Sunday, August 19, 2007

Book Review: "Round the Fire Stories"

I suspect the book I took out of the local public library most often during my middle school years was an edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Round the Fire Stories, first published in 1908 and reprinted several times since. I recently came across a copy of the 1991 Chronicle Books edition and bought it, knowing I'd enjoy a re-read of the stories. Conan Doyle does not disappoint. These are some of his creepiest and most suspenseful works, at times surpassing even the Sherlock Holmes stories in quality (Holmes makes a few uncredited cameo appearances in these stories, but is otherwise absent).

In the preface, Conan Doyle writes "In the present collection those [stories] have been brought together which are concerned with the grotesque and with the terrible - such tales as might well be read 'round the fire' upon a winter's night. This would be my ideal atmosphere for such stories, if an author might choose his time and place as an artist does the light and hanging of his picture. However, if they have the good fortune to give pleasure to anyone, at anytime or place, their author will be very satisfied." I was of course too impatient to wait for winter nights, but summer evenings sufficed just as well; if the author of these knew just how much pleasure these works have brought to me over the years, I suspect he'd be very satisfied indeed.