Other Writers in the M.R.James Tradition
A personal friend of M.R.James, Swain produced his only collection of ghost stories (The Stoneground Ghost Tales) in 1912. Their protagonist, the Rev. Roland Batchel, vicar of Stoneground, is clearly based upon himself - he was vicar of Stanground, near Peterborough, for many years. Swain's ghosts are milder-mannered by far than the entities of James, but the central character gives the series a certain charm. More recently Swain's slim collection has been expanded by the addition of several new Batchel stories by David G. Rowlands.
Munby began writing his pastiches of M.R.James to pass the time in Oflag VIIB, a prisoner of war camp where he was incarcerated during World War II. His only collection (The Alabaster Hand and other Ghost Stories) appeared in 1949, and was dedicated to MRJ. While his stories rarely have the chill of James', they are always so well written as to repay reading. He was for many years the librarian of King's College, Cambridge.
Another friend of MRJ (to whose memory his single collection of tales is dedicated) , Malden was Dean of Wells. 'Nine Ghosts' was issued in 1943. His stories are written with gusto, and many consider him a natural succesor to James.
Like James, Lionel Rolt was fascinated by the past; but his passion was for the industrial past - the mines, railways and waterways of Victorian and earlier times. His single volume of ghost stories (Sleep No More - railway, canal and other stories of the supernatural) which appeared in 1948, is still in print. His varied story settings, and gift for establishing atmosphere, make it an unmissable addition to the genre.
"H.R.Wakefield, in They Return at Evening (a good title) gives us a mixed bag,from which I should remove one or two that leave a nasty taste. Among the residue are some admirable pieces, very inventive"-M.R.James.
A more different personality from James could scarcely be imagined than that of the suave, sardonic Herbert Russell Wakefield. He was very much at home in the present - the twenties, one feels, were his spiritual base - yet this, paradoxically, makes his stories sometimes seem more dated than those of MRJ. His characters are more worldly, and their passions often more brutal, than James would have countenanced, and even sex makes the occasional (offstage) appearance - though normally as a disruptive force. Nonetheless, his talent for merging the matter-of-fact with the nightmarish probably approaches that of James more nearly than that of any of his rivals. A prolific writer, his collections are: They Return at Evening (1928), Old Man's Beard(1929, US title Others Who Returned), Imagine a Man in a Box (1931), The Clock Strikes Twelve(1940), and Strayers from Sheol (1961).