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Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that "Campbell reigns supreme in the field today"[1], while S. T. Joshi has said that "future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood."[2]

Overview[edit | edit source]

Campbell's childhood and adolescence were marked by the rift between his parents and his mother's developing schizophrenia, an experience he has discussed in detail in the introduction and afterword to the restored text of The Face That Must Die.[3] Although both parents lived in the same house, Campbell states, "I didn't see my father face to face for nearly twenty years, and that was when he was dying."

His early work was greatly influenced by the work of H. P. Lovecraft. His first collection, The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants, is a volume of Cthulhu Mythos stories published by Arkham House in 1964. At the suggestion of August Derleth, he rewrote many of his earliest stories, which he had originally set in the state of Massachusetts locales of Arkham, Dunwich and Innsmouth, and relocated them to English settings in and around the fictional Gloucestershire city of Brichester, near the River Severn, creating his own Severn Valley milieu for Lovecraftian horrors. [4] Brichester was deeply influenced by Campbell's native Liverpool, and much of his later work is set in the real locales of Liverpool and Merseyside. In particular, his 2006 novel Secret Stories (published in the U.S. as Secret Story) both exemplifies and satirizes Liverpudlian speech, characters, humor, and culture.

With the collection Demons by Daylight (1973), Campbell set out to be as unlike Lovecraft as possible. In 1969, he had written "Lovecraft in Retrospect", an essay for the fanzine Shadow,[5] "condemning [Lovecraft's] work outright."[6] However, in his 1985 book Cold Print, which collects his Lovecraftian stories, Campbell disavowed the opinions expressed in the article, stating: "I believe Lovecraft is one of the most important writers in the field"[7] and "the first book of Lovecraft's I read made me into a writer."[8] Demons by Daylight includes "The Franklyn Paragraphs", which uses Lovecraft's documentary narrative technique without slipping into parody of his writing style. Other tales, such as "The End of a Summer's Day" and "Concussion", show the emergence of Campbell's highly distinctive mature style, of which S. T. Joshi has written:

Certainly much of the power of his work derives purely from his prose style, one of the most fluid, dense and evocative in all modern literature.... His eye for the details and resonances of even the most mundane objects, and his ability to express them crisply and almost prose-poetically, give to his work at once a clarity and a dreamlike nebulousness that is difficult to describe but easy to sense.
~ Joshi, S. T. , The Modern Weird Tale (2001), p. 166.

Subsequently, Campbell has published a number of other collections; many of his most popular stories can be found in the 1993 collection Alone with the Horrors.

Campbell has written many novels, both supernatural and non-supernatural. They include The Face That Must Die (issued in a badly cut version in 1979 and in a revised edition in 1983), the story of a homophobic serial killer told largely from the killer's point of view. A more sympathetic serial murderer appears in the later novel The Count of Eleven (1991), which displays Campbell's gift for word play, and which the author has said is disturbing "because it doesn't stop being funny when you think it should".[9] Other non-supernatural novels, such as The One Safe Place (1995), use a highly charged thriller narrative to examine social problems such as the deprivation and abuse of children.

Campbell's supernatural horror novels include Incarnate (1983), in which the boundaries between dream and reality are gradually broken down; and Midnight Sun (1990), in which an alien entity apparently seeks entry to the world through the mind of a children's writer. In its fusion of horror with awe, Midnight Sun shows the influence of Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen as well as Lovecraft. Also notable is the novella Needing Ghosts, a nightmarish work that blends the horrific and the comic.

Campbell has also edited a number of anthologies, including New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (1980), New Terrors (1980) and (with Stephen Jones) the first five volumes of the annual Best New Horror series (1990-1994). His 1992 anthology Uncanny Banquet was notable for including the first ever reprint of the obscure 1914 horror novel The Hole of the Pit by Adrian Ross.

Ramsey Campbell, Probably, a collection of Campbell's book reviews, film reviews, autobiographical writings and other nonfiction, was published in 2002. The book included reminiscences and appreciations of authors such as John Brunner, Bob Shaw and K. W. Jeter, and an extensive, negative critique of Shaun Hutson's Heathen, parodying Hutson's style.

He is married to the former Jenny Chandler; has two children, Tamsin and Matthew; and still lives on Merseyside. A lifelong enthusiast of film, he reviews films and DVDs weekly for BBC Radio Merseyside and monthly for Video Watchdog magazine.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Novels[edit | edit source]

  • The Doll Who Ate His Mother (1976) (Revised text: 1985)
  • The Bride of Frankenstein (1977) (written as Carl Dreadstone)
  • Dracula's Daughter (1977) (written as Carl Dreadstone).
  • The Wolfman (1977) (written as Carl Dreadstone) .
  • The Face That Must Die (1979) (Restored text: 1983).
  • The Parasite (1980) (AKA To Wake The Dead).
  • The Nameless (1981).
  • The Claw (1983) (AKA Night of the Claw, Claw ) (written as Jay Ramsay).
  • Incarnate (1983).
  • Obsession (1985).
  • The Hungry Moon (1986).
  • The Influence (1988).
  • Ancient Images (1989).
  • Midnight Sun (1990).
  • Needing Ghosts (1990).
  • The Count of Eleven (1991).
  • The Long Lost (1993).
  • The One Safe Place (1995).
  • The House on Nazareth Hill (1996) (AKA Nazareth Hill).
  • The Last Voice They Hear (1998).
  • Silent Children (2000).
  • Pact of the Fathers (2001).
  • The Darkest Part of the Woods (2003).
  • The Overnight (2004).
  • Secret Stories (2006) (AKA Secret Story).
  • Grin of the Dark (2007).

Collections[edit | edit source]

Nonfiction[edit | edit source]

  • Ramsey Campbell, Probably, ed. S. T. Joshi, 2002.

As editor[edit | edit source]

  • Superhorror (AKA The Far Reaches of Fear), 1976.
  • New Terrors (Published in US as two separate volumes, New Terrors 1 and New Terrors 2), 1980.
  • New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, 1980
    • "Introduction"
    • "Crouch End" by Stephen King
    • "The Star Pools" by A. A. Attanasio
    • "The Second Wish" by Brian Lumley
    • "Dark Awakening" by Frank Belknap Long
    • "Shaft Number 247" by Basil Copper
    • "Black Man with a Horn" by T. E. D. Klein
    • "The Black Tome of Alsophocus" by H. P. Lovecraft & Martin S. Warnes
    • "Than Curse the Darkness" by David Drake
    • "The Faces at Pine Dunes" by Ramsey Campbell
    • "Notes on Contributors"
  • The Gruesome Book, 1983
  • Fine Frights: Stories That Scared Me, 1988.
  • Best New Horror (with Stephen Jones), 1990.
  • Best New Horror 2 (with Stephen Jones), 1991.
  • Best New Horror 3 (with Stephen Jones), 1992.
  • Uncanny Banquet, 1992
  • Best New Horror 4 (with Stephen Jones), 1993.
  • Deathport, 1993.
  • Best New Horror 5 (with Stephen Jones), 1994.
  • Meddling With Ghosts: Stories in the Tradition of M.R. James, 2002.
  • Gathering the Bones (with Jack Dann and Dennis Etchison), 2003.

Critical studies[edit | edit source]

There is an extensive critical analysis of Campbell's work in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale (2001). Joshi has also written a book-length study, Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction (2001), and edited The Count of Thirty (Necronomicon Press 1994), which contains critical appreciations by various authors and a long interview with Campbell himself.

Selected awards[edit | edit source]

  • 1978 "The Chimney", World Fantasy Award, Best Short Story
  • 1978 "In The Bag", British Fantasy Award, Best Short Story
  • 1980 The Parasite, British Fantasy Award, Best Novel
  • 1980 "Mackintosh Willy", World Fantasy Award, Best Short Story
  • 1985 Incarnate, British Fantasy Award, Best Novel
  • 1988 The Hungry Moon, British Fantasy Award, Best Novel
  • 1989 The Influence, British Fantasy Award, Best Novel
  • 1989 Ancient Images, Bram Stoker Award, Best Novel
  • 1991 Midnight Sun, British Fantasy Award, Best Novel
  • 1994 Alone with the Horrors, Stoker Award of the Horror Writers of America, Best Collection; World Fantasy Award, Best Collection
  • 1994 The Long Lost, British Fantasy Award, Best Novel
  • 1998 The House on Nazareth Hill, International Horror Guild, Best Novel
  • 1999 Ghosts and Grisly Things, British Fantasy Award, Best Collection
  • 2003 Told by the Dead, British Fantasy Award, Best Collection
  • 2006 "Howie", H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Lifetime Achievement Award

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Klein, T. E. D. "Ramsey Campbell: An Appreciation", quoted in Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction (Liverpool University Press, 2001) by S. T. Joshi
  2. Joshi, S. T.. S. T. Joshi Interview. The Temple of Dagon. Retrieved on 2007-09-19.
  3. Campbell, Ramsey. "At the Back of My Mind: A Guided Tour", introduction to The Face That Must Die (1990), pp.vii-xxv, and Afterword (pp.236-238). ISBN 0708843948
  4. Campbell, Ramsey. "Chasing the Unknown", introduction to Cold Print (1985), pp.11-13. ISBN 0812516605
  5. Campbell, Ramsey. "Lovecraft in Retrospect", Shadow 8 (1969).
  6. "Chasing the Unknown", p.16.
  7. Campbell, Ramsey. "Lovecraft: An Introduction", Cold Print (1985), p. 1.
  8. "Chasing the Unknown", p. 9.
  9. Campbell, Ramsey, interviewed in The Count of Thirty (1994).

External links[edit | edit source]

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