The Ballet of Dr. Caligari

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The Ballet of Dr. Caligari and Madder Mysteries by Reggie Oliver

Hardcover – Tartarus Press – Jan 2019 – 297 pages

This volume contains thirteen stories, and includes some of the finest examples of his work: uncanny, troubling, witty and full of memorably fascinating characters. The settings are as varied as ever. In the title story a young composer writes a score for an ageing choreographer and becomes unwittingly involved in the older man’s morbid obsession with a catastrophically injured ballerina. Elsewhere Oliver takes us into the worlds of British provincial theatre in the 1850s, London in the 1880s, Rome in the 1960s, Greece in the 1970s, Spain in the 1800s, as well as contemporary Britain in all its diversity. Oliver’s capacity to evoke these different atmospheres both vividly and economically is notable.

This collection also contains at least two stories which could be decribed as tours de force in that, besides being engrossing in themselves, they demonstrate Oliver’s extraordinary virtuosity as a writer. ‘Tawny’ is a haunting and horrific tale told entirely in dialogue, while in ‘The Game of Bear’ Oliver offers the completion to an unfinished story by M.R. James, written in a faultless imitation of James’s style and idiom.

Contains: From Madder Mysteries: ‘A Donkey at the Mysteries’, ‘The Head’, ‘Tawny’, ‘The Devil’s Funeral’, ‘Baskerville’s Midgets’, ‘The Game of Bear’ (with M.R. James). And more: ‘The Final Stage’, ‘The Endless Corridor’, ‘The Vampyre Trap’, ‘The Ballet of Dr Caligari’, ‘Love and Death’, ‘Porson’s Piece’, ‘Lady with a Rose’, ‘Author Note’.

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