A third impressive collection of Blackwood's outstanding shorter fiction
Algernon Henry Blackwood was one of the most prolific authors of supernatural and horror fiction in the history of the genre. In fact, his output was so great and rapidly produced that it is possible his entire cannon remains unknown. Born in Shooter’s Hill (which now part of south-east London) in 1869, his father was a civil servant and his mother was the widow of the 6th Duke of Manchester. As an adventurous young Englishman, Blackwood travelled to Canada and the USA where he worked at a number of jobs including as a journalist for the 'New York Times'. At the turn of the 20th century Blackwood returned to Britain and embarked upon his career as a writer of supernatural and horror stories. His output was astonishing, resulting in at least ten collections of short stories together with 14 novels and plays. He regularly broadcast his work on radio and later on television. His two best known stories are probably, ‘The Willows’ and ‘The Wendigo’. Blackwood died from a stroke in 1951. The Leonaur collection of Blackwood’s strange fiction seeks to gather together the majority of his known shorter supernatural fiction into a comprehensive set.
Among the contents of volume three of this comprehensive Leonaur collection of Blackwood's shorter fiction, the reader will discover, ' The Terror of the Twins', 'The Sea Fit', 'You may Telephone from Here', 'The Golden Fly' and many others.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
And it was here, just when he most desired to keep his mind and thoughts controlled, that the vivid pictures received day after day upon the mental plates exposed in the courtroom of the Old Bailey, came strongly to light and developed themselves in the dark room of his inner vision. Unpleasant, haunting memories have a way of coming to life again just when the mind least desires them—in the silent watches of the night, on sleepless pillows, during the lonely hours spent by sick and dying beds. And so now, in the same way, Johnson saw nothing but the dreadful face of John Turk, the murderer, lowering at him from every corner of his mental field of vision; the white skin, the evil eyes, and the fringe of black hair low over the forehead. All the pictures of those ten days in court crowded back into his mind unbidden, and very vivid.
‘This is all rubbish and nerves,’ he exclaimed at length, springing with sudden energy from his chair. ‘I shall finish my packing and go to bed. I’m overwrought, overtired. No doubt, at this rate I shall hear steps and things all night!’
But his face was deadly white all the same. He snatched up his field-glasses and walked across to the bedroom, humming a music-hall song as he went—a trifle too loud to be natural; and the instant he crossed the threshold and stood within the room something turned cold about his heart, and he felt that every hair on his head stood up.
The kit-bag lay close in front of him, several feet nearer to the door than he had left it, and just over its crumpled top he saw a head and face slowly sinking down out of sight as though someone were crouching behind it to hide, and at the same moment a sound like a long-drawn sigh was distinctly audible in the still air about him between the gusts of the storm outside.
Johnson had more courage and willpower than the girlish indecision of his face indicated; but at first such a wave of terror came over him that for some seconds he could do nothing but stand and stare. A violent trembling ran down his back and legs, and he was conscious of a foolish, almost a hysterical, impulse to scream aloud. That sigh seemed in his very ear, and the air still quivered with it. It was unmistakably a human sigh.
‘Who’s there?’ he said at length, finding his voice; but thought he meant to speak with loud decision, the tones came out instead in a faint whisper, for he had partly lost the control of his tongue and lips.
He stepped forward, so that he could see all round and over the kit-bag. Of course, there was nothing there, nothing but the faded carpet and the bulging canvas sides. He put out his hands and threw open the mouth of the sack where it had fallen over, being only three parts full, and then he saw for the first time that round the inside, some six inches from the top, there ran a broad smear of dull crimson. It was an old and faded blood stain. He uttered a scream, and drew back his hands as if they had been burnt. At the same moment the kit-bag gave a faint, but unmistakable, lurch forward towards the door.
Johnson collapsed backwards, searching with his hands for the support of something solid, and the door, being further behind him than he realised, received his weight just in time to prevent his falling, and shut to with a resounding bang. At the same moment the swinging of his left arm accidentally touched the electric switch, and the light in the room went out.
It was an awkward and disagreeable predicament, and if Johnson had not been possessed of real pluck, he might have done all manner of foolish things. As it was, however, he pulled himself together, and groped furiously for the little brass knob to turn the light on again. But the rapid closing of the door had set the coats hanging on it a-swinging, and his fingers became entangled in a confusion of sleeves and pockets, so that it was some moments before he found the switch. And in those few moments of bewilderment and terror two things happened that sent him beyond recall over the boundary into the region of genuine horror—he distinctly heard the kit-bag shuffling heavily across the floor in jerks, and close in front of his face sounded once again the sigh of a human being.