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M.R. James 150th Birthday Special!

July 29, 2012 | Episodes | Comments (7)

Robert Lloyd Parry as M.R. James - photo by Shelagh Bidwell

Robert Lloyd Parry as M.R. James – photo by Shelagh Bidwell

On the 1st August it will be exactly 150 years since the birth of M.R. James, and in this special episode Will and Mike are celebrating Monty’s Sesquicentenary in style with the help of England’s finest Jamesian actor, Robert Lloyd Parry!

Robert had been performing his trilogy of one-man shows based on James’s work since 2005 and is also a noted expert on the life and work of M.R. James. In this exclusive interview for A Podcast to the Curious Robert talks about his experiences performing as Monty, how he goes about adapting James’s work for the stage and why he thinks M.R. James’s ghost stories are still so popular 76 years after his death.

More information on Robert Lloyd Parry’s future performances and dvds/cds can be found at

This episode also features an exclusive listener-only CD offer for Robert Lloyd Parry’s ‘Curious Creatures: The Shorter Horror of M.R. James‘ audiobook. Details at the end of the episode!

The interview in progress!


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  1. GB Steve says:

    Great stuff! I’m a big fan of RLP and will certainly take up the offer. I’m amused that he has played CoC despite not being much of an HPL fan. I’m more of a ToC player these days but I do wonder what the proportion of your readers are gamers or ex-gamers (and would understand these TLAs).

  2. Doug Bolden says:

    I, too, enjoyed hearing that he played Call of Cthulhu. Was a bit unexpected.

    There is a part where it is discussed how reading and rereading the stories takes away a bit of the fright, and I just wanted to say that while this is no doubt true, listening to this podcast (and re-hearing the tales) often helps me to really grasp the horror of James’s tales. There is a mix of in-references that I overlook, sure, but it is more than that; it is more that his style of horror strikes me as deeper, more bone-chilling, when one examines it more closely. Shallow glances over the passages bring up the obvious weirdness – the woodcuts of men fleeing strange blurry backgrounds – but it is the rereads and the close readings that always make me feel he is the top of his particular game.

  3. Matt B says:

    Having seen Mr Parry at Otley Hall last year I must say that he is essential viewing for James fans. Excellent podcast again, great you guys are doing this as it allows me to revel in my own slightly nerdy love of M R James stories!

    • Tess says:

      Matt – completely agree with you, on both points.

      If any one of you reading these comments has the chance to catch one of Robert’s performances (and especially at Hemingford Grey Manor), you owe it to yourself!

  4. RogerBW says:

    I got into Lovecraft because of CoC, and I suspect that many people who started in the eighties did the same; for quite a while before then he was largely forgotten, except by people who read lots of old pulps.

    James, on the other hand… not sure where I heard of him originally, but he was part of (at least my little bit of) mainstream culture when I was young, in a way that Lovecraft was not. The Hordern readings were good, but while Hordern is very good I prefer to hear James in the voice I use for him in my head when I’m reading…

    I don’t really see a struggle between them; they’re telling very different sorts of story, with James clearly in the old-fashioned ghost story mould although he often breaks away from it, while Lovecraft is very much a writer of the twentieth century, up to the moment on the latest science and technology, and yet with a post-quantum-physics, post-relativity, most crucially post-Copernican understanding of humanity’s place in the universe and the insignificance thereof.

    • Doug Bolden says:

      A lot of the M. R. James discussions I have seen in the US seems closely related to James’s impact on Lovecraft as a writer (similar to a lot of discussions I have seen about Machen and Dunsany and others). I am not sure how widespread such discussions range, nor how deep, but it has only been recently that I’ve started seeing MRJ talked about without HPL being shortly behind and this is directly correspondent with the fact that I have started reading a lot more horror critique from outside of the US.

      This could be merely personal experience since I was into Lovecraft first and then read up on James due to the mentions in the HPL fandoms. My first reading of James [I think] was “Count Magnus”, because Robert Price included it as a inspiration for “Call of Cthulhu” [the dead-but-dreaming aspect] in The Cthulhu Cycle.

  5. Tess says:

    Here’s my family’s plan for this evening (1st August 2012):

    Celebrate M. R. James’ birthday with a nice dinner, cake & ice cream, and a viewing of one of Robert’s performances that we have on DVD, followed by listening to this 150th Birthday podcast interview and possibly a reading or two of some favourite passages from James’ stories (all by candlelight).

    Possibly also a reading from one of the essays in _Warnings to the Curious_ (Joshi, Pardoe). Looking forward to this evening!

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