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Old 22nd December 2010, 05:56 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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I don't think I've ever heard of Jean Ray, so thank youfor bringing him to our attentionwith your excellent summaries!...

If I ever get the chance to source an affordable copy of his harder to obtain works I shall not hesitate to do so.
In the meantime I highly recommend you pick up Malpertuis. And if you're interested in reading further try getting hold of copies of Shadows of Fear and Witches and Warlocks, which collect his two most famous short stories, along with a host of other great pieces from the more well-known stalwarts of the genre...

...and if you ever see a copy of Ghouls In My Grave or My Private Spectres, beg borrow or steal to get your hands on it!
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Old 22nd December 2010, 08:33 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

Thanks from me too, nomadman, for bringing Jean Ray to my attention. I see there are copies for Malpertuis for sale at ebay, so I'll pick that up as a starting point.

The Mainz Psalter reminds me oddly of John Christopher's The Long Voyage, a very metaphysical horror novel, and one I'd heartliy recommend.
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Old 24th December 2010, 11:41 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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Thanks from me too, nomadman, for bringing Jean Ray to my attention. I see there are copies for Malpertuis for sale at ebay, so I'll pick that up as a starting point.
No problem.

Read a few more the previous night. In The Story of the Wulkh a professional bird hunter is commissioned by a taxidermist to hunt down a rare and exceedingly dangerous bird that inhabits a dangerous fenn in the east of Ireland. He is not, he's informed, the first. According to the taxidermist two other hunters have failed before him, caught in the boggy quicksand that lurks within the fenn. Thus prepared, the hunter ventures off into the fenns and so comes face to face with the strange bird known as the Wulkh... Decent piece this, again slightly reminiscent of Blackwood's The Willows in the air of desolation and alien mystery Ray manages to conjure up in his leanly poetic description of the fenns. A slightly silly ending, or so I thought, but a solid weird tale nontheless.

I Have Killed Alfred Heavenrock is a rather bleakly amusing tale of a professional con-man and shaving cream salesman who decides to impersonate a fictional cousin, the man of the title, in a plot to gain control of a rich widow's house. The plan succeeds, but his cousin begins to have other plans... Fictional characters coming to life is a fairly well worn theme though Ray's rather odd prose style and amusingly roguish protagonist add a nice spin on this particular piece.

The final story I read, My Cousin Passeroux, is wonderful. One night a man, eating dinner alone in his house, hears his doorbell ring. It is his cousin Passeroux, and he is hideously deformed and panic stricken. Inviting him in, he is told a strange tale: Passeroux, who has been spending the last year in the South Seas, one day comes upon a strange uncharted island where a race of minute pygmy-like beings with webbed hands and feet, hunt pearls by the coconut full. Thinking that he can obtain these pearls and thus make his fortune he abducts the chief's daughter. But a series of unfortunate events results in both the daughter and her father being killed in rather hideous ways, namely being eaten by a shark and cut in two respectively. Back on the mainland Passeroux begins to be hunted by a strange creature whom he is convinced is the severed torso of the chief of the island, accompanied always by a strong stench of decay, congealed bloodstains and the haunting refrain of, "like me... cut in two... eaten... rotten..." And one dark night, walking home from a quayfront tavern, he is assailed by the creature who crawls out of the gutter leaps onto his face. He manages to fend it off, but the next morning his head begins to literally putresce and swell to the size of a pumpkin. Fearing for his life he flees to his cousin's house in Belgium where he hopes he might achieve peace, for a short time at least...

This is a truly chilling and disturbing piece, and one of the best I've come across thus far in this collection. Every element is handled perfectly, and the descriptions of the ghost/zombie/whatever in its relentless pursuit really repulsed and horrified me, given an added chill by the fact that we never actually see it face to face but only in passing: a bloody handprint with webbed fingers, a splashing in a duck pond accompanied by a horrific stench of decay... And Ray doesn't pull any punches with his death scenes. The final line is a great one.

If I were to venture a comparison I'd say Henry S Whitehead's Cassius isn't too far off. But this is the superior piece in my opinion, no small praise given that Cassius is itself an excellent story. However there is a surreal nightmarishness to the Ray story that adds an added level of horror and Ray is more effective with his foreshadowing.

Will post a review of the final few pieces in a few days' time. Merry Christmas everyone.
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Old 25th December 2010, 05:34 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

Mention of Whitehead's "Cassius" seems pertinent here, I think. Reading your description, I was also reminded of both White's "Lukundoo" and Donald Wandrei's "It Will Grow on You" (not to be confused with the Stephen King story of the same title), as well as another piece by Whitehead: "The Lips". I can't help but ask: Have you read any of these, nomadman?
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Old 31st December 2010, 06:58 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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Mention of Whitehead's "Cassius" seems pertinent here, I think. Reading your description, I was also reminded of both White's "Lukundoo" and Donald Wandrei's "It Will Grow on You" (not to be confused with the Stephen King story of the same title), as well as another piece by Whitehead: "The Lips". I can't help but ask: Have you read any of these, nomadman?
I've read Lukundoo before. Pretty cool idea, though the writing was a little too pulpish for my tastes. The Passing of a God by Whitehead is another "body parts gone bad" tale that's rather chilling, even if the "god" itself poses little to no physical threat.

The Head of Mr Ramberger is another rather good tale written with, what I now recognize as, Ray's unique flair for the weird and the grotesque. A professor, described as a stick-thin man with a giant bulbous head, is caught in the act of homicide. During his trial it comes to light that he is in fact a serial killer who's list of murders is long and varied. He is sentenced to death by guillotine and no more is thought about the matter. A year later, though, some rather odd sightings of a noctural bouncing lump that titters and taunts its stalkers comes to light. And then the murders begin anew...

The Man Who Dared: A piece of otherwise perfectly grazable land is haunted. Cattle won't stay in it for more than a few weeks before bolting. The land is located in the midst of a marsh which its owner is convinced houses some horrible secret, yet no man thus far has been able to solve it... Another great atmosphere piece let down by a baffling ending. Ray seems to be one of those writers who start off with intriguing ideas but then find themselves unsure how to end them. The uniquely creepy way in which he initially develops those ideas is worth reading though.

Merry-Go-Round: the owner of a small and grimy little fair in Bethnal Green needs a new horse carved for his merry-go-round. The object he eventually gets, carved from a stinking lump of unknown greenish wood, ends up causing him more problems than he needs, or can cope with... An okayish piece. I could never entirely envisage the horrifying object that Ray is trying to convey, and the scenes in which it attacks the other (inanimate) animals on the merry-go-round weren't particularly horrific. Decent ending to this tale though, just to go against the grain...

The Night at Camberwell: a short little shocker, like something from the first half of the Shadowy Street with its unexplained sinister shadows and flashes of violence. Not much more to say on this one.

The Night at Pentonville: a more sedate and traditional ghost story set in the famous London prison. Well developed as far as ghost stories go, though Ray's pulpish roots and penchant for the exotic and the surreal don't entirely lend themselves to the form.

Happy New Year everyone.
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Old 9th January 2012, 01:26 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

I'm reading "Malpertuis" now and so far it's crazy! I like it...
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Old 13th January 2012, 12:30 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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I'm reading "Malpertuis" now and so far it's crazy! I like it...
It only gets crazier... in a good way. Enjoy, and I hope it leads you to hunt out more of Ray's work, hard and expensive task though that'll be.
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Old 13th January 2012, 08:39 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

Yes, indeed, I did enjoy it very much. I definitely would like to read some more by him but may be put off if it's going to be too expensive...
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Old 14th January 2012, 09:20 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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Yes, indeed, I did enjoy it very much. I definitely would like to read some more by him but may be put off if it's going to be too expensive...
If you can get hold of the anthologies Shadows of Fear and The Penguin Book of Witches and Warlocks you'll be able to read his two most famous short stories, The Shadowy Street and The Mainz Psalter, along with a whole bunch of other excellent stories. I think copies of both are fairly reasonable.
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Old 19th November 2012, 09:56 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

Jean Ray is a great writer of weird fiction, but I don't have his book "The Horrifying Presence". You are the happy owner of this book. If you can, describe briefly these tales: The Bench and the Door, In the Fenn Marshes, Between Two Glasses, The White Beast, God, You and I, The Prettiest Little Girl in the World, The Wedding of Mademoiselle Bonvoisin, Tesseract.
Thank you!
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Old 17th February 2013, 02:15 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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Jean Ray is a great writer of weird fiction, but I don't have his book "The Horrifying Presence". You are the happy owner of this book. If you can, describe briefly these tales: The Bench and the Door, In the Fenn Marshes, Between Two Glasses, The White Beast, God, You and I, The Prettiest Little Girl in the World, The Wedding of Mademoiselle Bonvoisin, Tesseract.
Thank you!
It's been a while since I read those, though I believe I already posted a summary of In the Fenn Marshes. Will try to post up summaries of the rest shortly (shortly being a relative term, I'm afraid).
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Old 26th February 2013, 05:30 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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If you can get hold of the anthologies Shadows of Fear and The Penguin Book of Witches and Warlocks you'll be able to read his two most famous short stories, The Shadowy Street and The Mainz Psalter, along with a whole bunch of other excellent stories. I think copies of both are fairly reasonable.
There's also, of course, The Weird: A Compendium (ed. Jeff Vandermeer) which collects both stories along with a host of other excellent pieces. If you have a kindle it's pretty affordable.
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Old 5th September 2013, 01:09 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

Sorry to bump this thread but that would be a Kindle-only thing would it ? Curse my lack of modern mobile electronic devices, minus the thing I'm sitting at at present.

Also returning to something I said back in 2010 about Wordsworth's promises to publish Wakefield made back in 09 ? It's 2013 and no word on that, which makes me rather sad, but does make me appreciate that I borrowed They Return at Evening when I had the finances to do so and didn't wait for Wordsworth.
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Old 22nd November 2013, 10:02 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Re: Jean Ray and his specters of fear

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Sorry to bump this thread but that would be a Kindle-only thing would it ? Curse my lack of modern mobile electronic devices, minus the thing I'm sitting at at present.

Also returning to something I said back in 2010 about Wordsworth's promises to publish Wakefield made back in 09 ? It's 2013 and no word on that, which makes me rather sad, but does make me appreciate that I borrowed They Return at Evening when I had the finances to do so and didn't wait for Wordsworth.
The Weird is available as both a book and a kindle ebook. If you have a laptop, you can download an app for PC or Mac that reads kindle books. Well worth it, especially if you're a fan of the Tartarus Press books, which can be had much cheaper than if you were to order the print books.
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