by Russell Kirk
Edited, with an Introduction, by John Pelan
Dust jacket by Russell Kirk
Limited Edition Hardcover - $40.00
Fine in fine dj; new and unread, direct from the publisher
Ash-Tree Press, 2003; 254 pp; limited to 500 copies
The classical ghost story is traditionally though of as a very British pursuit, a genre which was both influential and popular for more than a century, but which reached its peak and began a steady decline midway through the twentieth century. The American writer Russell Kirk would therefore seem to be an unlikely candidate to assume the mantle of such authors as Sheridan Le Fanu and M. R. James: his first collection of short stories, The Surly Sullen Bell, was not published until 1962, with further collections of stories appearing in 1979 and 1984.
Yet Kirk easily and gracefully took the classic ghost story, infused it with his own cosmopolitan outlook and conservative nature, and demonstrated that it was by no means a dead or even dying genre, but one that could speak of ancient fears, remorseless evil, and quiet courage in a modern world that would seem to have no room for such things. His stories begin with a deceptive calm, in which ordinary people go about their everyday tasks; but soon his protagonists face choices which will forever mark their characters (should they survive) or their souls (should they not). Kirk called his stories 'experiments in the moral imagination', and time and again he demonstrates how the seemingly isolated actions and choices of one person have echoes which resonate far beyond their immediate situation.
What Shadows We Pursue, the second of two volumes from Ash-Tree Press collecting together Russell Kirk's short supernatural fiction, returns to the themes, settings, and in some cases characters of his first collection, Off the Sand Road. Kirk's characters—some honourable, some not—battle quiet terrors that assail them from within as well as from without, and this theme finds its fullest expression in two of his finest tales: 'The Invasion of the Church of the Holy Ghost', which begins this volume, and 'Watchers at the Strait Gate', which ends it. In Kirk's tales, few people are either wholly good or bad; the inhabitants of his distinctive world come in shades of grey, and the landscapes in which they walk are haunted as much by each other as by any dwellers from other, unknown lands.CONTENTS:
Introduction by John Pelan: 'The Wizard of Mecosta'
The Invasion of the Church of the Holy Ghost
What Shadows We Pursue
The Peculiar Demesne of Archvicar Gerontion
The Reflex-Man in Whinnymuir Close
The Cellar of Little Egypt
The Last God's Dream
Watchers at the Strait Gate
Appendix: Fate's Purse