SIX GHOST STORIES by Montague Summers, Snuggly Books 2019
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers (1880-1948) was a British clergyman and occultist, author of famous essays on demonology, witchcraft and black magic, as well as an editor of supernatural fiction anthologies , the most popular of which are The Supernatural Omnibus and Victorian Ghost Stories.
Like many ghost story enthusiasts, also Montague Summers could not resist the temptation of trying his hand at the ghost story himself, but during his lifetime only a couple of his supernatural tales appeared in print. A scheduled collection entitled Six Ghost Stories was never published and only today, thanks to the distinguished small imprint Snuggly Books,has become available.
Summers is hardly a great ghost story writer, lacking originality and largely mimicking the style of Edwardian and late Victorian authors. In addition, some of his stories have quite a slow start and, as admitted also in the Introduction provided by Daniel Corrick, “ much time is dedicated to scene setting and narrative background”.
My personal initial impact with Summers as a writer has left me rather perplexed because the very first paragraph of the very first tale (“The House Agent”) lasts 24 lines before a period is finally to be found… In spite of that, the story, although a rather conventional piece about a not quite empty haunted house, is extremely enjoyable. And the rest of the volume is also pleasantly entertaining.
“ Romeo and Juliet” is an effective tale of love and jealousy,with a supernatural touch, set in the world of the opera , while “The Grimoire” ,addressing the cliché of the unholy, dangerous book , although predictable, is very well told.
“The Governess”is a bit overlong, convoluted story where the supernatural events are so diluted inside a load of superfluous chatting to lose their power to disquiet.
By contrast, “A Toy Theatre” is an excellent tale revolving around a spooky toy theatre where a true tragedy from the past is still re-enacted, and in “The Man on the Stairs” the time honoured subject if the haunted house is nicely revisited by portraying the sceptical house owner failing to recognise the actual facts while a malicious prank is coming to grief.
In short, a good , interesting collection where, even if no real masterpiece is included, a few hours of happy reading are secured for the genre lovers.