Shivers for Christmas

December 29, 2009 at 4:45 am (Horror, Short stories, Victorian literature) (, )

Shivers for Christmas ed. Richard Dalby

Shivers for Christmas edited by Richard Dalby
Thomas Dunne, 1st edition, 1995
250 pages
Genre: Christmas stories, horror, short stories

Synopsis & Review: There’ll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

When I was ten, my mother bought two volumes of Richard Dalby’s Chillers for Christmas, a collecton of macabre and dark short stories with Christmas themes. She gave one copy to my eldest sister for Christmas, and kept the other, and since then, it’s been an integral part of my Christmas reading. I’ve read it nearly ever year since then, unless I was away from home or it was packed away due to space constraints. Since I’ve enjoyed Chillers for Christmas so many times, I decided to check out some of Mr Dalby’s other collections, and found Shivers for Christmas just in time for the holiday reading challenges.

Regrettably, Shivers is a lesser volume than Chillers; perhaps it’s simply my nostalgia for the latter that makes it superior to my mind, or it could be that Mr Dalby had simply exhausted his resources with his many other collections—I cannot say. Or perhaps it’s just that the title is apt: these are stories to induce shivers, a delicate frisson of horror, rather than the chilling and sometimes terrible stories found in Chillers.

Authors range from Hawthorne to Saki to Terry Pratchett, and the earliest date to the 1860s, while the latest came out in 1995, making for a great range of style. Most of the stories concern various ghosts, both malevolent and loving. Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s bittersweet “Jeremiah” stands out as an example of both varieties, as does Joan Aiken’s “The Ferry;” both stories speak of redemption and putting bad business to rest. At the other end of the spectrum is Hugh Walpole’s agreeable and amusing “Mr Huffam,” in which a very particular ghost visits a London family, giving them a Christmas in grand style. Roger Johnson’s “Sweet Chiming Bells” is subtly disturbing, but I was tremendously upset by Stephen Gallagher’s “Fancy That!,” which was obvious in its execution, but might have been funny had he not so deftly created the breeder and his little friends; I was too despondent over the poor Irish kitten’s fate to enjoy the story.

Fine for checking out of the library, but not necessary to own unless you’re an avid Christmas horror or Dalby fan. I’m interested to see how the other volumes stack up (Ghosts, Horrors, and Mysteries) to Chillers.

Read also: Chillers for Christmas, A Yuletide Universe, Christmas Stars, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural

Cover: A Christmas tree in full regalia, even down to the toy train running ‘round the bottom—oh! There’s an arm sticking ominously out of the tree skirt! Goodness! Indifferently executed.

The custom of telling stories round the fire on Christmas Eve is dying out, like letterwriting and all the amateur domestic arts of the last century. Our stories are told us by professionals and broadcast to thousands by the printing machine. We give out letters to a dictaphone or a stenographer. The personal touch is going out of life, if it has not already gone. In an age where every conceivable machine is invented to save time ans labor, we have no time to spare for these things. We are too exhausted from working our machines to give them our attention.
We were saying all this last year as we sat round a blazing wood fire at that little house party the Stennings give every Christmas in that Tudor house of theirs on the borders of Kent and Sussex.
The children had gone to bed. There were five of us grown-ups left round the broad open fire-place where huge oak logs were burning on the glowing heart of a pile of silver ashes that had been red-hot for a week or more.

20 December – 24 December

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1 Comment

  1. The Green Flash « the stacks my destination said,

    […] TWoWC like it was her job–I hadn’t read anything else by her til last winter’s Shivers for Christmas, which included a really excellent little story, “The Ferry.” I not sure why, but I […]

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