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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

and Other Stories

by

Ambrose Bierce

 

Introduction by S.T. Joshi

 

Perhaps best known as a journalist and the author of the sardonic The Devil's Dictionary, Bierce ranks alongside Poe as one of the fathers of American supernatural fiction.

 

As a young man he served in the Federal army during the American Civil war, participating in some of the most horrific battles, and this closeness to the horrors and excitement of war informed both his famed cynicism and his fiction. As S.T. Joshi says in his new Introduction to these, the complete supernatural stories, 'The element that fuses Bierce's tales . . . is the focus on what might be called the psychology and physiology of fear. . . . Bierce is relentless in dissecting the precise succession of emotions that transforms a sane, normal man . . . into a gibbering lunatic.' And Bierce's precise, pared down writing style provides a perfect foil to the Gothic content of his tales.

 

In his journalism, Bierce habitually ridiculed belief in ghosts, apparitions, and revenants; but he nonetheless continued to find death a powerful and troubling concept. It is significant that he does not provide an entry for 'Death' in The Devil's Dictionary: it was, perhaps, the one phenomenon he could not poke fun at. His own death remains an enduring mystery: the septuagenarian Bierce went missing during a trip to Revolutionary Mexico late in 1913, and no trace of him has ever been found.

 

Contents: 'Introduction', by S.T. Joshi, 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge', 'A Tough Tussle', 'The Man and the Snake', 'A Watcher by the Dead', 'The Suitable Surroundings', 'An Inhabitant of Carcosa', 'The Boarded Window', 'The Middle Toe of the Right Foot', 'Haïta the Shepherd', 'The Damned Thing', 'The Eyes of the Panther', 'The Death of Halpin Frayser', 'An Adventure at Brownville', 'The Famous Gilson Bequest', 'The Secret of Macarger's Gulch', 'A Psychological Shipwreck', 'The Night-Doings at "Deadman's" ', 'John Bartine's Watch', 'The Realm of the Unreal', 'A Baby Tramp', 'Some Haunted Houses' ('The Isle of Pines', 'A Fruitless Assignment', 'A Vine on a House', 'At Old Man Eckert's', 'The Spook House', 'The Other Lodgers', 'The Thing at Nolan'), 'Bodies of the Dead' ('That of Granny Magone', 'A Light Sleeper', 'The Mystery of Charles Farquharson', ' "Dead and Gone" ', 'A Cold Night', 'A Creature of Habit'), 'Mysterious Disappearances' ('The Difficulties of Crossing a Field', 'An Unfinished Race', 'Charles Ashmore's Trail', 'Science to the Front'), 'A Diagnosis of Death', 'Moxon's Master', 'A Jug of Syrup', 'Staley Fleming's Hallucination', 'Beyond the Wall', 'The Stranger', 'The Ways of Ghosts' ('Present at a Hanging', 'A Cold Greeting', 'A Wireless Message', 'An Arrest'), 'Soldier-Folk' ('A Man with Two Lives', 'Three and One Are One', 'A Baffled Ambuscade', 'Two Military Executions'), 'The Moonlit Road', 'Bibliography' by S.T. Joshi.

 

Review:

'...an insight into a cynical soul who found humour in murder, patricide and all sorts of other macabre subjects. The master of the twish ending has at last come home.' Andrew McQuade, Gorezone

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