I hadn't realised this was the first one he did until it was mentioned on here. It's a good while since I've read it but I remember cracking through it and overall it was a good read. The concept of regional British horror anthologies is fun as well, and far better than the 'Ghosts of Somerset' type books you find around here. That particular volume details, amongst other dubious "supernatural" occurrences, the activites of The Knicker Snatching Phantom of Portishead. Of course I've mentioned that purely for academic interest only although now I've typed it I think I quite like that title.
I had no idea it was his first stab at it. It's a near perfect anthology. The stories are finely balanced with each other and the snippets draw it together. I fully agree that the regional selection is just dandy and I have my own theory about the knicker snatcher.
I just finished this book and I found it a marvelous distraction from an unpleasantly busy work week.
It was interesting to read Craig's extended reviews and reflect upon the subjectivity of taste. For me, Eden Phillpotts' "The Iron Pineapple" ranks as the worst of all the tales--I found it unduly labored and ultimately pointless. The tales by "M. H." and H. A. Manhood (another pseudonym?), panned by Craig, were to me delightful for their atmosphere and notations of old Cornish atmosphere. I thought RCH's "Bodmin Terror" was written as a sport and taken as such, I found it most diverting. The author boldly commented in his preface: "This is the result of taking people I know, casting them in bizarre roles, then allowing imagination to do the rest." Presumably he was no longer invited to "Lydia's" parties if she ever read the tale. (Seems unlikely he would have bothered with her parties in the first place, come to think of it.)
"All Soul's Night" was another highlight, again for the atmosphere, both of Oxford and the haunted old mansion. Never knew A. L. Rowse wrote tales.
Another discovery I owe to this volume is R. Ellis Roberts, whose "The Narrow Way" reminded me of anecdotes I have been told from Catholic friends of priests successfully carrying out curses, sometimes from the church altar in the midst of a service. I would love to find a copy of his 1923 story collection, The Other End. According to a blog entry (which reads like a reprint of an old review), citing a story from this book:
In "The Great Mother," Hugh Flinders asks his friend: “Would it surprise you to know that the old worship goes on? That hills near here are still sacred to Apollo? That groves are still dedicated to Diana, and woods to Pan? I don't mean stupid revivals like old Taylor's: I mean survivals of the old faith among the old people ‑ people to whom Christ and the saints are less direct of access than earth-stained Pan, gross Priapus, or even Jupiter of the storm. For months now I have resisted and I can resist no longer. I am going to the grove tonight: and I should like you to come too, it you will. Will you?”
Equally worthy of note is the 1871 volume compiled by Robert Hunt, Popular romances of the West of England, excerpts of which are interleaved amongst the stories and provide marvelous bits of old Cornish folklore to savor in the mix.
The standout story in the book for me was "The Birds." I think I had read it in a collection of horror tales by women writers back in the mid 1970s, but the story's brilliance was lost on me at the time. Again, reading this makes me inclined to track down a copy of Daphne du Maurier's story collection The Apple Tree. She clearly had strings to her bow far different from the sometimes jejune ballads of Manderley and Frenchman's Creek.
I have copies of Welsh Tales of Terror and Scottish Tales of Terror from Fontana on order and will report as time permits--my time for reading is erratic and intermittent.