Book Review: Ghosts and Other Supernatural Guests by P.J. Hodge

Halloween is upon us (almost)! What better than a few scary stories to whet the appetite for whatever you might be getting up to in the next couple of days? And what better than supporting a fellow WordPress blogger and budding writer? I’ve been a follower and keen reader of Freaky Folk Tales so when P.J. Hodge announced the release of his first ebook based on his blog, I eagerly offered to review it for him.

The writer is a fan of British folklore, local ghost tales and Victorian / Edwardian supernatural fiction – that much is obvious and his style is very much in the tradition of the likes of Ambrose Bierce and M.R. James. So if you like that sort of fiction and the sort of ghostly short films that the BBC used to show at Christmas, you will certainly enjoy this volume.

Hodge blends actual local folklore and fictional tales behind the places that have inspired him. Readers of his blog will know that his love of his native southern England and its landscape is his medium. There is no historic place, ancient or recent, that seemingly has not inspired the stories he tells. There is then, something quintessentially British about the work for these reasons and the sort of stories that were his inspiration. Ideal reading for this time of year, and then read them all again at Christmas!

There is not a bad story here but as with any collection, there will undoubtedly be favourites. Mine include The Haunted Cupboard (a story whose title should need no explanation!), The Viaduct ghostly goings on at a Victorian railway line, Return to Tyneham, a tale about a village evacuated during the war for training purposes and The Flames of Stalbridge Manor where the protagonist keeps experiencing the apparition of a burning woman in his house and eventually learns a horrifying secret.

They flow well and are told mostly in the first person. Though most likely a nod to the works that inspire him, I always felt that ghost stories work best in first person – it is an effective method of storytelling. He writes in a reporting type style that is very easy on the eye and feels personal for ghost stories, absorbing you into the place (sometimes claustrophobic) to increase the tension.

I don’t have much in the way of bad points, this is some solid storytelling and inevitably some are going to be better than others. I feel that a brief introduction to some of the stories would not have gone amiss. Being familiar with his blog, I’m used to hearing about the places that that have inspired him. A personal touch here never goes amiss.

What else can I say aside from support this up and coming writer who pays homage to some of the greatest supernatural fiction of the last century!

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