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Algernon Blackwood's Shorter Supernatural Fiction (2 vols.)

Terrys Texas Rangers

The Last Crusaders

The Defeat of the U-Boats

Sup Richard Middleton

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Sabre and Foil Fighting

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Gronow of the Guards

Plumer of Messines

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The Complete John Silence: Psychic Doctor Plus Max Hensig: Bacteriologist and Murderer Seven Haunting Tales of the Supernatural & Strange

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The Complete John Silence: Psychic Doctor Plus Max Hensig: Bacteriologist and Murderer Seven Haunting Tales of the Supernatural & Strange
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Algernon Blackwood
Date Published: 2023/03
Page Count: 316
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-916535-11-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-916535-10-7

Opinion is divided upon which author conceived the idea of combining the perennially popular subgenre of detective fiction with the equally popular one of supernatural fiction. Whilst that ambiguity suggests that whoever it was did not make as much capital of the inspiration as perhaps, they should have done, it was certain to be popular with a substantial readership. Fitz James O'Brien's, Harry Escott first made an entrance in the excellent 'The Pot of Tulips' in 1855 and again in, 'What was it? A Mystery', in 1859, so possibly may claim the honours of innovation. Nevertheless, it was some time -notwithstanding isolated appearances of supernatural sleuths in the interim- before a character was created with a casebook of sufficient size for tales concerning them to legitimately be termed as a series. Eventually, E and H Heron's, Flaxman Low featured in a series of tales in Pearson's magazine (1898-9) followed by an increasing number of occult detectives of various types including, Carnacki the Ghost Finder, Aylmer Vance and the principal subject of this book, John Silence. He was, of course, the creation Algernon Henry Blackwood, who was one of the most prolific authors of supernatural and horror fiction in the history of the genre. The original complete collection of these well-loved and timeless short stories has been enhanced in this special Leonaur edition by an ominous tale featuring Max Hensig. This collection has been released to accompany the Leonaur collection of Algernon Blackwood's shorter fiction, though in a special cover that reflects its particular distinction.

Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

He rose at once and moved swiftly down the slope towards the smoke, and I followed, afraid to remain alone. I heard the soft crunching of our steps on the pine needles. Over his shoulder I watched the thin blue spiral, without once taking my eyes off it. I hardly know how to describe the peculiar sense of vague horror inspired in me by the sight of that streak of smoke pencilling its way upwards among the dark trees. And the sensation of increasing heat as we approached was phenomenal. It was like walking towards a glowing yet invisible fire.
As we drew nearer his pace slackened. Then he stopped and pointed, and I saw a small circle of burnt grass upon the ground. The tussocks were blackened and smouldering, and from the centre rose this line of smoke, pale, blue, steady.
Then I noticed a movement of the atmosphere beside us, as if the warm air were rising and the cooler air rushing in to take its place: a little centre of wind in the stillness. Overhead the boughs stirred and trembled where the smoke disappeared. Otherwise, not a tree sighed, not a sound made itself heard. The wood was still as a graveyard. A horrible idea came to me that the course of nature was about to change without warning, had changed a little already, that the sky would drop, or the surface of the earth crash inwards like a broken bubble. Something, certainly, reached up to the citadel of my reason, causing its throne to shake.
John Silence moved forward again. I could not see his face, but his attitude was plainly one of resolution, of muscles and mind ready for vigorous action. We were within ten feet of the blackened circle when the smoke of a sudden ceased to rise, and vanished. The tail of the column disappeared in the air above, and at the same instant it seemed to me that the sensation of heat passed from my face, and the motion of the wind was gone. The calm spirit of the fresh October day resumed command.
Side by side we advanced and examined the place. The grass was smouldering, the ground still hot. The circle of burned earth was a foot to a foot and a half in diameter. It looked like an ordinary picnic fireplace. I bent down cautiously to look, but in a second, I sprang back with an involuntary cry of alarm, for, as the doctor stamped on the ashes to prevent them spreading, a sound of hissing rose from the spot as though he had kicked a living creature. This hissing was faintly audible in the air. It moved past us, away towards the thicker portion of the wood in the direction of our field, and in a second Dr. Silence had left the fire and started in pursuit.
And then began the most extraordinary hunt of invisibility I can ever conceive.
He went fast even at the beginning, and, of course, it was perfectly obvious that he was following something. To judge by the poise of his head he kept his eyes steadily at a certain level—just above the height of a man—and the consequence was he stumbled a good deal over the roughness of the ground. The hissing sound had stopped. There was no sound of any kind, and what he saw to follow was utterly beyond me. I only know, that in mortal dread of being left behind, and with a biting curiosity to see whatever there was to be seen, I followed as quickly as I could, and even then, barely succeeded in keeping up with him.
And, as we went, the whole mad jumble of the colonel’s stories ran through my brain, touching a sense of frightened laughter that was only held in check by the sight of this earnest, hurrying figure before me. For John Silence at work inspired me with a kind of awe. He looked so diminutive among these giant twisted trees, while yet I knew that his purpose and his knowledge were so great, and even in hurry he was dignified. The fancy that we were playing some queer, exaggerated game together met the fact that we were two men dancing upon the brink of some possible tragedy, and the mingling of the two emotions in my mind was both grotesque and terrifying.
He never turned in his mad chase, but pushed rapidly on, while I panted after him like a figure in some unreasoning nightmare. And, as I ran, it came upon me that he had been aware all the time, in his quiet, internal way, of many things that he had kept for his own secret consideration; he had been watching, waiting, planning from the very moment we entered the shade of the wood. By some inner, concentrated process of mind, dynamic if not actually magical, he had been in direct contact with the source of the whole adventure, the very essence of the real mystery. And now the forces were moving to a climax. Something was about to happen, something important, something possibly dreadful. Every nerve, every sense, every significant gesture of the plunging figure before me proclaimed the fact just as surely as the skies, the winds, and the face of the earth tell the birds the time to migrate and warn the animals that danger lurks and they must move.

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