“James has an intelligent and scientific knowledge of human nerves and feelings; and knows just how to apportion statement, imagery, and subtle suggestions in order to secure the best results with his readers.” —H. P. Lovecraft, praise for M. R. James

M. R. James. Image via Wikipedia.

M. R. James (1862–1936) was an English medieval scholar and provost of King’s College, Cambridge and Eton College. He is best remembered for his ghost stories, which redefined the genre. His characters and plots reflected his own antiquarian interests. Accordingly, he is known as the originator of the “antiquarian ghost story.”

Skyboat’s Stefan Rudnicki has long been a fan of “the master of the modern ghost story” and, after devouring anthologies as a child, he jumped at the opportunity to compile his own original audiobook. In his Introduction, Stefan writes: “Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) broke new ground by abandoning many of the melodramatic conventions of gothic mysteries, substituting contemporary settings, situations and characters. His relatively calm and understated story-telling, often achieved by means of that indirect device of the discovery and reading of a letters or journals left behind by a witness or victim, underscores his intellectual approach to horror.”

Published by Blackstone and produced by Skyboat, CASTING THE RUNES, & OTHER CLASSIC STORIES OF THE SUPERNATURAL audiobook features seven of M. R. James’s finest stories, followed by a selection of stories by W. W. Jacobs, Sheridan Le Fanu, F. Marion Crawford, & Robert Hichens, some of the best of James’s contemporaries and antecedents.

These include W. W. Jacobs’s 1902 story “The Monkey’s Paw,” probably one of the best-known horror tales of modern times; “Green Tea” by Sheridan Le Fanu who can be seen as M. R. James’s Irish predecessor to the title of most popular horror writer in the 19th century; Italian scholar F. Marion Crawford’s “The Screaming Skull” which Stefan dubs “one of the absolute finest and creepiest stories ever written”; and “How Love Came to Professor Guildea,” by Robert Hichens, a graduate of the Royal College of Music who replaced Bernard Shaw as music critic at The World, which Brian Stableford called an “authentic masterpiece of horror fiction.”

Listen to an audiobook sample of Stefan reading the title story “Casting the Runes” on Skyboat’s SoundCloud.

To bring this range of tales to life, Stefan Rudnicki was joined in the narration booth by the talented (and equally wide-ranging) Paul Boehmer, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Justine Eyre.

In 1983, T.E.D. Klein listed The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories, and number 1 is none other than the title story, M. R. James’s “Casting the Runes.” (You may notice that Number 3 is “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, which is included in Blackstone and Skyboat’s original Blackwood collection THE TOUCH OF PAN & OTHER STORIES, and Sarban’s RINGSTONES, also available on audiobook, receive an honorable mention. We sure can pick ’em!) 

“If I were you, I would never tell ugly stories about ingenious ways of killing people, for you never can tell but that some one at the table may be tired of his or her nearest and dearest. I have always blamed myself for Mrs. Pratt’s death, and I suppose I was responsible for it in a way, though heaven knows I never wished her anything but long life and happiness. If I had not told that story she might be alive yet. That is why the thing screams at me, I fancy.” –From “The Screaming Skull” by F. Marion Crawford

CASTING THE RUNES, AND OTHER CLASSIC STORIES OF THE SUPERNATURAL. Stories by M. R. James, W. W. Jacobs, Sheridan Le Fanu, F. Marion Crawford, & Robert Hichens

Compiled and introduced by Stefan Rudnicki

Read by Paul Boehmer, Gabrielle de Cuir, Justine Eyre, and Stefan Rudnicki

English author Montague Rhodes James (1862–1936) is considered by many aficionados the unquestioned master of the modern ghost story, and several of his tales have served as source material for multiple creepy film versions. He broke new ground by abandoning many of the conventions of gothic mysteries, and substituting contemporary settings, situations, and characters. Nevertheless, as a Cambridge medieval scholar, James was steeped in the esoteric lore of the Middle Ages, and he applied that scholarship brilliantly to his stories.

The four stories in this compilation not by James are meant to serve as prime illustrations of the best work of a few of his contemporaries and immediate antecedents.

Full Contents:

Introduction by Stefan Rudnicki – read by Stefan Rudnicki

PART ONE: Stories by M. R. James  

“Casting the Runes” by M. R. James – read by Stefan Rudnicki

“Wailing Well” by M. R. James – read by Gabrielle de Cuir

“Rats” by M. R. James – read by Stefan Rudnicki

“Mezzotint” by M. R. James – read by Paul Boehmer

“Count Magnus” by M. R. James – read by Stefan Rudnicki

“Number 13” by M. R. James – read by Justine Eyre

“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” by M. R. James – read by Stefan Rudnicki

PART TWO: Influences & Antecedents 

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs – read by Gabrielle de Cuir

“Green Tea” by Sheridan Le Fanu – read by Paul Boehmer

“The Screaming Skull” by F. Marion Crawford – read by Stefan Rudnicki

“How Love Came to Professor Guildea” by Robert Hichens – read by Gabrielle de Cuir

Purchase your copy of CASTING THE RUNES, AND OTHER CLASSIC STORIES OF THE SUPERNATURAL today!

Looking for more classic supernatural tales? We suggest Oliver Onion’s WIDDERSHINS: The First Book of Ghost Stories; Gaston Leroux’s THE DOUBLE LIFE; and, two more original compilations from Blackstone and Skyboat, Algernon Blackwood’s THE TOUCH OF PAN & OTHER STORIES and Arthur Machen’s THE SHINING PYRAMID AND THE THREE IMPOSTORS.

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