Monday, June 4, 2018

The Black Pilgrimage & Other Explorations by Rosemary Pardoe

The Black Pilgrimage & Other Explorations, essays on supernatural fiction by Rosemary Pardoe is a much-anticipated collection of her non-fiction by a leading authority on the Jamesian ghost story.

The author is often much too diffident about her contribution to the supernatural fiction field and to the small press world, but, as David Sutton notes in his introduction, which gives a useful summary of the author’s writing and publishing work, Rosemary has been active in fanzines for nearly fifty years, and has edited Ghosts & Scholars, the highly respected M R James periodical, in various forms, for nearly forty years.

This volume is therefore the fruit of a lifetime’s devotion to the traditional ghost story (and allied themes), and offers a very generous contents list, with twenty-nine essays on aspects of James, eight essays on his followers, including E G Swain, Arthur Gray, A P Baker and Fritz Leiber, and nine shorter pieces on various subjects which originally appeared in contributions to the postal discussion group The Everlasting Club.

This promises to be an erudite, lively, lucidly written and fascinating book, with unexpected and illuminating insights into aspects of M R James’ stories, and a great deal of other out-of-the-way information.

Who could possibly resist such titles as “Scrying and the Horse-Demon”, “The Magic of Maps”, “’Fluttering Draperies’: The Fabric of M R James” and “The Night Raven”? Here the reader will find pagans and magicians, demons and hobby horses, arcane grimoires, sequestered places, and many other strange byways, all explored in a robust and refreshingly direct way by an author who has quite rightly ignored all the warnings and is perfectly willing to be curious about almost anything, particularly if it is shadowy or peculiar.

Mark Valentine

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