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Oliver Onions Author Page

Biography (Currently taken from Wikipedia):
Originally trained as a commercial artist, he worked as a designer of posters and books, and as a magazine illustrator, before starting his career in writing. The first editions of his novels were published with dust jackets bearing full-colour illustrations painted by Onions himself. He married the writer Berta Ruck in 1909 and they had two sons, Arthur (born 1912) and William (born 1913). Onions legally changed his name to George Oliver in 1918, but continued to publish under the name Oliver Onions.
Onions wrote detective fiction, social comedy and historical fiction; Poor Man's Tapestry (1946) and its prequel, Arras of Youth (1949) are about the adventures of a juggler, Robert Gandelyn, in the fourteenth century. Onions wrote two science fiction novels: New Moon (1918) about a utopian Britain, and The Tower of Oblivion (1921), featuring a middle-aged man who recedes back to his youth. Onions wrote several collections of ghost stories, of which the best known is Widdershins (1911). It includes the novella The Beckoning Fair One, widely regarded as one of the best in the genre of horror fiction, especially psychological horror. On the surface, this is a conventional haunted house story: an unsuccessful writer moves into rooms in an otherwise empty house, in the hope that isolation will help his failing creativity. His sensitivity and imagination are enhanced by his seclusion, but his art, his only friend and his sanity are all destroyed in the process. The story can be read as narrating the gradual possession of the protagonist by a mysterious and possessive feminine spirit, or as a realistic description of a psychotic outbreak culminating in catatonia and murder, told from the psychotic subject's point of view. The precise description of the slow disintegration of the protagonist's mind is terrifying in either case. Another theme, shared with others of Onions' stories, is a connection between creativity and insanity; in this view, the artist is in danger of withdrawing from the world altogether and losing himself in his creation. Another noted story from Widdershins is "Rooum", about an engineer pursued by a mysterious entity.
The title novella of The Painted Face (1929) is about a Greek girl who is the reincarnation of an ancient spirit; Ashley describes it as "one of the finest works in the genre". The collection also contains "The Master of the House", a story involving a werewolf and black magic.

Onions was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his 1946 novel Poor Man's Tapestry.

Available on Ghastly Tales:

The Beckoning Fair One

Complete Horror Bibliography

  • Back 'O The Moon (1906)
  • Widdershins (1911)
  • Ghosts in Daylight (1924)
  • The Painted Face (1929)
  • The Collected Ghost Stories (Nicholson & Watson (London), 1935)
  • Bells Rung Backward (1953)
  • The Collected Ghost Stories (Tartarus Press (Carlton-in-Coverdale, North Yorkshire), 2000; expanded edition)
  • The Dead of Night: The Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions (Wordsworth Editions (London), 2010; ISBN 978-1-84022-640-9)

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