Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Little Night Reading

This probably won`t be of much interest to anyone but me but I`m going to tell you anyway.

When I was a young lad, I read and enjoyed a particular ghost story which involved an individual who accepts a bet to spend the night in a haunted house, the consequences of his doing so and a chance meeting of the parties to the wager years after the event.

The book I read it in was not my own, but belonged to Sherwood Community Centre, Nottingham where my mother did some sort of voluntary work. I always remember there was a room there with one wall given over to shelves of  books which fascinated me greatly.

For some reason this story lodged in my mind and I always wondered if I`d come across it again, though of course I`d long since forgotten the title and author`s name. 

By sheer chance recently I came across a battered old copy of  Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Herbert A Wise and Phyllis Fraser for Hammond, Hammond and Co, available to the discerning book buyer for 25p from a charity shop near my home. 

You`ve probably guessed the rest. Working my way through this epic tome, one story began to seem somewhat familiar and lo and behold I was re-united with the story which for some reason fascinated my younger self. It was like meeting an ex-girlfriend at a train station or something like that.

For the record, the tale in question turns out to have been The Gentleman From America* by Michael Arlen. It may not actually be the work of genius that I imagined it to be but it holds up pretty well even in the context of an anthology containing impressive tales from W W Jacobs, Alexander Woolcott, John Collier and many others.

Despite the rather naff cover art, on current showing (I`m about a third of the way through), this is a pretty neat volume, well deserving of a space on your shelves if, like me,  you like that sort of thing.       

* A quick look at Arlen`s Wikipedia page reveals that the story was adapted for TV as part of the `Alfred Hitchcock Presents...` series in 1956. It would be interesting to know how that turned out.

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