Heh! monker, bear in mind that you're actually communicating with a troubled soul who largely prefers the Chetwynd-Hayes edited Fontana Ghost's over Aickman's ....
Fair enough, at least considering that you have read enough of them to reach that conclusion. I'm not a very prolific reader so I do a lot of research and tend to become over-selective. This thread has already made me determined to dust off The Other Passenger.
Monker, I'm pretty much in agreement with everything you wrote about Brennan.
Yep, mind you, Midnight House seem to use a flawed logic in regards to which stories go where and in which collection so it's not always easy to get a grip on some of the authors. For instance, Fritz Leiber is a real favourite but his output can vary; MH made it very difficult for someone on a budget to be specific and may have also confused the casual reader.
Dearth’s Farm by Gerald Bullett: I find it fascinating how some authors lead into their stories through the most labyrinthine routes. The narrator opens by discussing London as a place of surprises, where today he has met Bailey, an old schoolfellow whose “highly coloured metaphysical theories of the universe” had probably proved his undoing. Bailey is down on his luck and asks to borrow a pound, and then begins to describe a place where he has stayed recently.
Dearth’s Farm is a lonely enough spot but his cousin Monica had been able to provide him with free bed and board there. She had made a poor marriage to the curiously long-faced James Dearth. Dearth watches Bailey and Monica jealously. But his only real interest seems to be his horses, particularly a great white stallion named Dandy. He has developed an extraordinary power over his horses, and Monica thinks that with his curious physiognomy he is actually beginning to look like one of them. Even more disturbing is the way that the great white stallion seems to look at her...
I love the Gerald Bullett story, it's like a well-written Creeps contribution and Dearth himself is terrifying in horsey mode. Brennan's story is so obvious you think somebody must have thought of the simple plot earlier than the 'fifties (I'm sure you'll inform me if they did), but it's very effective and one of his finest.
DEARTH’S FARM by Gerald Bullett
“Sometimes I fancy that the earth itself is a personality, or a community of souls locked fast in a dream from which at any moment they may awake,…”
This is the essence of the covivid dream, as we all know it now, I guess. And this famous chilling story is indeed a truth within a lie or, perhaps, a lie within a truth, a story telling of an equine possession-in-mutuality of human and of beast, as elegantly retold by a professional story writer, having been based upon a description couched as truth that he had previously been given by a man with whom he had just been reacquainted by chance, a man who, by the way, was once known as a proponent of theosophy…. Levitations within lockdowns, or vice versa? Bite the bullet as the bit of fiction or transcend any dearth of belief with a mighty dose of truth?
Old Mrs Jones - Mrs Riddell. By far the longest story in the book and really not worth the effort, as Calenture says above. The intro says the author 'lived by the pen' and I suspect she must have been paid per word as there's an awful lot of padding in here that should go. And that's a shame because the back story is really quite good, and her description of the habits of the evil doctor are suitably mock-Victorian shocked, but unfortunately it's all buried in sightseeing tours of London and how to clean the grate.
OLD MRS JONES by Mrs Riddell (sic)
It is as if one Mrs becomes a riddle of another… see the end of this review entry. This is disarmingly even more disturbing than it seems to be on a single surface reading. The house where a cab man Mr Tippens and his wife and children and horse, with various lodgers now again upstairs, start to live, with honest endeavour, “gettings” to earn, and “flittings” of lodgers. But overtaken by the reputed haunting by a Mrs Jones whom it is generally suspected was murdered in the house by her husband Dr Jones, a doctor with not just one demon inside but a legion of them. And, then, we also gradually accrete information and, thus, dread of Mrs Jones herself, not necessarily as an explicitly described “blackamoor”, if more brown than black, as her endemic complexion, but with more acceptable perceived ‘evils’ to dread than face colour, I suspect Aickman not only loved this story for its other intensely disturbing qualities but also included it here as a resonance with the brown-a-Moors, as it were, in the above Irving story, and as an echo with that story’s pent-up caverns housing the lurking Moors, and this story’s Pendell lodgers who “pell-mell” came down the stairs in echo of the harum-scarum or hurry-scurry in the Irving work, come down in fear from the upper part of the house, in contrast to, in the Riddell, “those underground regions Mr Tippens well described as caverns.” The coincidences become too many to ignore. Genuinely creepy, as there grows the haunting upon the characters and upon us by our knowledge also growing of the Joneses, and by the arrival of a young woman to stay in the house with them, a woman who is first cousin of Mr Tippens. Her eventual dream is explicitly described as “just like a reality”, an intrinsic type of co-vivid dream quality we all now understand more about. Later, a visitor to the house comments upon this cousin’s cataplectic faraway look and the nature of her face: “and what a thick white complexion, if I may use the term.” Those words, as dialogue, seem slipped into the text surreptitiously or even inadvertently by dint of some secret riddle, a riddle of what or whom this first cousin is actually becoming piecemeal and trying to disguise her transformation. When read thus closely, there is much else that makes this one of the most frightening stories you are ever likely to read, as if it holds further secrets or riddles that a second reading, if you dare, might reveal…