If you’ve followed this blog for any period of time, you know I’m a big fan of the writings of Richard Marsh (1857-1915). I’ve reviewed a number of his works on this blog, and Valancourt Books has been doing a genuine service to the literary world in reprinting his Victorian and Edwardian era novels.
For those unfamiliar, Richard Marsh was roughly the Stephen King of his day, producing a number of wildly popular novels and short stories of mystery and horror. His breakthrough novel, The Beetle: A Mystery (1897), even outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula for a time! A story part mystery, part horror, and part romance novel, The Beetle was a good indicator of Marsh’s range of writing interests.
These same interests appear in Between the Dark and the Daylight (1902), the most recent of Marsh’s books reprinted by Valancourt:
The volume collects twelve of Marsh’s short stories, ranging from the light and humorous to the horrific. These are not Marsh’s best works — The Seen and the Unseen, Both Sides of the Veil, and especially Curios contain better — but they are entertaining and showcase his versatility as a writer.
The stories are a bit hit-or-miss, but there are nevertheless some gems among them. Of the twelve, some of my favorites:
My Aunt’s Excursion. We all know how frustrating and ridiculous a visit by relatives can be! In this hilarious story, the narrator describes a disastrous visit to London by his aunt and her motley collection of neighbors.
Exchange is Robbery. Messrs. Golden and Ruby, jewelers to the aristocracy, are the victims of a massive theft of product. Tracking down the perpetrator leads to one bizarre surprise after another.
The Haunted Chair. An old chair at a gentleman’s club seems to be connected to the appearance of a known rascal who should be halfway around the world.
Nelly. In this very touching romance, a man rescues his long-lost love from a life of despair after recognizing her in an artist’s recently-finished painting.
La Haute Finance. Perhaps the most horrifying of the stories, a man hatches a scheme to make a lot of money by taking advantage of the darkest aspects of human nature.
A Relic of the Borgias. A story of murders, past, present and future, and the mysterious object that links them together.
What is really striking about some of the stories is their timelessness. “My Aunt’s Excursion” will ring true to anyone who has had to deal with their relatives visiting. “La Haute Finance” is especially shocking; with the dates and places changed, it might have been ripped from the darkest headlines of the last decade.
Between the Dark and the Daylight isn’t the best of Marsh’s work, but it contains a number of powerful stories and gives a good overview of both his writing and a lovely snapshot of Edwardian life.
It is worth noting, as usual for Valancourt editions, that the book also contains a fascinating introduction analyzing the works of Marsh and has a reproduction of the original cover.