Dick Donovan was a pseudonym of James Edward Preston Muddock – though he was better known as Joyce Emerson Preston Muddock. A well-travelled journalist, he wrote prolifically in a number of genres. The vast majority of his output were sensational detective stories in which “Dick Donovan” was the main character. So popular did this Glaswegian detective prove that Muddock issued later works under this pseudonym. Other works include the horror novel, The Shadow Hunter (1887), the ‘lost world’ novel The Sunless City (1905) and two volumes of supernatural tales.
Muddock’s life was the equal of any of his own fictions. During his travels as a journalist, he visited several continents, experienced the Indian Rebellion first hand, met cannibals and mined gold in Australia. He also married three times and fathered ten children! These and more details of Muddock’s life and career can be found in this article by Bruce Durie.
Tales of Terror (1899) was Muddock’s second collection of macabre stories, after Stories Weird and Wonderful (1889). Not all of the stories are supernatural. “‘Red Lillie'” is a sensational story about a lover’s promise; “With Fire and Death” is a gruesome (and very one-sided) account of the Indian Rebellion of 1857; while “The Pirate’s Treasure” is a pretty straightforward tale of piratical adventure. The majority of the stories do have a supernatural content, however, ranging from the vampire narrative “The Woman With the ‘Oily Eyes'”, to the traditional ghost stories of “The Corpse Light” and “The Spectre of Rislip Abbey”, the bloody Gothic horror of “The Cave of Blood”, and the folklore of “The Dance of the Dead”. Appropriately for the time of year, the collection also includes “The White Raven” – an effective ghost story set at Christmas.
Guy Boothby (1867-1905) was born in Australia but spent most of his career in England. A professional writer, his most famous work is the Dr Nikola series – a sequence of five novels about a criminal mastermind determined to take over the world with the help of the occult. Boothby was tremendously prolific. His writing career took up only the last decade of his tragically short life, but during this time he produced over fifty novels.
Presented here is one of a handful of overtly supernatural novels written by Boothby. First published in 1899, it is typically late-Victorian in its concerns about contamination by a foreign other from the fringes of occidental Empire – in this case the eponymous Pharos, a grotesque Egyptian with a talent for mesmerism, who harbours an astonishing and deadly secret. Also included are three of Boothby’s best-known ghost stories, taken from his collection The Lady of the Island (1904).