Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) maintained a lifelong fascination with the occult and spiritualism. In addition to writing 10 books of short stories and 14 novels, he served as a British secret agent during World War I and received a knighthood in 1949.
Complete John Silence Storiesby Algernon Blackwood
From a master storyteller of supernatural tales come 6 horror stories that launched the career of "psychic doctor" John Silence: "A Psychical Invasion," "Ancient Sorceries," "Secret Worship," "The Nemesis of Fire," "The Camp of God," and "A Victim of Higher Space." Edited and with an introduction by occult fiction authority S. T. Joshi. See more details below
From a master storyteller of supernatural tales come 6 horror stories that launched the career of "psychic doctor" John Silence: "A Psychical Invasion," "Ancient Sorceries," "Secret Worship," "The Nemesis of Fire," "The Camp of God," and "A Victim of Higher Space." Edited and with an introduction by occult fiction authority S. T. Joshi.
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Having earlier reviewed Dover Publication¿s, ¿Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood,¿ I felt strangely ¿compelled¿ to review this companion volume. Perhaps I had not said everything I wanted in that earlier review. Let me start by saying that while I am a huge fan of Blackwood, I am not especially a John Silence fan. Yet, I must admit to a certain fascination with the character. And who exactly is John Silence? A fictional character, part Sherlock Holmes, part Sigmund Freud, and part Exorcist. Using his unusual psychical gifts, John Silence is able to solve ¿cases¿ which defy others. His method of operation involves asking Sherlockian/Freudian questions. His solutions also bear a resemblance to his role models: with Sherlock the solution, as often as not, devolves to Moriarty; with Freud it is the subconscious and suppressed memories; with Silence the answer always lies in the supernatural. And what do we make of the name ¿John Silence?¿ It was obviously carefully chosen. Perhaps it is intended to signify an extraordinary man who, out of necessity, must hide behind a commonplace and quiet façade. But it is readily possible to give the John Silence stories alternative explanations. Take my favorite story, ¿Ancient Sorceries:¿ Arthur Vezin, a mild, forty-something Englishman on holiday (vacation) in France, on sheer impulse, decides to make an unscheduled stop in a small remote town. He does so despite ominous warnings against it. Almost immediately Vezin senses things are not quite what they seem. The town appears to have a secret life, quite apart from the ordinary life it pretends to. Vezin comes under the influence of an overly friendly, scheming, young women. His sense of foreboding mounts as his relationship with the young woman develops. He is inveigled into attending certain secret rites which results in his fleeing the town in terror. Upon his return to England he consults with John Silence, who reveals the ¿psychic¿ explanation. It seems this town was an ancestral town of Vezin¿s, and log ago was heavily involved in witchcraft. ¿Living forces¿ of Vezin¿s ancestors involved in these terrible past events tried to reclaim him. OK, that was Silence¿s explanation. Here is my alternative: Vezin represents a type of severely repressed individual known a ¿defended¿ personality. Such individuals are unable to come to terms with their sexuality. They habitually avoid the opposite sex by means of ingenious and often plausible ¿excuses,¿ which they themselves tend to believe. On the other hand, these individuals are not homosexuals either. (Isaac Newton is often given as the quintessential exemplar of this type.) While on his French trip Vezin runs into a young woman of such great sexual powers that she is able to crash through his defenses. Vezin, unable to deal with this, return in terror to England¿OK, maybe I do have a hidden agenda: Maybe, just maybe, this explanation applies to Blackwood as much as Vezin.