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The Magicians: The Occult in Fact and Fiction

The Magicians: The Occult in Fact and Fiction - Peter Haining This themed anthology looks at writers who were either personally involved or deeply interested in matters of the occult, spiritualism and mysticism. All the stories herein are about people getting involved in the black arts, satanic rituals or magic rites. It is suggested, by the introductions to each story, that there is some basis in fact for each of the stories.

Many of these stories I found quite weak and mediocre and relied for their effect, I think, the reader believing them to be factual or realistic depictions of magical rites. I suppose if you have a particular interest in the occult then you will probably find these stories more interesting, and I guess it is such people who this anthology was really made for.

There were a few very good stories in here though. Aleister Crowley's "An Experiment in Necromancy" was wonderfully effective and sent chills down my spine. The stories by Dion Fortune and Arthur Conan Doyle were entertaining, Arthur Machen's "An Occurrence in Clerkenwell" I had read before as part of his larger story "The Three Impostors" but the real highlight of the collection for me was "With an Intent to Steal" by Algernon Blackwood. I'm a real Blackwood fan anyway but I've not read this story and it was wonderfully scary. I suggest it be read in a darkened room with a torch for the best effect.

When I read anthologies, I like to be introduced to new authors but the only author (new to me) I was left feeling like I should track down more of their work was Aleister Crowley. Arthur Conan Doyle was already on my radar for obvious reasons. The others ranged from forgettable to fairly entertaining. Overall it was good, but too many weak stories let it down.