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Christmas Re-union

21 Dec

Sir Andrew Caldecott only turned to fiction after retiring from the civil service but, having done so, he allowed his lifelong fascination with the supernatural full rein in a collection of simple yet remarkably chilling tales penned in the 1940s. Taking his inspiration from the master of the ghost story, M R James, who chilled by implication rather than by gory description, Caldecott created believable but unsettling scenarios which effectively produced a sense of unease in the reader. In Caldecott’s hands the mundane became horrific; the everyday became unnerving; and the commonplace became utterly terrifying. And yet – if this doesn’t seem like too much of a contradiction in terms – there is something strangely cozy and comfortable to me about reading a Caldecott ghost story today. The passage of years has really brought out the charm and intrinsic quality of these particular supernatural tales, which are almost like miniature works of art compared with a lot of fiction that’s out there these days. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the stories Caldecott wrote and had published during the festive season. Christmas, with its combination of cold dark nights and spiritual significance, seemed to somehow bring out the very best in Caldecott as a writer, for this was the theme of some of his most famous stories, among them the oft-anthologised Christmas Re-union.

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