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The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and Other Nautical Adventures
Volume 1, The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson
Night Shade Books, 513 pages

William Hope Hodgson
One of 12 children of an Anglican priest, William Hope Hodgson (Nov. 15, 1877-Apr. 17 1918) was born in Blackmore End, Essex, England. William ran away to sea at 13, was hauled home, before beginning his apprentice ship in 1891. Treated badly by a second made he learned judo and began body-building, and also took up photography. Coming to hate the sea, in 1902 he set up an exercise club near Liverpool, where he taught body-building to local policemen. Around 1904 he began writing tales of horror at sea, supplementing his income with photography. His first published story was "A Tropical Horror," The Grand Magazine, June 1905. Early in 1907, the episodic novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" was published, and in 1908 the earthbound The House on the Borderland, termed by H.P. Lovecraft "a classic of the first water." The year 1909 saw the publication of another tale of horrors at sea, The Ghost Pirates. Hodgson continued with tales of an occult detective (Carnacki the Ghost Finder); an The Night Land a tale of horror at the end of time, lauded by Lovecraft and C.A. Smith. When WWI broke out Hodgson, who had married the year before, entered the Royal Field Artillery and trained as a Lieutenant. Receiving a serious head injury in a fall, he recovered and returned to the front lines near Ypres, Belgium, where as an advanced scout, he was blown up by a German shell, at the age of 40.

DIFFERENT EDITIONS OF HODGSON'S WORKS:
Nightshade Books eds.
Wildside Press eds.
Spirit Lake Press eds.
Hobgoblin Press eds.
Coppens and Frenks eds.
Hodgson in Swedish
The Ghost Pirates in French

MISCELLANEOUS:
A extensive site dedicated to Hodgson's The Night Land
Philippe Druillet's illustrations to Hodgson books
Artistic rendering of W.H. Hodgson
Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series Hodgson covers
Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult covers

BIOGRAPHY: 1, 2 (in Spanish), 3, 4 (in Spanish), 5 (in Finnish), 6 (in Japanese), 7 (in Greek), 8

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (in Spanish), 6 (in French)

COMMENTARIES:

BOOK REVIEWS:

E-TEXTS:

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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Agog! Terrific Tales In The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and Other Nautical Adventures are collected many of Hodgson's horror tales of the Sargasso Sea, all the lesser-known (and hard-to-find) tales of Hodgson's Raffles-like rogue, Captain Gault smuggler-extraordinaire, and some other tales of similar salty dogs. What isn't exactly clear, in this first volume of a series that seeks to reprint Hodgson's complete fictional output, is the rationale behind what is included and what is not, Jeremy Lassen's introduction giving no inkling in this regard. While the book is nicely presented and typo-free, I wondered why some of Hodgson's lesser works had been chosen to kick off the collection: admittedly the Capt. Gault, Capt. Jat, and D.C.O. Cargunka stories are long out of print, but conversely they aren't what made Hodgson's reputation. Hodgson's The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" while a strong and very creepy novel, hearkens somewhat to the stilted prose of The Night Land, and doesn't have the directness and journalistic succinctness which made his The Ghost Pirates, in my opinion, a better novel. Also, while Hodgson used ships stranded in the Sargasso sea as a setting for a number of tales of horrors-arising-from-the-sea, he also used stranded storm-disabled becalmed ships in a number of very similar tales (e.g. "The Derelict," "The Stone Ship"). The collecting together of the specifically Sargasso Sea stories, while they are individually excellent, tends to lead to the repetition of a number of elements from story to story, e.g. the giant squid and crab inhabitants of the Sargasso, and the defensive structures built on the stranded ships. This in turn, in my opinion, somewhat lessens their impact.

What will be interesting, however, to the reader of Hodgson's horror tales, is the very different nature of the Captain Gault tales. Here Hodgson presents a suave, man of the world Raffles-at-sea. Constantly coming up with dodges to smuggle items through customs, Capt. Gault is never nasty or vindictive, but always has the last laugh. There's plenty of adventure, nefarious crooks, and innocent maidens at risk too... but nary a tinge of horror. This isn't entirely the case in the Capt. Jat, and the D.C.O. Cargunka stories, but they remain a far cry from anything inhabiting Hodgson's Sargasso sea.

I certainly will neither be the first, nor the last, nor the most illustrious (the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and C.S. Lewis having preceded me) to praise William Hope Hodgson's writings. What works best in Hodgson's horror tales, is the matter-of-fact way in which the narrator generally tells the story. Hodgson's extensive experience at sea informs his stories with a verisimilitude that one only gets with first-hand knowledge. The sailors in the stories, while on occasion prone to superstition, are neither ones to back down from ship-invading horrors, nor reckless when presented with overwhelming force. Thus Hodgson's nautical tales, while of the same era as much of Algernon Blackwood's best tales of horror, are generally much more centered on biological than spiritual horrors, his heroes responding more physically than emotionally (or psychically).

Many, including Lovecraft, have written of Hodgson's marring his work with elements of romance. Indeed in a number of Hodgson's works the horrors are met by male-female couples, often meeting as a result of the circumstances or in the first stages of discovering their love for each other. Yecch! you say, there's no place for such things in horror. Certainly, if one reads H.P. Lovecraft, A. Blackwood, M.R. James and the like, one might have the impression that there are no women in the world, and those that do exist either breed monstrosities or dabble in the black arts... this is of course patently absurd. In Hodgson's stories, from "From the Tideless Sea" in the Sargasso, Capt. Gault's "The Adventure of the Garter," to the lovers in The Night Land, there is a very normal and natural human response to the stress of impending or past horrors, men and women turn to each other for companionship and relief from the inhuman horrors. This isn't to say that Hodgson doesn't couch all these budding relationships in the now dated societal constraints of his time, and doesn't use some rather saccharine prose to do it, but it all adds to, rather than detracts from the realism of his stories. Also, unlike much contemporaneous fiction, Hodgson's women, while certainly not attempting to break out from their socially-dictated place in the world, are generally competent, plucky, and able to be more than a bimbo sidekick for the man.

If one is looking to discover Hodgson, or extend one's reading, The Boats... is perhaps not the best place to start; many other publishers offer editions of Hodgson's best works. However, for the more than casual Hodgson fan, and for those wishing to build a complete collection of his fiction, The Boats... is an excellent place to start. For those who enjoy the likes of Hornung's Raffles and Leblanc's Arsène Lupin, the Capt. Gault stories will surely be pleasing. One way or the other, you'll never see seaweed in quite the same light as you did before.

Contents:

  • Introduction by Jeremy Lassen
  • The Boats of the "Glen Carrig"
  • The Sargasso Sea Stories
    • From the Tideless Sea Part 1
    • From the Tideless Sea Part 2: More News From the Homebird
    • The Mystery of the Derelict
    • The Finding of the Graiken
    • The Thing in the Weeds
    • The Call In the Dawn
  • The Exploits of Captain Gault
    • Contraband of War
    • From Information Received
    • The Case of the Curio Dealer
    • The Diamond Spy
    • The Drum of Saccharine
    • The Red Herring
    • The German Spy
    • The Painted Lady
    • The Problem of the Pearls
    • My Lady's Jewels
    • The Adventure of the Garter
    • Trading with the Enemy
    • The Plans of the Reefing Bi-Plane
  • The Adventures of Captain Jat
    • The Island of the Ud
    • Adventure of the Headland
  • Stories of Cargunka
    • The Bells of the Laughing Sally
    • The Adventure with the Claim Jumpers
  • A Note On The Texts

Copyright © 2003 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.


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