Stories that inspired M.R. James

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Episode 41 – The MR James and Charles Dickens Christmas Special (with last minute gift guide!)

December 23, 2014 | Episodes | Comments (5)

Seasons greetings James fans! In this episode, Will and Mike take a further turn towards the Victorian by pairing up James with his great literary love, Mr Charles Dickens.  Just what influence did he have on James? Lest their amateur speculations take a less than academically rigorous turn, they are joined by James expert Jane Mainley Piddock (@jmainpidd), to tell us all about Monty’s strange fascination with Dickens’ unfinished tale, Edwin Drood.

Show notes:

  • Jane’s website contains fascinating articles on MRJ and Edwin Drood, spiders, cats and much much more!
  • Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories: your hosts mentioned The Haunted House, The Trial for Murder and of course the Signal Man, available as a single download from Project Gutenburg.  The Signal Man was one of Lawrence Gordon Clarke’s best Ghost Stories for Christmas and is available in the BFI box set.
  • Edwin Drood – do explore the mystery for yourself.  Our money is on Jasper having done it, or tried to do it, or… well, you decide! You can learn more about MRJ’s Drood-inspired tale “An Episode of Cathedral History” in episode 18.

And lest we forget, Will and Mike found time for Christmas gifts:

  • Curious Warnings, the most sumptuous edition of MRJ’s tales currently  in print.
  • Alisdair Wood’s (@alisdair_wood) illustrations have graced many an episode of the podcast and his MRJ postcards were one of the highlights of last year.  Will is particularly excited by his postcards of houses from horror movies.  The bloody envelope is a nice touch.
  • The Christmas edition of Eerie (#6), published this month, came with an unsettling adaptation of the Ash Tree courtesy of Kelley Jones.  It also promises “sickening stories of festive phantoms and pernicious pastries”.  Available to buy as a download if you can’t make it to a comic shop.
  • “I See A Shadow Coming – the Illustro Obscurum Yuletide Compendium Volume I”.  A lovely looking new zine, limited to 40 copies and now sadly SOLD OUT!  But do watch that space, they clearly have plans for more wierd fic wonderfulness in the coming year. Mike found the whole URL rather a tongue twister: just to clarify that it is
  • AN Donaldson’s (@ANDauthor) new Lovecraft-meets-Solzhenitsyn novel Death Sentence, which will give you second thoughts about pining for snow this Christmas. If you haven’t already, do read Alisdair’s first novel Prospero’s Mirror, and listen to our interview with him from May last year.
  • Helen Grant’s (@helengrantsays) new novel Silent Saturday will make you think twice about this newfangled interest in urban exploration.  You might also like Helen’s Jamesian novel The Glass Demon.  Helen joined us to discuss Marcilly-le-Hayer earlier this year.



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  1. Paxton's Spade says:

    Thanks for the handy stocking filler podcast. Agree that The Signalman holds its own alongside the great 1970s MRJ Ghost Stories For Christmas adaptations, with great creeping paranoia from Denholm Elliot and a simple but unsettling white deathmask. There were plenty of fine Victorian ghost contemporaries including Wilkie Collins who I’ve only just discovered via The Haunted Hotel novella despite having an unread Woman in White on the shelf for ages. More readable than S. Le Fanu I would say.

    If anyone missed the Radio 4 Extra Casting The Runes adaptation ‘The Hex’ on Saturday 21st December, it should be on BBC iPlayer for another few days. It may be the only new MRJ on this Christmas.

  2. Luke says:

    I love that you guys brought up The Signalman – wonderful BBC adaptation. I know you guys started this podcast for M.R.James but as a general lover of old fashioned English ghost stories I would encourage you to do podcasts on other great non-James ghost stories when you’ve run out of M.R. James stuff. Yes?.

  3. Elliott James says:

    BBC Radio 4 Extra has done both “The Signalman” and “A House to Let” and they will be available for the next few weeks (late Dec 2014, Jan 2015). Enjoy!

  4. M.S.Corley says:

    Could you guys write out the book recommendations that Jane had? I can’t quite make out what she said for the kids suggestions. Beatrix Potter (I think) and something else?

  5. Thanks for this excellent podcast – it was a really interesting listen.

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