Wednesday, 13 May 2015

GREAT GHOSTS OF THE SHELVES #9 - The 2nd Armada Ghost Book ed. Christine Bernard

The Armada Ghost Book had proved to be such a hit with readers that the following year editor Christine Bernard was called upon to assemble a second serving of spooky tales for younger readers. And hence in 1968, The 2nd Armada Ghost Book hit the shelves. 

This second volume followed the template of the first quite faithfully, serving up a mixture of different sorts of ghostly tales. However this time round it resulted somewhat thinner book - not only in size but in content. Like the first we have two tales drawn from folklore from Sorche Nic Leodhas, another brace of tales from HG Wells, and in addition there are yet another two stories that are from the same author, a pair by William Croft Dickinson. The full contents are as follows - 

The Ghost Who Didn't Want to be a Ghost by Sorche Nic Leodhas
The Keepers of the Wall by William Croft Dickinson
Fiddler, Play Fast, Play Faster by Ruth Sawyer
The Magic Shop by H G Wells
Mr Fox by Traditional
His Own Number by William Croft Dickinson
The Man Who Walked Widdershins Round the Kirk by Sorche Nic Leodhas
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid by H G Wells
The Uglie-Wuglies by Edith Nesbit

(As usual I have linked to my own audio readings of any of these tales)

Given that we have another chunk of folklore in the shape of the traditional old fireside tale Mr Fox, a variant on the Bluebeard story, and that the last story in the collection from E Nesbit is actually just an excerpt from her novel The Enchanted Castle, this collection feels a good deal less diverse than its illustrious predecessor. But furthermore this book is somewhat light on actual ghost stories - the Wells tales while entertaining don't exactly feature any hauntings, likewise the extract from Nesbit. Mr Fox though horrible is free of spectres, and while the tales from Leodhas and Ruth Sawyer do feature the supernatural, the ghosts and sprites from folklore are more fairy tale baddies than figures from nightmare. Thankfully William Croft Dickinson is on hand to deliver a fine eerie tale in the MR James tradition in the shape of The Keepers of the Wall and in a nice contrast, conjures some memorable unease with computers in His Own Number.   

The 2nd Armada Ghost Book isn't a terrible anthology by any means, as all its tales are good. However it does lose marks for wandering away from proper ghost stories and having a limited pool of authors. So on one hand its a fun collection to tales to have but not one of the stronger outings in the Armada series. Tellingly the third volume of Ghost Books would see a new editor taking the helm...

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