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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of F. Marion Crawford: Volume 4

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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of F. Marion Crawford: Volume 4
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): F. Marion Crawford
Date Published: 2011/06
Page Count: 476
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-554-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-553-7

Volume four of a collection of supernatural and weird tales by a forgotten master of the gothic and occult

Although an American author, writer F(rancis) Marion Crawford was born in Northern Tuscany, the son of sculptor Thomas Crawford, he spent much of his life in the United States, living and working in Boston. His inherent sensitivity to Italy influenced much of his historical fiction. Indeed, in his novel ‘Corleone,’ Crawford became the first author to prominently feature the now very familiar theme of the Mafia in fiction. He also produced notable works of history concerned with the various ages of Italy. Travels in the East and the study of Sanskrit in India gave him a grounding in the oriental and an interest in the other worldly. Although the themes of supernatural and weird fiction are often believed to be expressed to best effect in the short story most of Crawford’s literary output consisted of novels. Fortunately, several of these include distinctly fantastical themes. His comparatively small oeuvre of short ghost and horror tales is so finely crafted that they have become some of the most highly regarded examples of the form in the English language. M. R James considered some of them to be among the best supernatural stories written, with the chilling and claustrophobic ‘The Upper Berth’ being especially singled out for merit. Crawford’s talent for this genre is so widely acknowledged that it has been rightly noted that the greatest shame was that he did not write more—praise indeed! This five volume Leonaur collection of Crawford’s strange novels, novellas and short stories provides a superb and substantial collection by one of Americas finest nineteenth century authors.
‘Mr Isaacs,’ the author’s first published novel, leads off this fourth volume. Set in an India with which he was familiar, Crawford has written a satisfying tale of Anglo-Indian relationships enveloped in Oriental mystery. It is followed here by the novel ‘Zoroaster,’ which is reminiscent of H. Rider Haggard’s famous ‘Ayesha.’ ‘By the Waters of Paradise,’ is a gothic short story set in the Welsh castle of an ancient family where death visits, leaving the question ‘who is the Woman of the Water?’ In the final story we have a satisfying tale of vampires, ‘For the Blood is the Life.’
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

A few minutes before it had seemed as if there would be neither cloud nor mist in such a sky; and now a light filmy wreath was rising and darkening the splendour of the wonderful night. I looked across at Ram Lal. He was standing with one hand on his hip, and leaning with the other on his staff, and he was gazing up at the moon with as much interest as he ever displayed about anything. At that moment the captain handed Isaacs a prepared receipt for signature, to the effect that the prisoner had been duly delivered to his new owner. The light was growing dimmer, and Isaacs could hardly see to read the characters before he signed. He raised the scroll to his eyes and turned half round to see it better.<br>
At that moment the tall captain stretched forth his arm and laid his hand on Isaacs’ shoulder, raising his other arm at the same time to his men, who had crept nearer and nearer to our group while the endless talking was going on. I was perfectly prepared, and the instant the soldier’s hand touched Isaacs I had the man in my grip, catching his upraised arm in one hand and his throat with the other. The struggle did not last long, but it was furious in its agony. The tough Punjabi writhed and twisted like a cat in my grasp, his eyes gleaming like living coals, springing back and forward in his vain and furious efforts to reach my feet and trip me.<br>
But it was no use. I had his throat and one arm well in hand, and could hold him so that he could not reach me with the other. My fingers sank deeper and deeper in his neck as we swayed backwards and sideways tugging and hugging, breast to breast, till at last, with a fearful strain and wrench of every muscle in our two bodies, his arm went back with a jerk, broken like a pipe-stem, and his frame collapsing and bending backwards, fell heavily to the ground beneath me.<br>
The whole strength of me was at work in the struggle, but I could get a glimpse of the others as we whirled and swayed about.<br>
Like the heavy pall of virgin white that is laid on the body of a pure maiden; of velvet, soft and sweet but heavy and impenetrable as death, relentless, awful, appalling the soul, and freezing the marrow in the bones, it came near the earth. The figure of the gray old man grew mystically to gigantic and unearthly size, his vast old hands stretched forth their skinny palms to receive the great curtain as it descended between the moonlight and the sleeping earth. His eyes were as stars, his hoary head rose majestically to an incalculable height; still the thick, all-wrapping mist came down, falling on horse and rider and wrestler and robber and Amir; hiding all, covering all, folding all, in its soft samite arms, till not a man’s own hand was visible to him a span’s length from his face.<br>
I could feel the heaving chest of the captain beneath my knee; I could feel the twitching of the broken arm tortured under the pressure of my left hand; but I could see neither face nor arm nor breast, nor even my own fingers. Only above me, as I stared up, seemed to tower the supernatural proportions of Ram Lal, a white apparition visible through the opaque whiteness that hid everything else from view. It was only a moment. A hand was on my shoulder, Isaacs’ voice was in my ear, speaking to Shere Ali. Ram Lal drew me away.<br>
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