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The Good Unknown
and Other Ghost Stories
In this new collection of eleven stories, Stephen Volk explores the wide span of possibilities of the ghost story in its various manifestations—from hauntings set in the quotidian modern world, to ones that hark back to traditional, but no less chilling, tales of the past.
When battle-scarred army veterans are recruited for an archaeological dig in Wiltshire, more than bones are unearthed, in ‘Unrecovered’. A pleasure park becomes anything but pleasurable in ‘Three Fingers, One Thumb’. In ‘31/10’ a notorious, fateful BBC TV studio is revisited, while in ‘The Waiting Room’ a supernatural encounter makes Charles Dickens himself come to question both his creative inspiration and his fundamental beliefs.
Three brand new stories are included here: ‘The Crossing’, ‘Baby on Board’, and ‘Lost Loved Ones’—the latter novella being a sequel to Volk’s television series Afterlife and a welcome return for him to the much-loved character of Alison Mundy, the troubled psychic medium, in a world post-Covid.
As with the rest of the book, these have the author’s trademark mixture of ‘horror and heartbreak’ (Nathan Ballingrud); qualities that have earned him praise as ‘one of our genre’s foremost practitioners in the short form’ (Peter Tennant, Black Static) and ‘one of the most provocative and unsettling of contemporary writers’ (Andy Hedgecock, Interzone).
About the author
Stephen Volk’s ghost stories for the screen include BBCTV’s legendary faux documentary Ghostwatch (1992), which gave the nation nightmares and caused questions to be raised in Parliament; the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife starring Lesley Sharp and Andrew Lincoln. He is the author of four collections of short stories (Dark Corners, Monsters in the Heart, The Parts We Play, and Lies of Tenderness) as well as The Dark Masters Trilogy. He won a British Fantasy Award for Monsters in the Heart and a BAFTA for the acclaimed ghost-adjacent short film The Deadness of Dad starring Rhys Ifans, set in his Welsh home town.
"Whether evoking the classic ghost story tradition or working in a more contemporary vein, Volk demonstrates complete mastery of the uncanny. If, as a character in one story reasons, 'ghosts were the natural consequence of the brain trying to make sense of what it saw,' then this collection shows imaginatively the variety of disturbing forms they can take. Horror readers will be wowed."
'Starred' review, Publishers Weekly
"The Good Unknown and other ghost stories is another triumph from Volk, digging deep into the human condition via an extraordinary range of voices, perspectives, and periods. Often melancholic, frequently eerie or chilling, and above all, very, very human. Highly recommended."
Kit Power, Ginger Nuts of Horror
"This is another outstanding collection from Stephen Volk. In a review of his work many years ago I called him a master craftsman and it’s an assessment I stand by, and one which is reinforced by the stories in The Good Unknown. It’s a book I heartily recommend."
Anthony Watson, Dark Musings
"A fantastic and thought-provoking collection of ghost stories, one that is not just content to break the mould, but has great fun in assembling the pieces into new, imaginative and intelligent shapes."
Jim Moon, Microgoria
'A fabulous collection. (The) Dickens story is worth the price alone. Glorious.' - Ashley Pharoah, co-creator, Life on Mars
'Stephen Volk is not only one of our finest screenwriters, but one of our finest writers of short stories. His characterisation is deft and versatile and he can deliver an emotional gut-punch, a subtle sadness, or the deep eeriness of the supernatural with equal brilliance. Above all, he has the kind of smooth, swiftly immersive prose style that looks deceptively easy to do but is – as any writer knows – the hardest thing for an author to achieve. Any new collection of his is a prize, and The Good Unknown is no exception. Avail yourself of it at once.'
Daniel Church, author of The Hollows
'Stephen Volk’s ghostly tales are subtle, intelligent and brimming with a sense of unease. He can lull you into a fictive dream that feels closer than reality and cut you down with a finely-honed sentence. This is a superb collection from one of the most outstanding writers around'
Alison Littlewood, author of A Cold Season and The Hidden People
'Meticulously crafted, these stories are multi-faceted and brilliantly varied and imaginative. A masterful collection which demonstrates why Volk is justifiably regarded as one of the masters of short horror fiction.'
Lucie McKnight Hardy, author of Water Shall Refuse Them and Dead Relatives
'Stephen Volk is a legend in the horror and supernatural genre... a keen observer of human beings who get caught up in the supernatural, what makes them vulnerable to the strange and unexplainable, and the kind of things that happen when they start to believe them. Like all of his work, The Good Unknown is a must-read'
David Surface, author of Terrible Things
'Stephen Volk has long been known for his dark tales, but The Good Unknown offers more than simply macabre thrills. From opener 'Unrecovered' to the deeply affecting title story, Volk displays a unique sensitivity and empathy for his characters, which makes the twist of the knife all the more painful when it comes. A startlingly good set of uncanny stories - but more than that, a wonderful collection of short fiction, period.'
Dan Coxon, award-winning editor of Writing the Uncanny, author of Only The Broken Remain
Copyright Tartarus Press 2023