Old Books, New Delights

Last night on youtube we watched an episode of the old British cop show set on the Isle of Jersey, Bergerac, guest-starring classic comedian Norman Wisdom as a safe-cracker who is also a compulsive liar. Very soon his lies mushroom entirely out of control. This screenplay was brilliant, the performance was brilliant–a totally unexpected gem, which we only saw serendipitously because the first episode we tried to watch wasn’t loading properly.

You can turn up treasure in old books, too. Years ago, for maybe 25 cents, my wife bought a copy of The Third Omnibus of Crime, 800 pages of scary stories edited by Dorothy L. Sayers (1935). It’s been kicking around here for a long time.

The other night I opened it to a story by A.M. Burrage, The Bargain. It took me totally by surprise, and blew me away.

This is a tale of a haunted stamp collection. Huh? Yes, I said a haunted stamp collection. It’s a simple story, and the style is light, almost bantering. It had to be. Otherwise it’d give you nightmares that might not stop. I never heard of A.M. Burrage, but this ghost story of his is worthy of M.R. James himself. Obviously I’m still marveling at it, or I wouldn’t be writing this review.

You can get The Third Omnibus of Crime via amazon.com. It ain’t cheap; but it’d make a heckuva birthday present for someone who loves short stories of crime and creepiness. The Bargain, if you’re only interested in that story, can also be found in Don’t Open This Book, edited by Marvin Kaye, which you can get very cheaply via amazon.

What–you want to know more about this story? Well, how much can I tell you about a short story without ruining it? Suffice it to say that it’s one of a kind. A haunted stamp collection! I’m still shaking my head over it.

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