I’ve been on a kick of discovering older books recently, and really enjoyed the classic Shadows Over Baker Street from 2003, edited by Michael Reeves and John Pelan. It’s a collection of short stories from a number of fantastic authors including Neil Gaiman and Billy Martin (writing at the time as Poppy Z Brite). The stories feature characters from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes universe, set in a world of HP Lovecraft’s monsters. The notoriously logical Holmes faces mysteries without rational explanation, tied to eldritch beings and their fanatical human worshippers.
The benefits of a short story collection are many. For one thing, the short form keeps the book readable and fast-paced; in this case there was still some feeling of repetitiveness by the end of the book, but it still held your interest as it moved through various vignettes. Because in this format, each story can take a different approach, timeframe, and set of characters, which lets the reader discover not only more of Lovecraft’s plots and characters but also more of Holmes’ cases and adventures. While many of the stories do rely on a Watson-and-Holmes-at-Baker-Street structure, a good number find Holmes in different places, with different narrators or helpers. In one case, Holmes doesn’t appear at all, and the story connects to him through Irene Adler (Tiger! Tiger! by Elizabeth Bear). The overall effect is of a somehow cozy journey into the terrifying and impossible adventures of yesteryear, like ghost stories told by the fire. If you like Sherlock Holmes, HP Lovecraft, or similar universes like Doctor Who, this is a great book to curl up with as the nights start to get colder and spookier.
However, if you’re looking for something slightly more recent but with the same vibe/premise, I’m planning to try 2019’s The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall, which is also a Sherlock Holmes retelling set in an alternative universe, with plenty of monsters and action, but with all of Alexis Hall’s charm, humor, and LGBTQIA diversity.
What’s YOUR favorite Sherlock Holmes read?
“And tell him he did, for the wine of storytelling ran through his veins… it was his practice to firstly tell himself the things of the world in order to understand them and then tell them to others, draped in the music and light of literature, because he sensed that if life was not a dream it was at least a pantomime where the cruel absurdity of the narrative always ran behind the scenery…”
Back in July of 2020, the world lost a remarkable storyteller with the passing of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Renowned for his “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” series, Zafón was known for writing gorgeous, atmospheric stories with complex characters and haunted Gothic settings. As one of my favorite authors, I can personally attest to losing myself in his works. Needless to say, when I heard a posthumous collection of short stories was to be published, I anxiously awaited its release!
Compiled by Zafón himself before his untimely death, The City of Mist comprises of eleven stories, all of which are imbued with captivating characters and unique narratives set in Barcelona. These tales range from a young boy who is inspired to invent and tell stories after befriending a very special young girl, to a young woman who undergoes a harrowing experience while with child, to a gentleman who attempts to prolong the life of his lover through the written word, to a haunted architect who struggles to complete his life’s work and legacy. Not only do these stories pull at your heartstrings, they are also woven with timeless and compelling threads of human experience you won’t soon forget. Additionally, I was able to find hints and allusions to characters and landmarks within Zafón’s “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” throughout these stories, which was an absolute treat. Another unique aspect of this collection is that many of these stories had never been published in English before. One of the most incredible things about Zafón’s writing is his beautiful crafting of words, and I tend to forget that his works were not originally written in English, but in Spanish.
All in all, reading this book has inspired me to reread Zafón’s entire series over again. It is a gorgeous work of literary fiction we are lucky to have, especially in light of his passing. Zafón is an author that will never be forgotten by his millions of readers, as he was truly a gem who created masterpieces every time he took pen to paper.
“Soon afterwards, like figures made of mist, father and son disappear into the crowd of the Ramblas, their steps lost forever in the shadow of the wind.”
When thinking about the Halloween season, there is no more iconic way to celebrate the holiday then gathering your friends and family around the campfire and sharing short scary stories. In this blog post, I have collected some of the best scary short stories for you to share with loved ones around the campfire this Halloween season.
Haunted Nights edited by Lisa Morton and Ellen Datlow
This anthology of short stories all feature tales that focus their themes around the Halloween holiday itself. Urban legends, trick or treating, haunted Jack-o-Lanterns and more are all in this collection of short horror goodies.
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
What better way to celebrate the season of horror than by reading a collection of works from the King of Horror fiction. This collection features a story about a man who is cursed to relive his life, death and birth over and over again in a never ending cycle, specters that haunt men in their dying days and many other creepy and deeply personal stories.
Scream and Scream Again! edited by R. L. Stine
The best part about the Halloween season is getting to share the frights with the whole family. This collection of short horror stories for Juvenile readers is exactly the thing to provide frights for those of all ages. Collected from some of the best selling authors across the horror and mystery genre, this anthology collection is sure to bring a chill down your spine as you bundle up around the campfire to share in the terrifying tales of this autumn holiday.
These titles and many more horrifying tales are all available at your Davenport Public Library. For more recommendations like these to get you into the Halloween spirit, check out our Halloween LibGuide for more wretched recommendations.
It isn’t a new book by any means, but I found the themes and the writing of the short stories in The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings so timeless that it could be.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote her stories about a hundred years ago. If you think of authors who lived at the turn of the 20th century to be stodgy, you may be as surprised as I was by Gilman’s candor and (sometimes) humor about gender identity, mental health and social norms. These themes are very much hot-button issues today.
“Herland” is the story that most made me want to check out the book, but I enjoyed all of them. In this utopian fantasy, a group of three male explorers set out to find a secret, all-female civilization rumored to exist in the seclusion of the forest. Their tantalizing visions of what they hope to encounter is not exactly what they actually find!
For a different -but no less interesting- take on the all-female society theme, you may want to check out the graphic novel Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan.
It was a wonderful Sunday to spend outdoors, provided you’re the star of a murder mystery set in turn of the century London. Idle away the afternoons of the April-May monsoon season with a couple picks from DPL.
If you have the attention span of a gnat and enjoy nonfiction like myself, it’s a good time to skim through Best American Essays 2008. Here an editor has reviewed and picked the best of this genre. You know, the kinds of thought pieces the Quad-City sophisticates and literati chortle over at all the premiere area intellectual salons.
We buy an edition every year, as well as Best American Magazine Writing, Best Nonrequired Reading, and Best American Short Stories. Think how many of those little advertiser cards would get strewn on your floor had you actually parsed through each magazine.