violent, but because the writing style in many of them is slightly wordy and archaic; rather slow going for an antsy eight and nine year old. Several did, however, pass our family "spooky test," which is whether or not one needs to take a flashlight to bed with one.