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
One of the former British writers of supernatural tales in the twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951) wrote stories in which the slow accumulation of telling details produced a foreboding atmosphere of almost unendurable tension. Blackwood's literary renown began in 1908 with the publication of a highly successful collection of stories, John
One of the former British writers of supernatural tales in the twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951) wrote stories in which the slow accumulation of telling details produced a foreboding atmosphere of almost unendurable tension. Blackwood's literary renown began in 1908 with the publication of a highly successful collection of stories, John Silence — Physician Extraordinary, featuring a "psychic doctor."
This volume contains all five of the John Silence stories from the 1908 edition plus one additional tale. Edited and with an informative introduction by S. T. Joshi, noted occult fiction authority, the stories include "A Psychical Invasion," in which Silence is summoned to a house apparently haunted by former tenants. In "Ancient Sorceries," he encounters a man who tells of strange experiences in a small French town; and in "Secret Worship," an ill-starred character is rescued from spiritual and perhaps physical death. "The Nemesis of Fire," "The Camp of the God," and "A Victim of Higher Space" conclude this collection of spellbinding tales, which will delight any devotee of "weird" literature.
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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.