I find it startling to admit that until recently I had never heard of Robert Westall. Yet here I am having just finished, in record time, Antique Dust a truly wonderful memorable and highly entertaining collection of ghost stories. These are unusual by the fact that so much of the author's writing was directed at teenagers and below and this is really his only anthology for adults. However that is not to say that his other works, many based on his 2nd ww experiences cannot be read and enjoyed by all. A special mention must also be made to Valancourt Books bringing back to life rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction. They were kind enough to send me a gratis copy of Antique Dust to read in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.
It should be noted if you are expecting horror of the gory and blood-stained variety then Robert Westall might not be to your liking. If however you appreciate the subtleties and imaginative storytelling of M R James then the variety of tales within Antique Dust will astound you. We are in the hands of antique traders and in particular Geoff Ashden who "wheels and deals"...."ducks and dives" as he attempts to make a living in the colourful world of antiquity. "Dealers are undertakers of a sort. When a man dies, the undertaker comes for his body, and quite often the dealer comes for the rest"
Every story in this collection is memorable but in particular the following were exceptional; "The Dumbledore" Ashden rediscovers a 2nd ww public house still actively serving and entertaining customers many years after the conclusion of hostilities...."The Dumbledore was still there...The same garish neon light the boys from the base had fixed up on VE night, saying The Dumbledore in big Hollywood handwriting. Relive the heroic lives of Major Stepanski, Captain O'Connell and Big Tex in a story with a very poignant and apt conclusion. "The Woolworth Spectacles" What happens when young impressionable Maude Cleveland purchases some spectacles from the Woolworths lost and uncollected spectacles counter....she will see life in a totally different way. "Portland Bill" Geoff attempts to help a young frightened mother in her frantic search for her missing son along the treacherous cliffs known as Portland Bill. It would appear that all is not as it seems with this young lady and her unusual story.
Westall's simple yet highly addictive style of writing and his imaginative prose paint a magical picture of both the people and the countryside...."Mainly, they were brown, hard-wrinkled pensioners who had come by ancient, highly polished cars, bring their own deckchairs to save money. They were wrapped up in overcoats, tucked deep into tartan rugs, determined to enjoy Easter Sunday as was their right."....."She was beautiful my bowels moved with lust for her"...."You don't survive as a dealer long without getting an eye for class, in a chair, a racehorse or a woman."
As a keen reviewer and blogger I read and review many books and I can honestly say this is probably one of the most imaginative and enjoyable collection of stories I have ever read. Highly...highly...recommended! So say hello to Tony Blackbarrow, Clocky Watson, Cunning Burridge and Sir Bernard Spilsbury as they bring to life the pages of Antique Dust.