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Seven Ghosts and One Other
C.E. Ward
Sarob Press, 127 pages

Seven Ghosts and One Other
C.E. Ward
C.E. Ward is the author of Vengeful Ghosts, the first living author published by Sarob Press. The 1998 collection was well received and sold out quickly. It is long out of print. Seven Ghosts and One Other is his long-awaited second ghost story collection.

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A review by Mario Guslandi

In the era of internet, smartphones and digital technology, it may seem silly and unfashionable to seek pleasurable shivers by reading ghost stories set either in a long gone past or, at most, in the age of gaslight lamps and hansom cabs. Yet, classical ghost stories, as the ones penned by a master of the genre such as M.R. James, continue to fascinate readers from all over the world.

Most of today's horror writers prefer to deal with graphic horror, some pursue the ghostly and supernatural in quieter, subtler ways, but very few are devoted to the creation of ghost stories like in the old times. And those who choose to do so must carefully avoid the danger of producing repetitive pastiches or boring imitations.

C.E. Ward is an author who, while being a loyal follower of M.R. James and his classical themes (wicked nobles, peculiar clergymen, churches hosting restless corpses and sleeping demons etc.) contrives to perfectly recreate Jamesian atmospheres with remarkable talent, an elegant prose and a refreshing touch of originality.

Twelve years after his debut collection Vengeful Ghosts, Ward returns with a new volume featuring eight delightful ghost stories.

"The Doorway to St. Stephen's" very nicely revisits the theme of vengeance from beyond the grave, adding a strong historical flavour to the plot.

"Mariner's Rest" is a dark maritime tale of revenge, extremely enjoyable, although a bit predictable.

The creepy "The Short Cut," set in the world of school, revolves around a deceased headmaster whose strange doings still cast a sinister shadow on the present.

"Not Found Among You" is an effective story of witchcraft and superstition with a nice twist in the tail, while "The Particular" tries, not quite successfully, to blend the supernatural horror emanating from a disquieting maze with the historical facts of English Civil War.

"The Game of Bear" provides a terrifying ending to an unfinished Mr. James' story featuring an unforgettable, nasty female character.

The outstanding "Behind the Curtain," a feast for ghost story lovers written in an exquisite narrative style, is a great story of evil and corruption centered around a portrait hanging in the gallery of a dilapidated mansion.

While strongly recommending Seven Ghosts and One Other, I must warn you that it may be already gone out of print. The small imprint, Sarob Press, formerly based in the UK and now relocated in France and reborn for the occasion, has limited the print run of the volume to 200 copies only. But don't lose heart: I'm sure that, if overwhelmed by new requests, publisher Robert Morgan will be happy to release a second edition.

Copyright © 2011 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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