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February 19 , 2009

The Insanity of Jones


The Insanity of Jones by Algernon Blackwood
Although Blackwood wrote a number of horror stories, his most typical work seeks less to frighten than to induce a sense of awe. Good examples are the novels The Centaur, which climaxes with a traveller's sight of a herd of the mythical creatures; and Julius LeVallon and its sequel The Bright Messenger, which deal with reincarnation and the possibility of a new, mystical evolution in human consciousness. His best stories, such as those collected in the book Incredible Adventures, are masterpieces of atmosphere, construction and suggestion. Born in Shooter's Hill (today part of south-east London, but then part of north-west Kent) and educated at Wellington College, Algernon Blackwood had a varied career, farming in Canada, operating a hotel, and working as a newspaper reporter in New York City. In his late thirties, Blackwood moved back to England and started to write horror stories. He was very successful, writing 10 books of short stories and appearing on both radio and television to tell them. He also wrote fourteen novels and a number of plays, most of which were produced but not published. He was an avid lover of nature, and many of his stories reflect this. Blackwood wrote an autobiography of his early years, Episodes Before Thirty (1923). There is an extensive critical analysis of Blackwood's work in Jack Sullivan's book Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story From Le Fanu to Blackwood (1978). There is a biography by Mike Ashley (ISBN 0-7867-0928-6) and a critical essay on Blackwood's work in S. T. Joshi's The Weird Tale (1990). The plot of Caitlin R. Kiernan's novel Threshold (2001) draws upon Blackwood's "The Willows", which is quoted several times in the book. Kiernan has cited Blackwood as an important influence on her writing.

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