Tales of the Supernatural
Volume One

Author: M. R. James
Read by: Gareth David-Lloyd, Ian Fairbairn and Geoffrey Bayldon
Fantom Films
RRP: 12.99
Available 21 April 2007

Montague Rhodes James (1862 - 1936) was a British mediaeval scholar and prodigious writer of ghost stories, much admired by H. P. Lovecraft (now that's an endorsement) and often held to be the best twentieth centuries writer of ghost stories. In brute force terms, M. R. James's literary success can be measured by the number of times his short stories have been anthologised.

From 1918 to today his stories have appeared in over sixty anthologies as well as twelve individual collections. Many have been adapted for radio, two have been made as television dramas and Casting the Runes was produced as the movie Night of the Demon (1957).

His popularity has continued decade after decade and now Fantom Films have brought together five new readings of his stories, Casting the Runes (1904), There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard (1931), Number 13 (1904), Rats (1929) and Lost Hearts (1895) under the title of Tales of the Supernatural: Volume One.

If you're looking for a gore fest you're looking in the wrong direction, but if you want to be led to a place, whose very menace will scare the willies out of you then you need look no further than the twisted and fertile mind of M. R. James.

The first two stories in the collection are read by Gareth David Lloyd, who at the moment is better known for his continuing role as Lanto Jones in Torchwood. The next two are read by Ian Fairbairn (best known for his roles in Doctor Who and Timeslip), with the final story being read by Geoffrey Bayldon, the well known stage and screen actor. There is little to distinguish the various renditions, as all three of the actors do a magnificent job at conveying the menace inherent in the stories - and the quality of their renditions perfectly matches the quality of the stories.

Anyone who knows anything about copyright will have already worked out that the majority of M. R. James's work can be found free on the Internet in various text forms. However, if you go down this road your going to miss the nuance and interpretation which the three actors bring to the stories.

Although this seems like a departure for Fantom Films, it's a departure well worth making. If you love gothic horror do yourself a favour and buy this CD, great stories read by excellent actors, what more could you ask for? I look forward to Volume Two.

Charles Packer