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Dracula

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship

My final book for the Halloween challenge I've been doing was Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley, his second book of creepy stories, the first being Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror.




The storm of the century is raging. Cathy and Ethan live with their father in The Old Inn which perches on top of a cliff, attached to the mainland of Cornwall by only a very narrow path. In a storm like this they are, to all intents and purposes, cut off. Which presents a problem. Both children are very sick indeed and need a doctor. Their father goes out into the tempest to fetch one, leaving the children alone. He's gone for a very long time and Cathy and Ethan become well enough to get up. They want to go and find him but the storm is still raging. Suddenly, there is a loud knock on the door - they have a visitor, one Jonah Thackeray, a sailor.

Thackeray keeps the children company through the night, regaling them with macabre stories of a very grisly nature. They hear about vampire passengers, sea snails on the march (ugh, ugh UGH!), murders, ghostly black ships, a strange child cast adrift in a dinghy and picked up by the crew of a ship, a weird piece of scrimshaw carved with a scene that changes according to where the owner is, and so on. And then there's the final twist involving the two children listening to the tales...

I think, for me, that author Chris Priestley is one of my discoveries of the year. His simply told but creepier than creepy stories are just fantastic. There are no happy endings here, these stories are meant to chill, and chill they do. I loved the first book in his ghostly series, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, but this one is even better. Possibly that's because I do love a sea-faring story, I'm not sure, I just know that I was blown away by this group of stories, beautifully written in the best tradition of ghost story telling. I already have his third book, Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth and like Black Ship it's calling to me and I'm having trouble resisting. It would make brilliant Christmas reading but I'm not sure if I can hold out that long.

Comments

I love the cover art! Even though scary stories aren't really my thing, I might have to check this out!
The artwork continues all through the book and is absolutely brilliant.
Really like the sound of these. And I was waiting for you to mention a twist *g*
LOL! It's a twist anyone would see coming really but hey! it's a twist... I'm not complaining! ;-)))))
Brrrrrrrr! Your review's given me chills. The pictures on the cover remind me of Edward Gorey.
It's a chill filled book. Seriously.

Edward Gorey?
Gorey was an American writer/illustrator who wrote very dark, gothic works that had the "appearance" of children's literature; check out the link I sent for samples.
Thanks for the link, V. Interesting. Once I saw the illustrations I remembered seeing some before but the name doesn't ring a bell.
Most people, especially children, really like to be scared in a superficial way, like riding a roller-coaster. It's thrilling, but safe. Usually.

Since I've gotten to an age from which I can look back on a few real horrors, it's not as much fun as it used to be. But I still like a well-written story that raises goose-flesh.

The Chris Priestley/Edward Gorey style is a pretty good one, because they are seriously creepy stories, but the illustrations look as though they are not meant to be taken seriously; like they are only spoofing. So the reader can decide how deeply to participate emotionally, and when the story gets too intense it's a good side-tracking maneuver to concentrate on how amusing the illustrations look.

Of course, there's always the "Joey Tribbiani" (from the TV show "Friends") method of dealing with scary books: put 'em in the freezer, where they can't hurt you. (It worked with the Blob, in the movie of that name.)

Anyway, I hope you had a happy Halloween; we gave away more than 127 pencils (my son always gives something practical) and seventeen pounds of candy to the 'Trick-or-Treat'-ers that trouped up and down our street, and everyone had a wonderful time. (Can't really explain why it's such a boost to give little kids stuff that will give them a sugar buzz that will probably keep them awake all night, and possibly set up their pancreases for diabetes at some future time, but it brings back such fond memories from my son's childhood and my own.)
We don't really celebrate Halloween much as we don't have little kids living here and our house is sort of out of the way so we don't even get the trick or treaters knocking on the door. Not that it's done that much in the UK anyway although I think it's catching on more now. I love the pencils idea!