All Souls’ Night – Hugh Walpole
Valancourt Books – 2016 (Originally published 1933)
Hugh Walpole was a very popular author of fiction about 90 years ago, but he’s not very well remembered anymore. This book was published during the author’s lifetime, and unlike many of the short story collections by old dead guys that I write about, this is not a ‘best of’ or ‘collected supernatural works of’ collection. It’s just a bunch of stories that the author wrote at around the same time (assumedly between 1928, when his previous collection of stories was published, and 1933). All Souls’ Night was recently reissued by Valancourt books, so it is likely one of the author’s better works.
Valancourt market this as a collection of macabre tales, and while I suppose there are enough spooks in here to warrant doing so, quite a few of these stories have nothing of the macabre or supernatural in them. The non-creepy stories are well written, and I enjoyed a few of them, but in honesty, they left me with no desire to seek out more of Walpole’s work.
The creepy stories are quite good. There is a different collection of Walpole’s collected supernatural stories that was published posthumously, and I think I probably would have enjoyed that collection a little more than this one. However, the fact that All Souls’ Night was selected for republication over Walpole’s other short story collections suggests that it contains the author’s best ghost stories. These were well-written, enjoyable tales, but if they are the author’s best works, I don’t feel any great need to seek out his lesser stuff.
I feel a bit mean writing this review. This is an interesting collection. Walpole was gay, and while his work doesn’t describe explicitly homosexual acts, it is quite gay at times. (I mean that with total respect. Read the book and I’m sure you’ll agree.) This collection was published in the 30s too, so it’s likely very interesting to historians of queer fiction. (That’s not to say that it won’t be interesting/enjoyable for others too.) I wasn’t blown away by All Souls’ Night, but reading it wasn’t an unpleasant experience. It just wasn’t really my thing.
One of the reasons I decided to check this out was the author’s name. I assumed that he was some relation of Horace Walpole, the author of The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel. Hugh’s wikipedia page confirmed that the two were related, but it didn’t give the precise details. After a bit of sleuthing, I figured out that Horace’s Great Grandfather was Hugh’s great great great great grandfather. I’m not sure if that makes Horace Hugh’s great great great uncle, second cousin thrice removed or something else.