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The Complete John Silence Stories

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One of the foremost British writers of supernatural tales in the twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951) wrote stories in which the slow accumulation of telling details produced a foreboding atmosphere of almost unendurable tension. Blackwood's literary renown began in 1908 with the publication of a highly successful collection of stories, John Silence — Physicia One of the foremost British writers of supernatural tales in the twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951) wrote stories in which the slow accumulation of telling details produced a foreboding atmosphere of almost unendurable tension. Blackwood's literary renown began in 1908 with the publication of a highly successful collection of stories, John Silence — Physician Extraordinary, featuring a "psychic doctor." This volume contains all five of the John Silence stories from the 1908 edition plus one additional tale. Edited and with an informative introduction by S. T. Joshi, noted occult fiction authority, the stories include "A Psychical Invasion," in which Silence is summoned to a house apparently haunted by former tenants. In "Ancient Sorceries," he encounters a man who tells of strange experiences in a small French town; and in "Secret Worship," an ill-starred character is rescued from spiritual and perhaps physical death. "The Nemesis of Fire," "The Camp of the Dog," and "A Victim of Higher Space" conclude this collection of spellbinding tales, which will delight any devotee of "weird" literature.


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One of the foremost British writers of supernatural tales in the twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951) wrote stories in which the slow accumulation of telling details produced a foreboding atmosphere of almost unendurable tension. Blackwood's literary renown began in 1908 with the publication of a highly successful collection of stories, John Silence — Physicia One of the foremost British writers of supernatural tales in the twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951) wrote stories in which the slow accumulation of telling details produced a foreboding atmosphere of almost unendurable tension. Blackwood's literary renown began in 1908 with the publication of a highly successful collection of stories, John Silence — Physician Extraordinary, featuring a "psychic doctor." This volume contains all five of the John Silence stories from the 1908 edition plus one additional tale. Edited and with an informative introduction by S. T. Joshi, noted occult fiction authority, the stories include "A Psychical Invasion," in which Silence is summoned to a house apparently haunted by former tenants. In "Ancient Sorceries," he encounters a man who tells of strange experiences in a small French town; and in "Secret Worship," an ill-starred character is rescued from spiritual and perhaps physical death. "The Nemesis of Fire," "The Camp of the Dog," and "A Victim of Higher Space" conclude this collection of spellbinding tales, which will delight any devotee of "weird" literature.

30 review for The Complete John Silence Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This collection includes all five stories featuring Blackwood's psychic detective, John Silence, M.D., and--except for the brief "A Victim of Higher Space," a mere bagatelle--each of the tales is compelling in the way all good Blackwood is compelling: each features a leisurely exposition followed by a slow series of incremental complications which both inform and disarm the mesmerized reader until he is prepared for the well-executed conclusion. The two best stories included here are This collection includes all five stories featuring Blackwood's psychic detective, John Silence, M.D., and--except for the brief "A Victim of Higher Space," a mere bagatelle--each of the tales is compelling in the way all good Blackwood is compelling: each features a leisurely exposition followed by a slow series of incremental complications which both inform and disarm the mesmerized reader until he is prepared for the well-executed conclusion. The two best stories included here are the much anthologized "Ancient Sorceries" and "Secret Worship." If you do not know them already, you should certainly read them, even if you're not a great fan of terror tales. The other three stories, however, are also effective and unique. "A Psychical Invasion" is unusual in that, drawing upon the notion that dogs resist ghostly phenomena and cats explore them, it allots 30 pages and 8,000 words (roughly 40% of the story) to a detailed description of the behaviors of one cat and one dog on one particular night. I know this sounds boring, but it isn't. (I became quite absorbed in interpreting the animals' actions, and, while I was doing so, I had no doubt whatsoever that Blackwood's ghost was real.) "The Nemesis of Fire" begins conventionally with a local haunting on the grounds of an English Country estate, but--after a few twists and turns--concludes with a battle against the darkest magic of Ancient Egypt. "The Camp of the Dog" realistically creates the atmosphere of a camping trip to a remote Northern island, its comforts and its terrors (Blackwood was an avid camper), but its most notable feature is the way it resolves the problem of a rather decent sort of werewolf chap who is trapped by his sincere repressed love into a psychic spiral of lustful--and hairy--transformations. All of these stories are worth reading. Oh, and--by the way--since you've gone this far, you might as well read "A Victim of Higher Space" too. It is short, with one or two good laughs in it, and contains a really cool description of John Silence's consulting room, including his little tricks and gadgets.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    4.5 I've read the edition from Gutenberg with five cases. I have no idea why it took me this long to read it. Usually it's something boring, but in this case it is like the book wanted me to take my time, pay attention and enjoy. I did. I loved the stories and Dr. John Silent. Each case has different problem. There are no repetitions. Paranormal element and Dr. John Silent are all they have in common. One of the stories (most of it) Haruki Murakami used in his 1Q84. The cases range from demonic presences 4.5 I've read the edition from Gutenberg with five cases. I have no idea why it took me this long to read it. Usually it's something boring, but in this case it is like the book wanted me to take my time, pay attention and enjoy. I did. I loved the stories and Dr. John Silent. Each case has different problem. There are no repetitions. Paranormal element and Dr. John Silent are all they have in common. One of the stories (most of it) Haruki Murakami used in his 1Q84. The cases range from demonic presences to ghosts to werewolves and some surprises. CASE I - A Psychical Invasion CASE II - Ancient Sorceries CASE III - The Nemesis of Fire CASE IV - Secret Worship CASE V - The Camp of the Dog

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Around the turn of he century, psychic detectives were all the rage in England. There was Max Carnacki, the creation of William Hope Hodgson, and also John Silence by Algernon Blackwood. His The Complete John Silence Stories is an admirable collection for the days and weeks approaching Halloween. Rather than attempting to find a rational explanation for everything, which in the end would become merely annoying, Blackwood takes psychic phenomena as a given, but one that can be worked with using a combi Around the turn of he century, psychic detectives were all the rage in England. There was Max Carnacki, the creation of William Hope Hodgson, and also John Silence by Algernon Blackwood. His The Complete John Silence Stories is an admirable collection for the days and weeks approaching Halloween. Rather than attempting to find a rational explanation for everything, which in the end would become merely annoying, Blackwood takes psychic phenomena as a given, but one that can be worked with using a combination of reason and deep empathy. All six of the stories in the collection are worth reading, though my favorites are "The Nemesis of Fire" and "Ancient Sorceries." In this collection is a werewolf, a man who inhabits multi-dimensional worlds much to his chagrin, a purloined mummy, a haunting brought about by the ingestion of hasheesh, a dismaying invitation to a witches' sabbath, and an old school that has -- so to speak -- gone to the devil. And there is that Blackwood style, which is admirably suited to his subject matter:Personally, I was glad to be in the open air, for the atmosphere of the house was heavy with presentiment. The sense of impending disaster hung over all. Fear stalked the passages, and lurked in the corners of every room. It was a house haunted, but really haunted; not by some vague shadow of the dead, but by a definite though incalculable influence that was actively alive, and dangerous.There is some mummery, such as holding a letter to one's forehead to see if there is a feeling of heat. And there are some slips, such as a half moon following a day or two after a full moon. Still, these are mere cavils. The most famous Blackwood story is the novelette entitled "The Willows," followed not far behind by "The Wendigo"; but I am beginning to think that from the best Blackwood to the worst is not so great a distance. There are few prolific authors about whom that could be said truthfully.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Tales about John Silence, 'physician extraordinary'. Silence is a doctor who has become very wealthy through unspecified means and now only takes up cases of a very special kind. He has spent years learning about the supernatural and developing spiritual powers. He assists people who face some sort of supernatural crisis - the humour writer who loses his sense of humour after a cannabis trip awakens a slumbering spirit in his house, a businessman who returns to the monastic school of his youth t Tales about John Silence, 'physician extraordinary'. Silence is a doctor who has become very wealthy through unspecified means and now only takes up cases of a very special kind. He has spent years learning about the supernatural and developing spiritual powers. He assists people who face some sort of supernatural crisis - the humour writer who loses his sense of humour after a cannabis trip awakens a slumbering spirit in his house, a businessman who returns to the monastic school of his youth to find that the pious brothers harboured a very dark secret, island campers who are plagued by a lycanthrope and so forth. These stories are very much influenced by the spiritualism of the late Victorian era and as such offer a strange mix of rationalised explanations of the supernatural and a great deal of credulous fascination with hermetic esoterica. Blackwood's tales are very well structured, building up a vivid, nightmarish vision of horror through his evocative, vivid language. There is always something original and distinctive in the way the horror in his stories is deployed or combated. A wide variety of settings and characters are vividly brought to life and a number of highly effective supernatural premises explored in gripping, satisfying tales. My favourites are ANCIENT SORCERIES, where Silence is only a peripheral figure, and THE NEMESIS OF FIRE, a particularly effective tale that ends with ancient Egyptian evil being confronted in a mouldy underground cavern in the south of England. But they're all worth reading; just be prepared for a tone and pace of reading that belongs to an era that is almost a century past now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    Went through this quickly quickly than I would have liked, lots of skimming and in the end skipping. I received 10 books from the library at once...and another inter-library loan book is waiting. You put them on hold, and they all show up at once. These are good (though dated) stories. (I know some will get some laughs as in the first story the victim living in the house becomes aware of the overwhelming evil in the house when he takes an extract of "cannabis indica")... But, p Went through this quickly quickly than I would have liked, lots of skimming and in the end skipping. I received 10 books from the library at once...and another inter-library loan book is waiting. You put them on hold, and they all show up at once. These are good (though dated) stories. (I know some will get some laughs as in the first story the victim living in the house becomes aware of the overwhelming evil in the house when he takes an extract of "cannabis indica")... But, put your head in the stories and you will enjoy them. I may get them out again, when I don't have as many other library books out at once. It would be difficult to find for purchase I suppose, I saw it used on Amazon from a third party seller for a little over $5... maybe. John Silence is a "psychic" doctor who has made a study of "unusual" things and only takes "unusual" cases that interest him. He never takes fees as he's well off "mysteriously", and is a true philanthropist. He helps those who aren't poor enough to get actual charity, nor are they rich...at least that's his story. :) He's the guy to call if you're having psychic (he hates the word occult) troubles, and of course, it's an interesting case. I will say that I'm not quite as taken with the John Silence stories as I am with some of Blackwood's non-related short stories, but they are enjoyable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Trost

    Algernon Blackwood is one of those weird tale writers who impress and disappoint me by turns. Several of these stories show Blackwoods' talent for evoking the power and mystery of the natural world; particularly, The Camp of the Dog, and demonstrating the spiritual interconnections he believed to be inherent between all elements of nature. Similarly, his character, John Silence, who always manages to make his mark on the narrative despite appearing only briefly in some stories, is a credit to Bl Algernon Blackwood is one of those weird tale writers who impress and disappoint me by turns. Several of these stories show Blackwoods' talent for evoking the power and mystery of the natural world; particularly, The Camp of the Dog, and demonstrating the spiritual interconnections he believed to be inherent between all elements of nature. Similarly, his character, John Silence, who always manages to make his mark on the narrative despite appearing only briefly in some stories, is a credit to Blackwoods' creativity. What disappoints me, almost to the extent of spoiling his work, is that he does far too much explaining and repeating, and indeed the narrative often transforms into a sermon of his spiritual viewpoint. In this way, a gripping tale of weird fiction in which the tension is built slowly, strangely, and steadily, loses its power to hold the reader. In addition, and although this may be counter-intuitive, Blackwood's belief in the existence of lycanthropes and elemental demons, as indicated in these tales, renders the suspension of disbelief impossible. In some of his other work, including "The Willows", the subtler and more removed approach is far more effective in capturing the reader's sensibilities.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    The next time you pack your suitcase, tuck in a copy of John Silence's psychic mysteries. You may see yourself hauntingly reflected in these ghastly tales, many involving innocent travelers who meet more than fellow passengers on the road. Each of the five tales in this collection is set in a different locale: London, France, southwestern England, Germany, and the islands of Sweden. The source of the horror is just as varied, ranging from a simple ghostly haunting, to antiquarian thaumaturgy, to The next time you pack your suitcase, tuck in a copy of John Silence's psychic mysteries. You may see yourself hauntingly reflected in these ghastly tales, many involving innocent travelers who meet more than fellow passengers on the road. Each of the five tales in this collection is set in a different locale: London, France, southwestern England, Germany, and the islands of Sweden. The source of the horror is just as varied, ranging from a simple ghostly haunting, to antiquarian thaumaturgy, to necromancy, and finally to shape shifters and a werewolf. Like the best of Blackwood's supernatural fiction, these stories are long, averaging about 70 pages per case; and they're slow moving, building their terror on a broad foundation of seeming normalcy that begins to crumble and totter in the face of unexplicable occurences. John Silence, physician extraordinary, remains almost as elusive and inscrutable as the phenomena he investigates. He says little, giving us only slight hints as to how he has come across his extraordinary psychic powers, and often shows up very late in the tale. In fact, he doesn't even play a part in one of the most charming, "Ancient Sorceries." He considers only "psychical afflictions," cases that are truly extraordinary and usually dangerous. His Watson is a fairly inobtrusive amanuensis named Hubbard, who faithfully pens his cases without revealing much about himself besides a love for the outdoors and a surprising incredulity in the odd and ghastly. But don't expect a Sherlock-Holmes-as-ghostbuster knockoff. Blackwood doesn't develop his detective as well as Conan Doyle did. He deliberately creates flat, usually obtuse characters, so that he can focus on other facets of horror writing. What I found most compelling was the undeniable pleasure of feeling the terror build slowly, sometimes excruciatingly slowly, at first and then reach an awful, nerve-wracking crescendo. Read Blackwood for his pacing and mood. He's absorbing, and he can trim hours off a long trip.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather Stewart

    Absolutely love this collection of Algernon Blackwood stories.. With his psychic version of Sherlock Holmes "John Silence", trying to diagnose and decipher the strange ailments and afflictions his "patients" brought to his door.. The imagination he must have used to create the extraordinary characters and events in these tales are beyond comprehension, ahead of his time!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Perry Lake

    While the John Silence stories might be the victim of the writing style of the Edwardian era, the character of John Silence is not. As a hero he is admirable. He uses his brain and his psychic abilities, not his fists and not a gun. I can't help but compare "Ancient Sorceries" to HP Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Innsmouth". As Lovecraft was a fan of Blackwood's, I have no doubt that "Innsmouth" was a redo or updating of "Sorceries". It's all there, the realization that the town is filled w While the John Silence stories might be the victim of the writing style of the Edwardian era, the character of John Silence is not. As a hero he is admirable. He uses his brain and his psychic abilities, not his fists and not a gun. I can't help but compare "Ancient Sorceries" to HP Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Innsmouth". As Lovecraft was a fan of Blackwood's, I have no doubt that "Innsmouth" was a redo or updating of "Sorceries". It's all there, the realization that the town is filled with cultists in animal form, the nocturnal rituals, even the escape. But Lovecraft wisely realized that seafood is scarier than cats! But don't think the John Silence stories are in need of improvement. They are unique in the annals of weird fiction. The doctor will be back.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie Sloan

    What fun were these stories.This is some of Blackwood's very good stuff.Silence is a compassionate and sympathetic character which is not so common in the time where Blackwood was writing.Most of the men at that time were aggressive and non believer's in anything that they could not see with their own eyes.I don't know how many stories I have read where the male protagonist is out to 'prove' that there is no ghost so it is nice to read about men who do believe and have a respect for the supernat What fun were these stories.This is some of Blackwood's very good stuff.Silence is a compassionate and sympathetic character which is not so common in the time where Blackwood was writing.Most of the men at that time were aggressive and non believer's in anything that they could not see with their own eyes.I don't know how many stories I have read where the male protagonist is out to 'prove' that there is no ghost so it is nice to read about men who do believe and have a respect for the supernatural. Very enjoyable series of stories that I am sure that I will read again. Right up there with The Best Ghost Stories of A.B.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Faye Heath

    Any fan of modern day horror needs to read Algernon Blackwood, the grandfather of the genre. I only recently stumbled across his writings and I was completly entranced. The John Silence stories were written in the early 1900s. Blackwood creates an atmosphere of such forboding that the tension is nearly unbearable yet he never resorts to gore or gross-out to make his points. These are stories to be read on a dark and stormy night.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marvin

    Of the traditional British writers of the supernatural and ghost tales, I’ve always felt a kinship with Algernon Blackwood. He not only wrote some of the best supernatural fiction of the early 20th century but he wrote it like he “meant it’. It is a cliché to say his fiction did not evoke horror as much as “awe” but it is a remarkably accurate description of the power of his writings. Blackwood was quite knowledgeable about the many mystic organizations and practices that were popular from the V Of the traditional British writers of the supernatural and ghost tales, I’ve always felt a kinship with Algernon Blackwood. He not only wrote some of the best supernatural fiction of the early 20th century but he wrote it like he “meant it’. It is a cliché to say his fiction did not evoke horror as much as “awe” but it is a remarkably accurate description of the power of his writings. Blackwood was quite knowledgeable about the many mystic organizations and practices that were popular from the Victorian Age on and used that knowledge prodigiously. He had a great love and respect for the outdoors and appeared to have regarded the earth and its mysteries in an almost pantheistic way at times. He could also, when he wanted to, make the wonders of earth and the cosmos most terrifying. It is that mix of wonder and terror that made Blackwood one of the most unique of the early 20th century horror writers. Of his many short stories, the two most influential were “The Wendigo” and “The Willows” and for good reason. They evoke the very mix of awe and terror I mentioned above. However the author was also influential in presenting the idea of the psychic detective or in John Silence’s case, the “Psychic Doctor”, into the modern horror repertoire. There is no doubt, the character of Dr. John Silence owes some debt to an earlier and more famous non-psychic colleague, Sherlock Holmes. He bears some of the same attributes; a keen sense of observation, an obsession to detail, a somewhat haughty but caring attitude toward his clients and a few other traits. Yet Silence has distinctive differences. He is a medical doctor that, due to his amassing of a fortune, could devote his time to his interest in psychic mysteries and often help those in need who had lesser fortunes. He seems to have an unlimited knowledge of the most esoteric and dangerous phenomena. Of the six tales he is featured in, there is an unusual amount of variety in the types of threats. Even the most known terrors to the horror reader, such as the werewolf in “The Camp of Dogs”, takes on a more metaphysical element. Each story has a slightly different narrative and theme. The first one is “A Psychical Invasion” in which Silence fights off a psychic haunting brought on by cannabis use. I think there may be a hidden and outdated warning about Marijuana use here. The intriguing thing in this story is the doctor’s helpful assistants, his dog and cat! Unfortunately this is the only tale in which these two clever animals are featured. “Ancient Sorceries” is the least interesting story primarily because John Silence takes a passive role simply being who the narrator tells the tale too. His “helpful” comments at the end seem a bit unnecessary for the narration. In “The Nemesis of Fire”, we meet the doctor’s assistant, Hubbard, who narrates two of the six tales. “The Nemesis of Fire” is an involved piece regarding a string of fires and unusual happenings around an old plantation. Not only is it my pick for the best John Silence story but ranks high in all of Blackwood’s fiction. “Secret Worship” takes on a different tack as John Silence arrives late and almost as a passerby. A man is visiting his old childhood school and, fortunately for him, Silence is aware that things at the school have changed and the gentleman may be in serious trouble. The aforementioned “The Camp of the Dog” is my second favorite work in the collection and the other story narrated by the assistant Hubbard. It features a number of Blackwood’s typicalities; a love for the outdoor, a view of the terrors as a mystical if dangerous wonder, and optimistic hope for human nature. It is sort of a love story. Finally, “A Victim of High Space” rounds out the collection. It was the last John Silence story to be published and feels a little different. Briefly, as it is the briefest of the tales, it involves a man trapped between two dimensions which the doctor is able to help in the confines of his own consulting room. It feels a little more Hodgson than Blackwood to me. The John Silence stories were Blackwood’s first real success. Written in the first decade of the 20th century, they were followed by more atmospheric and, to me, more terrifying tales. For that reason, I find them hard to rate knowing the best is yet to come. Yet for any writer of his time, these were well developed and very entertaining works. Even in these early works, Blackwood seems already matured and set in his choice of genre and themes. For any fan of British supernatural literature, this is an essential collection.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    Wonderfully strange and supernatural tales...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bill FromPA

    Although this writer has a high reputation among lovers of ghost stories, I almost stopped reading this book halfway through, after finding the first three stories to be pretty poor on the whole. In his introduction, S. T. Joshi praises Blackwood’s use of novella length, but I felt that they were uniformly too long, with descriptions that were verbose and uninspired and narratives that delayed the action without using the delay to build a corresponding increase of tension or expectation. Although this writer has a high reputation among lovers of ghost stories, I almost stopped reading this book halfway through, after finding the first three stories to be pretty poor on the whole. In his introduction, S. T. Joshi praises Blackwood’s use of novella length, but I felt that they were uniformly too long, with descriptions that were verbose and uninspired and narratives that delayed the action without using the delay to build a corresponding increase of tension or expectation. “A Psychical Invasion” tells the story of a haunting and builds tension as John Silence spends a night in the haunted house accompanied by a dog and cat. The animals’ behavior is on the whole well-described, if over-anthropomorphized, and used fairly effectively to build expectation, but I found the payoff in the ultimate confrontation between Silence and the spirit to be quite anticlimactic. The narrative strategy of “Ancient Sorceries” is to set up a sense of the uncanny about the French village which the protagonist finds himself, unable to summon the willpower to leave. However, in describing the strangeness of the inhabitants and the village itself Blackwood has little to offer but repeated feline metaphors and similes which are inadequate to hold the reader’s interest during the long exposition. In this story, told to John Silence by a client, Dr. Silence does little but provide a bit of almost unnecessary explanation at the end, taking no active part in the narrative. “The Nemesis of Fire” has a bit more forward momentum, though still moves at a leisurely pace. In the first two sections of this story, much significance is made by Dr. Silence of the fact that the moon will be full on the succeeding night; in the third section, Hubbard, the narrator and Silence’s assistant, rises on that night for a midnight meeting, only to note the rising of a half moon. Finding that Blackwood could describe the natural world with so little accuracy left me with very little confidence in the integrity of his supernatural visions. I persevered in my reading and found that things improved with the last three stories. “Secret Worship” is like a re-working of “Ancient Sorceries”, considerably tightening up the action, with clearer motivation and a more active role for John Silence. Unlike the earlier stories, “The Camp of the Dog” benefits from the slow pacing which allows the reader to partake of the atmosphere of the long summer camping vacation in the Swedish isles during which the action takes place. The final story, “A Victim of Higher Space”, might have been inspired by “Flatland”. It is the shortest tale in the collection, but not due to any compression in the telling: based on the structure of the earlier tales, it is actually only the beginning of a story with a very cursory ending tacked on.

  15. 4 out of 5

    K.B. Goddard

    It’s almost impossible in describing John Silence to avoid allusions to Sherlock Holmes but he is something of a psychic Sherlock. He uses reason and logic and combines them with his psychic training to help people suffering from psychic afflictions. In the sense that he is curing maladies rather than solving crimes he might be better compared to Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s lesser known Dr Martin Hesselius whose cases feature in the collection’ In A Glass Darkly’ . There are only 6 John It’s almost impossible in describing John Silence to avoid allusions to Sherlock Holmes but he is something of a psychic Sherlock. He uses reason and logic and combines them with his psychic training to help people suffering from psychic afflictions. In the sense that he is curing maladies rather than solving crimes he might be better compared to Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s lesser known Dr Martin Hesselius whose cases feature in the collection’ In A Glass Darkly’ . There are only 6 John Silence short stories which are available in various Kindle of paperback versions together or separately as parts of other Blackwood collections. The John Silence stories have the good doctor investigating the case of a writer of humorous tales who has lost his sense of humour and so too his income due to ‘A Psychical Invasion’ I like this one though it does bear some similarities to Le Fanu’s ‘Green Tea’ . In this case, however, the stimulant involved is not quite as innocent as tea. Other stories deal with fire elementals, schools where the monks aren’t as pious as they once were, feline magic in a small French town, a man who is ‘A Victim of Higher Space’ and even something akin to a werewolf story. These are a fun twist on the supernatural tale for fans of the short story and worth a read. There are also plenty of other Algernon Blackwood stories out there to try too.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    A perfect book to read during this autumnal season, the John Silence stories, first published in book form in 1908, are as atmospheric and scary as they come. Silence is a sort of early-20th-century ghostbuster, for want of a better term; a doctor of the supernatural; a practitioner of the supernatural arts; a healer of the psychically troubled. These five stories deal with a "traditionally" haunted house, a French town full of shape shifters, an Egyptian fire elemental, devil worship, a nontra A perfect book to read during this autumnal season, the John Silence stories, first published in book form in 1908, are as atmospheric and scary as they come. Silence is a sort of early-20th-century ghostbuster, for want of a better term; a doctor of the supernatural; a practitioner of the supernatural arts; a healer of the psychically troubled. These five stories deal with a "traditionally" haunted house, a French town full of shape shifters, an Egyptian fire elemental, devil worship, a nontraditional werewolf, and multidimensional space. All of these stories are just dripping with mood and sensuous atmosphere, and all become pretty chilling. Most horror books don't give me the slightest shiver ("The Haunting of Hill House" being a notable exception), but I found this volume to be both eerie and beautifully written. I only wish that Algernon Blackwood had created more stories treating of John Silence, a truly fascinating character.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I really did enjoy this book thought it was hard going. in true writing style of the era why use 10 words when you can use 10 pages - however for descriptive atmosphere it is excellent. from the German mountains to Nordic islands his work really does portray the atmosphere perfectly. I can see now why many of these stories are seen as the foundations of many more widely know characters and bodies of work than you would first imagine.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Good stories, if a bit dated. The author writes in a very lyrical way, with very good descriptions of the environment the story happens within. Also, it's very obvious he loved cats... especially the first story has a very interesting cat in it. John Silence is a fascinating character, I wish there were more stories with him in them. Read this book after reading The Breath of God, by Guy Adams, in which John Silence is a character. Just had to find out more about him.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    These have their moments, and the overall idea is cool, but they do take a concentrated effort to stick with. "The Willows," they are not.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    Uncanny stories with a lot of "scientific" explanations. "The Camp of the Dog" is probably the worst for this, with pages and pages of gibberish about why a creature would appear in a particular circumstance. It was already a story I wasn't fond of, with the nice young man being soooo cruelly ignored by the young woman who apparently just doesn't know her own mind-- Blech. The better stories are "Psychical Invasion," in which a writer opens the wrong kind of door to the subconscious and Silence Uncanny stories with a lot of "scientific" explanations. "The Camp of the Dog" is probably the worst for this, with pages and pages of gibberish about why a creature would appear in a particular circumstance. It was already a story I wasn't fond of, with the nice young man being soooo cruelly ignored by the young woman who apparently just doesn't know her own mind-- Blech. The better stories are "Psychical Invasion," in which a writer opens the wrong kind of door to the subconscious and Silence uses a dog and a cat to find out what happened; "Ancient Sorceries," in which a mild-mannered man spends time at a mysterious French village; "Secret Worship," in which a man nostalgically visits his old school and finds that things were never what they seemed; and "Nemesis of Fire," with Silence chasing an unseen creature through the woods. If you can deal with the fiddle-daddle "scientific" explanations, you'll probably enjoy the book more than I did. I like the character; I like "psychic detectives"; I just don't like the foofaw science, which inspires explanations that seem to go on forever. (And if you read this book and worry about the dog in "Psychical Invasion," don't: the actual climax of the story is its last sentence, which you will find comforting.)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria DeBlassie

    I have a deep love--bordering on nostalgia--for this book. It was my first introduction into the occult detective genre when I was younger and its depiction of the supernatural has stuck with me, so much so that I can’t think about things that go bump in the night without thinking about the enigmatic and mysterious Silence. This is a must-read for any lover of the occult detective genre and a foundational classic for the O.D. archetype: the gentleman with a mysterious past, esoteric knowledge, a I have a deep love--bordering on nostalgia--for this book. It was my first introduction into the occult detective genre when I was younger and its depiction of the supernatural has stuck with me, so much so that I can’t think about things that go bump in the night without thinking about the enigmatic and mysterious Silence. This is a must-read for any lover of the occult detective genre and a foundational classic for the O.D. archetype: the gentleman with a mysterious past, esoteric knowledge, and psychic powers...plus a host of animal familiars to help on his investigations. Some parts our outdated now—you’ll see hints of xenophobia, racism, and all the other ugly isms—but its exploration of the occult and the character of John Silence (not to mention is furry companions) is so worth the read…just leave the lights on when you go to bed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brenton

    I did not enjoy this book. It is certainly inventive, but I have little sympathy for the psychical detective unless it winks, like in Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently. Though humorous at times, this is an aetherial Sherlock, but without the depth of character or surprising nature of the cases. There are moments of beautiful prose--the "Secret Worship" story especially--and it is a very important book to tell us about the time in history. In particular, "Camp of the Dog" is an interesting racist piece I did not enjoy this book. It is certainly inventive, but I have little sympathy for the psychical detective unless it winks, like in Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently. Though humorous at times, this is an aetherial Sherlock, but without the depth of character or surprising nature of the cases. There are moments of beautiful prose--the "Secret Worship" story especially--and it is a very important book to tell us about the time in history. In particular, "Camp of the Dog" is an interesting racist piece that is deceivingly complex in its racial assumptions. But, the stories were not gripping.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Sherlock Holmes of Supernatural and Occultism. Beautifully written and precise language. Short and not too long. Some of the stories are better than the others. Perfect example of less material but more description.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Just what the title makes it sound like, tales of a paranormal detective from the days of gaslight. First Algernon Blackwood I ever read. Very British, silly at times, all kinds of fun. Beautiful, complex prose.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    There was some good stuff in here but a lot of times it felt extremely long winded.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Winter

    An interesting blend of stories. Silence is a somewhat Holmes-ian character, albeit more blatantly compassionate. Stories have a Lovecraft vibe, but are rather more optimistic in nature.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I loved these stories! Each one was special in it's own way and had a completely unique setting. Well worth the read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    AndresB

    3.5 rounded down for a final 3 stars.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

    This was a pretty good collection of stories, where the stories are kind of a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraftian stories. Unfortunately, they weren't as good as either separately, and Blackwood went on (and on, and on) at length about things that could have been much shorter. John Silence is sort of a Dr. Strange type character, except without much overt magic.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Theodulf

    There are six stories by Blackwood featuring John Silence as spiritualistic investigator, and I am unable to give a positive review to any one of them. I just didn't find them entertaining (or informative). Why? Well, for instance: Blackwood is way too impressed by Silence and his super-powers - one character likens him to Christ at one point - and expects the reader to be equally enamored. Actually he is neither hard-working nor meticulous and would get mixed reviews from his clients There are six stories by Blackwood featuring John Silence as spiritualistic investigator, and I am unable to give a positive review to any one of them. I just didn't find them entertaining (or informative). Why? Well, for instance: Blackwood is way too impressed by Silence and his super-powers - one character likens him to Christ at one point - and expects the reader to be equally enamored. Actually he is neither hard-working nor meticulous and would get mixed reviews from his clients on Yelp just on the strength of these stories. Actually, from the standpoint of drama, each story would be better without Silence in it, leaving the other characters to deal with their issues. The plots themselves, once you take out a lot of the repetitious verbiage, are pretty simple and unadorned without much intellectual interest. The drama tends to depend on grandiose effects rather than on anything that is interesting by nature. It is like when a sci-fi movie gives you a big army of dull CGI aliens instead of one interesting alien. Thus in these stories you may get a townful of ghosts who nevertheless don't accomplish anything useful and in fact may be the next thing to a dream sequence. And some of the plot points are just preposterous, like Silence's animal allies in one story. Blackwood makes it worse by dropping plot spoilers prematurely and/or springing new plot elements out of the blue. On every one of these points, Hodgson's Carnacki stories stand much better. They appeared a few years later and I could believe that they were intended as a conscious one-up of Blackwood's tales of Silence, and, if so, they succeeded, By the way, these stories are all available from Project Gutenberg (as "Three John silence Stories" and "Three More..."),

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