10 May 2022
The Australian novelist and playwright Helen de Guerry Simpson (1897-1940) published many supernatural short stories. This new edition selects the best of her unsettling writing, adding some little-known stories to her 1925 collection The Baseless Fabric.
Featured stories include:
‘An Experiment of the Dead’, in which a visitor comes to visit a woman in the condemned cell.
‘Good Company’, in which a traveller in Italy becomes temporarily possessed by a hitchhiker in her mind.
‘Grey Sand and White Sand’ is the horrifying story of a demented landscape artist who paints what only he can see.
‘The Outcast’, in which a soldier left for dead in the War takes his revenge on his village.
‘The Rite’, in which a discontented woman enters a wood, and emerges transformed.
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Helen de Guerry Simpson was born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1897, and studied at Oxford. Her novel Boomerang won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 1932. She died from cancer in 1940. Her close friend, the novelist Margaret Kennedy, took charge of Simpson’s daughter Clemence during the war while Simpson was in her last illness. Clemence and Simpson both feature in Kennedy’s wartime memoir, Where Stands A Winged Sentry, also published by Handheld Press.
The Introduction is by Melissa Edmundson, the leading scholar of women’s Weird fiction and supernatural writing from the early 20th century.
’13 supernatural stories that showcase Simpson’s lush, painterly descriptions of the natural world and her subtle, deeply intuitive sense of human relationships … Simpson wonderfully contrasts the wild and the domestic, and her greatest strength lies in her ability to build a sense of rustic normalcy before letting a slice of the unusual disturb the course of life. Fans of Daphne du Maurier and early 20th-century supernatural fiction will love this forgotten treasure.’ – Publishers Weekly
‘For those interested in the history of horror literature … especially those who are fond of M R James’s authorial dedication to landscape —you’ll enjoy Simpson’s work. Simpson beautifully captures the psychology of her protagonists across all of the stories in this collection … The Outcast and The Rite, like Handheld Press’s other books, is an enchanting read and shines light on the work of an author who deserves to be celebrated. If you’re looking to learn more about the contributions of women to supernatural fiction, learn more about the history of horror, or looking to expand your literary horizons and go for a challenge, The Outcast and The Rite may be your cup of tea.’ – What Sleeps Beneath
You may also be interested in these supernatural collections
Women’s Weird: the original anthology edited by Melissa Edmundson. Contains thirteen excellent supernatural stories encompassing the boundaries of Weird by outstanding women authors. Includes stories by Edith Wharton, May Sinclair, Margery Lawrence and E Nesbit.
Women’s Weird 2: our second anthology edited by Melissa Edmundson, this collection of short supernatural fiction from 1893 to 1937 covers new geographical territory with fiction from Canada, Australia, India, the USA and New Zealand.
British Weird: edited by James Machin, this collection of short British supernatural fiction from 1981 to 1937 displays an unsettling mastery of Weird preoccupations.
The Villa and The Vortex, by Elinor Mordaunt: we bring this exceptionally good writer of Weird fiction back into print with this new anthology of her best supernatural writing, first published between 1916 and 1924.
From the Abyss, by D K Broster, a spectacularly good collection of the Weird short fiction that this very popular historical novelist wrote alongside her novels of the eighteenth century (to be published 9 August 2022).
Strange Relics, an anthology of classic supernatural stories about archaeological finds, curated by Amara Thornton and Katy Soar (to be published 20 September 2022).