Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Angry Dead - Rosemary Pardoe

For some years I have been urging Rosemary Pardoe, the very close confidante of reclusive ghost story author Mary Ann Allen, to prevail upon her to write some more stories of Jane Bradshawe, church art restorer and psychic detective, as collected in The Angry Dead.

When I suggested that a Bumper Book, consisting of about sixty new tales, would certainly be welcome, Rosemary apparently had to wield the sal volatile to revive the palpitating author.

Alas, we still do not have those new stories, but instead we do have the next best thing, a new and revised edition of The Angry Dead, her only volume of stories, just published by Cathaven Press, as an Occult Detective Magazine special edition in book and e-book form.   

This was originally published as a chapbook by Jeff Dempsey’s Crimson Altar Press in 1986, collecting ten pieces. A hardback limited edition of 350 copies was issued by Richard H Fawcett in the USA in 2000, with two additional stories. Both publications are now hard to find. This new edition is therefore very welcome. It contains all twelve stories.

Strangely, this edition is now credited to Rosemary Pardoe herself. This can only mean one of two things. Either Rosemary has been masquerading as Mary Ann Allen all along, or she has done away with her frail acquaintance in order to claim the credit herself, hoping no-one will notice. I leave it to the reader to decide which is the more likely. Rosemary’s more recent publication, The Cropton Lane Farm Murders, should of course not prejudice us one way or another.

Be that as it may, the tales are particularly enjoyable for their exploration of the peculiarities of the English landscape and country architecture: follies, monuments, inn signs, hermitages, gargoyles. Why would a pub be called The Blue Boar? What exactly is meant by an ‘eyecatcher’ in a country house estate? What did our ancestors intend when they placed those highly explicit carvings in churches?

Though they are agreeably antiquarian in their settings and plots, the stories have a lightness of touch and a lightly-held learning which give them a distinctive tone. But do not be deceived: the culminations of the stories are usually far from whimsical, ranging from complete absorption of unwitting victims to more or less the end of the world. 

The Angry Dead will appeal greatly to all enthusiasts of M R James and the classic ghost story tradition, and also to anyone beguiled by contemporary interests such as folk horror, hauntology, Forteana and the Weird. 

(Mark Valentine)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks very much for this notice. I've just now purchased a copy. It's wonderful to see these stories back in print, collected and revised, no less, as I missed the earlier opportunities to acquire them.