The Bride of Christ and Other Fictions – Montague Summers

The Bride of Christ and Other Fictions – Montague Summers
Snuggly Books 2020


I have a collection of books by and about Montague Summers. A few years ago, somebody found a bunch of his writing that was long believed lost. It contained an unpublished collection of ghost stories that was finally put out last year. This collection was really, really cool. The publisher, Snuggly Books, announced that they had enough material for a second collection of unreleased fiction. It was to be titled The Bride of Christ. I ordered a copy as soon as it came out.

In his introduction to the text, Daniel Corrick notes that the pieces in this collection can be divided into four categories: the ghost stories, the Uranian pieces, the society pieces and the titular novella. I’m going to stick with these categories in my discussion too.

The ghost stories are very short little things. They’re not awful or unpleasant to read, but they’re not particularly memorable.

The Uranian pieces are mostly uninteresting. One of them, “The Parting of the Ways”, is ok. It’s a story about a lad falling in love with a lad who falls in love with a woman. It’s not a great story, but it is actually a story which is more than can be said about the other two Uranian “pieces” in here. I was going to say that it’s a bit odd that a self proclaimed Catholic priest would write stories about romantic affairs between teenage boys, but I guess that’s not really true at all.

The “society pieces” are boring garbage. Both are opening chapters to books that Summers never bothered to finish. These are boring stories about rich old British women trying to impress their friends. I read one, but couldn’t bring myself to finish the other. Pure crap.

The Bride of Christ, the longest piece in this book, appears at the start of the collection, but I was excited to read it, so I saved it for last. I was disappointed. It’s the story of a nun who falls in love with Jesus. The priest at her convent tells her this is not good. Just as the story seems to start, it ends. There is supposedly some debate over whether or not this work is complete. If this is the final product, it’s absolute shit. There’s simply not enough in here for it to be interesting. I’m giving Monty the benefit of the doubt and assuming it’s unfinished.

I understand why a publisher would choose to release two books of Summers’ fiction rather than trying to stick it all into one together, and as a collector of his work, I am pretty happy to own this collection of rarities. Honestly though, there isn’t going to be much of interest in this book to anyone other than Summers enthusiasts. I think taking the two ghost stories out of this one and adding them into Six Ghost Stories as an appendix would have made the best book. The leftovers aren’t really worth reading.

Six Ghost Stories – Montague Summers

 

summers six ghost stories.jpgSix Ghost Stories – Montague Summers
Snuggly Books – 2019

A few months ago, I got an email from my pal Sandy Robertson telling me that Snuggly Books were going to release a collection of short fiction by Montague Summers. I have long been aware that Monty had written a collection of short stories, but I knew that only a couple of these stories had ever actually been published and that it was difficult to find affordable copies of the books wherein these tales were collected. I’m a big fan and collector of the occult-related non-fiction books written and translated by Monty, and I am also a big fan of short horror fiction, so you will believe that I was very excited to hear that Monty’s ghost stories were finally being published. I ordered this collection for my birthday and read it last week.

20191130_224224This is the note from Timothy d’Arch Smith’s bibliography of Summers where I first read of these fabled fables.

These six stories lived up to my expectations. They are mostly about people who some acquire some kind of peculiar haunted object that brings about visions and specters. The obvious comparison to make is to M.R. James, who apparently had the chance to read and commend these tales. Incidentally, Montague Summers, the man, has always reminded me of the characters in James’s tales.

The writing in here isn’t what you might expect if you have only read Summers’ books on witchcraft. There’s some very long sentences, but Monty seems self-aware when he’s being verbose, and this comes across as charming rather than tedious. My biggest criticism is probably that the tone of some of these stories remains too light-hearted for too long. Everything will be going fine and dandy for all of the characters, and then a ghost will jump out and scare a person to death right at the very end of the story.

My favourite tale in here was The Grimoire. This one has been previously published in different texts, and it’s not hard to see why it was chosen above the others. It’s the story of a bibliophile whose local dealer procures him an aged book of sinister black magic. When the collector translates a passage from this heinous tome, scary things start happening. (I can’t help but wonder if Sam Raimi read this tale before writing Evil Dead.) This one was particularly cool because it feels like Summers, an expert on books about black magic, could be the narrator.

While not all terribly original, these stories are competent, fun and generally pretty satisfying. I read one each night after my family had gone to bed, sipping a cup of peppermint tea and hearing the cold November breeze blowing through the willow trees our garden. It was great. I suggest you enjoy these tales in a similar manner.

These stories are entertaining in and of themselves, but there’s something very exciting about reading a collection of tales that were believed to be lost for more than half a century. Summers’ old manuscripts went missing shortly after he died in 1948, and they were only unearthed a few years ago. Snuggly Books put out this collection in October (I think this is the only book from 2019 that I’ll have reviewed in 2019.), and they are planning to put out a second volume of Summers’ fiction early next year. This collection will include a novella titled The Bride of Christ. Sign me up!