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M.R. James took the supernatural tale out of a gothic setting and placed it firmly in the everyday, happening to everyday people, balanced, educated, sane. The horrors that occur don’t happen in the shadowy corridors of a crumbling fortress, or a cobweb-festooned catacomb. They happen in your hotel, in your house, in your bed. The stories have a simplicity and directness that make them not just highly effective on the page, but also as ideas and images to be transferred to the screen. They have never been out of print since they first appeared in 1904. His influence on the genre has been monumental.


The book looks at him and his work, and his relationship to the supernatural genre. In particular it focuses on the stories in which he uses to such great effect the landscape of the county of Suffolk, which he lived in, visited often, and knew so well.



1. Introduction: Suffolk as a supernatural backdrop, its particular qualities and legends.


2. The stories make their debut: James reads the first two to the Chitchat Society, Cambridge.


3. M.R. James and the ghost story: the genre up to the time he was writing, what other people were writing, what he thought of it.

4: M.R. James: the style, the man: how the stories were different, how he was different.


5. The ghost stories of M.R. James: how the books came about, overview of the stories.


The Suffolk Stories

In-depth analysis of the stories that use the county, both on the page and on screen, heavily illustrated, with maps. My analysis of his final story, ‘A Vignette’, contains a different theory as to the roots of James’ horror – and it’s not medieval illustrations of martyrdoms.


1. The Ash-tree

2. Count Magnus

3. ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’

4. The Tractate Middoth

5. Casting the Runes

6. A Warning to the Curious

7. Rats

8. A Vignette

Paperback, 160 pages, 220 x 140mm, colour throughout. £16 + £3.20 p&p (UK).

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