By Ezra Paul Mann: ENMU Communication Services
Some of the best stories come about when they are left to write themselves, according to Stephen King, one of the most successful horror writers of all time. Antony Oldknow, professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University, has the same belief. He hopes that the method will make his first ghost story collection “The Passion Play and Other Ghost Stories” a success among fans of the bizarre.
About seven years ago, Oldknow began writing the stories in the collection, then submitting them, successfully, to literary magazines such as “All Hallows” (Canada) and “Supernatural Tales” (England). Each story acts as a different and unconnected tale which includes a mixture of conscious and unconscious thought caught in a tangled web of fear. Oldknow is extremely excited that the book has finally come out.
“This is really big for me,” Oldknow said.
He says he wrote these 10 stories in a similar style to that of M.R. James, whose work has influenced a great many major authors including H.P. Lovecraft, Ruth Rendell and Stephen King. Oldknow says he tries to stay clear of some traits exhibited by currently popular movies.
“My work is in no way dominated by raw blood-and-guts horror,” he said.
Oldknow prefers other ways of keeping readers on the edge of their seats while being pleasantly entertained.
Oldknow has enjoyed a great deal of success reading his stories to classes in the United States and, recently, repeated that success in a trip to his native town, Peterborough, England. He’s always pleased at the reaction of the audience and remembers how shocked some readers and listeners have been.
“Some actually screamed,” he said.
Two of the stories that appear in the collection, “Quintinshill” and “Harrow,” deal respectively with the two deadliest train crashes to have occurred in Oldknow’s native Britain. Other Oldknow stories incorporate events he has himself experienced, some during his childhood.
“I had a Latin master, Mr. Vigor, who said that if we sucessfully finished a term’s compulsory Latin assignments ahead of time, he would read us M.R. James ghost stories,” Oldknow said.
The result was that many of the students, including Oldknow, became hooked on the stories. The teacher himself appears in one of Oldknow’s stories, though with a slight name change – a tribute from the author for having been his initial inspiration.
Oldknow recommends his stories to readers who enjoy getting a thrill from reading subtle horror.
His book, published in Canada at the end of May by British Columbia’s Ash Tree Press (which is associated with The Ghost Story Society), can be purchased through online retailers such as The Ash Tree Press at: www.ash-tree.bc.ca/atp120the passion play or Shocklines at www.shocklines.stores.yahoo.net/paplandotghs.html
The book retails for around $46 for first-print copies.