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The Buckross Ring
L.A.G. Strong
Tartarus Press, 237 pages

The Buckross Ring
L.A.G. Strong
Leonard Alfred George Strong (1896–1958) was born in Plymouth UK. He was educated at Brighton College and at Wadham College, Oxford (Open Classical Scholar) where he came under the influence of W. B. Yeats. He worked as an Assistant Master at Summer Fields, Oxford, between 1917-19 and 1920-30, and as a Visiting Tutor at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He was a director of the publishers Methuen Ltd. from 1938 until his death. For many years he was a governor of his old school, Brighton College.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Largely forgotten today, L.A.G. Strong was one of the most popular and eclectic writers of the mid-twentieth century, author of biographies, detective stores, children books and, last but not least, of supernatural novels and stories.

The present volume, published by the excellent Tartarus Press and edited and introduced by the experienced Richard Dalby, collects, for the first time, Strong's supernatural or "strange" short stories, most of which were probably unknown, thus far, to today's readers.

Were they worth reprinting? As is often the case, the answer is yes and no.

Not all of the seventeen stories included in the book have actually a supernatural or a weird element, some are quite ordinary (such as "Orpheus" where a drowned bride comes back from the dead to soothe her ailing husband and "The Doll," a quite conventional tale of witchcraft), but, when at his best, Strong has an uncanny ability to create gentle, vivid and fascinating stories bound to leave the reader enchanted. This is evident in the title story, "The Buckross Ring," a traditional example of "antiquarian" tale, which provides excellent reading material by nicely blending grottesco and medieval with a tasty touch of supernatural and in the famous "Breakdown," a fine thriller with a Hitchcockian taste and a mocking ending, superbly told in a precise, detailed yet very emotional way.

Despite a certain lack of originality, the author manages to achieve remarkable results thanks to his graceful and skilled narrative style as evidenced in "Danse Macabre," where a man dances throughout a party with a strange girl only to discover later that she had been long dead. Or in "Crabtree's," that is not really a supernatural tale but a well crafted mainstream story about an unlucky house bringing about misfortune and violence to its dwellers and in "Let Me Go," a captivating piece featuring the restless spirit of a murdered man who manages to obtain the burial of his decomposing skeleton and therefore eternal peace to his soul. The same comments may apply to"Sea Air," a delicate, well told ghost story about a sick child and the supernatural reason for his inability to thrive.

"Light Above the Lake," the title story of a posthumous Strong collection, is a sweet love story with a supernatural element, showing how true love can last beyond the grave. Oddly enough, while the description of the love encounter is quite charming and accomplished, it's just the supernatural part (where, after the girl's untimely death her lover realizes she's still with him) which, due to an excess of philosophical speculations, appears overwritten and a bit heavy.

A learned, critical essay about "The Short Story," written by Strong himself, concludes this interesting book.

Although not every story therein is apt to satisfy the present day's more knowing readers, the above mentioned tales surely deserved to be unearthed and enjoyed once again.

Copyright © 2009 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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