[...]the only Raven short i've read (other than Chriseis,the often-anthologised extract from Doctors ...) is the aforementioned The Bottle of 1912 in The Oxford Book Of Ghost Stories, and very underwhelmed by it i was too.
Probably the weakest story in that otherwise excellent book!
I'm actually a huge Simon Raven fan, having first read Doctors wear scarlet a few years ago
Valancourt (who else) has reprinted Doctors Wear Scarlet recently with a new introduction by Kim Newman. I was tempted but then remembered that it has the reputation of being hard-going. Do you think it's worth a try, Steve, especially when there's already so much other good stuff to read?
Oh dear, I am not at all objective when it comes to anything by Raven! Doctors wear scarlet was the first book by him I ever read, and shortly afterwards I watched the 1969 film version (which isn't nearly as good, but interesting as a period artifact--Peter Cushing plays an important character, reduced in the movie script to practically a cameo role).
It's so many years ago now that I find it hard to remember specifics, but I was intrigued by the novel's intermingling of psychological horror, hints of insidious Pagan survivals, a very oddly nuanced homoerotic subtext which keeps cropping up (I later learned this is one of Raven's favorite themes), and the author's offbeat approach to the whole concept of vampirism.
It definitely requires more attention and energy than many of the works discussed in other cobwebbed adyta of our beloved Vault. I think it is also a very ENGLISH book, very focused on a specific hierarchy of class and culture and the role of Cambridge in all of that sort of thing.
I know that three of my favorite writers--Raven, Sax Rohmer, and HP Lovecraft, are all paraded on various blogs and sites as notorious racists--strange though it must seem, I love them for their way with language and generally chalk up the racism to "this was how UK and US culture was then"--and, as events today are showing, how so much of it STILL IS in our own enlightened age (!).
Profile of the author here. Lots about cricket, a bit about horse racing, lots of quotes from Homer, Virgil, Catullus et al, musings about life at Charterhouse and King's College, and plenty of references to Simon's vigorous run as a happy bisexual... guess the author of that review (link immediately above) missed the copious references to the latter in most writing about Raven.