The best short stories told on a dark and stormy night

Raymond Walker Author Of Moonchild and Other Tales
By Raymond Walker

Who am I?

I was brought up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by standing stones, crypts, and burial mounds of races turned to dust. I started sending sci-fi tales to mags like Uncanny Tales, New Worlds, Astounding Tales, Amazing Stories when I was thirteen, but none were accepted. I left the wilderness for the city, Edinburgh, the “Athens of the North” when fifteen and entered university. All I yearned to do after that was go home. I never did. A little more experience of life behind me, I was first published in Peoples Own and in the same year in New Worlds and then it worked well for me for a while. 


I wrote...

Moonchild and Other Tales

By Raymond Walker,

Book cover of Moonchild and Other Tales

What is my book about?

A young girl, abandoned in the ancient Caledonian forest seeks refuge in the arms of a hill walker, or so it seems to the casual observer. A River Sprite seeks solace in the arms of a human, as her world is disappearing. A moon-child creeps from her Holt beneath an ancient tree. Goats that debate in shady glens at night discuss revolution, wolves that are men, and men who are wolves wonder about their purpose in life. True love remains eternal in the worthiest of sad tales. These new Faerie and folk tales, of Scotland, from the pen of Raymond Walker, author of A River of Tears and The Secret Inside embody the living soul of Scots folk and northern faerie tales.

The books I picked & why

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The Two Drovers and Other Stories

By Walter Scott,

Book cover of The Two Drovers and Other Stories

Why this book?

Known best for his Waverly novels as well as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, Sir Walter wrote many of the greatest short tales ever told. “The Highland Widow” is perhaps the greatest short tale ever. A subdued Scotsman living in a foreign London (at that time) and the foremost writer of his time he railed against our English overlords whilst pragmatically trying to maintain the status quo. (The letters of Malachi Malagrowther are a good example, marvellous reading, where he impugns the bank of England with great wit and Scalding rhetoric.)

He gave birth to many volumes of short tales, many under Pseudonyms (such as Malachi Malagrowther) as the English authorities were aware of his influence over the populace of London and his gift for romanticising the “Highland gentleman”. As a writer, he was unsurpassed in his time both in terms of sales by volume and in the quality of writing. I am both a writer and a Scotsman and so felt myself drawn to his chivalric and beautifully told tales all holding a touch of darkness and menace. Yet it is his sculpting of a tale and his words that enchant me. Had he been Austrian or Swedish it would not have mattered the writing is so delightful. 


Let the Old Dreams Die: Stories

By John Ajvide Lindqvist, Ebba Segerberg (translator),

Book cover of Let the Old Dreams Die: Stories

Why this book?

Mr. Lindqvist is a Swedish author that came to worldwide notice with his novel Let the Right One In and has written many great novels since then. He is not normally a short story author, nor does he particularly enjoy reading short tales, so this is a strange choice for me but Let the Old Dreams Die is so dreadfully different from other recent horror writers that I felt I had to include it here. To date, it is the only book of short tales that Mr. Lindqvist has written. There is a zombie tale (and how many of them have appeared over the years) but should zombies have citizenship? How should the health service care for them? Is it really their fault that they wish to eat people? Can we happily live together?

There is little that has not been covered before in Mr. Lindqvist’s tales but every story tackle’s similar themes to many others whilst remaining completely original. I have always enjoyed a horror story but how many times does the heroine run up the stairs instead of out the door? How many zombies can get to a boat or an island? The same old tales perhaps but imagined in a very different way.


The Dreaming Child

By Isak Dinesen,

Book cover of The Dreaming Child

Why this book?

Despite the author's name on the cover, this book was written by Karen Blixen, who wrote under different names depending upon the country she wished to sell to or where she was living at the time. Probably best known as the author of Out of Africa and the wonderful film it engendered she also wrote many “Gothic” tales including those gathered in this small volume. Many imagine Wilde’s “Dorian”, Stoker’s “Dracula”, Stephenson’s “Dr. Jekyll”, or even Brecht’s “Threepenny novel” as the ultimate gothic tale but I can assure you that Baroness Blixen far outshone each of the above with her wondrous tales. Only Mary Shelley I think, can vie with her for the queen of gothic dark majesty.

The Dreaming Child surpasses even M R James' take on the story which is also wonderful. “The Sailor Boys’ tale” is also horrible and wonderful at the same time. Baroness Blixen also wrote Seven Gothic Tales and Winter Tales both of which are gothic masterpieces I found it difficult to choose which one to tell of here and decided upon The Dreaming Child simply because it was the one that I read first.


I, Robot

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of I, Robot

Why this book?

Like many boys of my age, I started reading comics with barely a grasp of written English. I liked the artwork and then when I learned to read, the words. Luckier than most, my mother read to her two little boys at night. Call of the Wild, Flika (a Horsey Thing), White Fang, Black Beauty, The Railway Children, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons and so many more, and like children do, we grew, and we learned.

One of the very first collections of short stories I read was I, Robot I was instantly fascinated. Imagine another thinking being that sits alongside us. One with a psychology of its own and a peculiar impetus. Asimov introduced AI and thinking robots to my mind.

I was instantly engrossed and could not leave those thoughts alone until I learned that homo erectus and Neanderthal man as well as a few other species of hominids lived as man ascended. What would the interaction have been like? Perhaps like the introduction of robots?

No one can say but that collection of short tales led me on a long quest to find out the nature of humanity and its interaction with other species. Natural, synthetic, and uber natural. A quest I shall never finish but on the positive side, it has led me to read many great books.

It makes me think.


Tales of the Klondyke: The God of His Fathers

By Jack London,

Book cover of Tales of the Klondyke: The God of His Fathers

Why this book?

My mother read Call of the Wild and White Fang to my brother and I whilst still children. Well, those tales stayed with me over the years despite forays into Science Fiction, Religious Dogma, psychology, historical fiction, and fantasy. As an older boy I returned to the works of Mr. London and read Martin Eden, The Sea Wolf, and many of his short tales. Tales of the Klondyke are perhaps the best of them and so take my prize as number one on my list. (Though I had an argument with myself over Voltaire’s Candide and Other Tales and Aeschylus' Tragedies) for the top spot.

Each tale in this collection whilst imagined strikes me as true in every way, sure a little drama is added but I suspect that those heroes just trying to survive existed. And so, in a way I have come full circle, and this is my favourite collection of short tales.


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