Wakefield, H. Russell

1888 - 1964

British writer of supernaturalist and detective/crime fiction, Wakefield is sometimes ranked among the best practitioners of the ghost story; his work is mentioned alongside that of M. R. James, LeFanu, Oliver Onions, and writers of similar achievement in the genre. While it may be possible to take some exception to such claims—Wakefield's prose has the occasional rough spot, and he tends to rush some of his conclusions, in my opinion—he certainly is one of the major practitioners of supernaturalist literature in the tradition of M. R. James and Oliver Onions, a tradition best represented by those stories in which malevolent ghosts inhabiting English country houses terrorize the (usually) innocent, temporary inhabitants, often to the point of death. Classic stuff....

Despite holding such a notable place in this mainline tradition, Wakefield is one of the more overlooked writers of supernaturalist fiction in this century. Aside from a few mentions on the pages of antiquarian booksellers and a few fragmentary bibliographic listings, there are no online resources related to Wakefield that I've been able to locate. In fact, if you're searching for the "H. Russell Wakefield Home Page," I think you've found it. [Sad note: the previous sentence has been on this web page since February of 2003, and remains true today.] It's worth noting that most of Wakefield's supernaturalist work is still under copyright, which of course further mitigates against much of a Web presence.

This paucity of e-resources is even less surprising in light of the fact there is currently very little by Wakefield in print: there are several titles available from Ash-Tree Press, a small Canadian publisher specializing in supernaturalist fiction. Prior to these editions the most recent was the 1982 The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield published by Academy Chicago and edited by Richard Dalby (this is a reprint of the 1978 edition published in London by J. Murray). A few of Wakefield's stories still circulate in anthologies.

Wakefield's supernaturalist works include the collections They Return at Evening [1928], Old Man's Beard [1929], Imagine a Man in a Box [1931], Ghost Stories [1932], A Ghostly Company [1935], The Clock Strikes Twelve [1940], and The Strayers from Sheol [1961]. These last two titles were published by August Derleth's Arkham House. "The Red Lodge" and "Blind Man's Buff" are two of the more widely anthologized tales; "Red Lodge" seems to be regarded as one of Wakefield's best, though "A Black Solitude" and "Immortal Bird" shouldn't be overlooked.

Bibliography [FantasticFiction]

Essays and Reviews:
"H. R. Wakefield's 'The Triumph of Death'" by rbadac [Weird Reviews; Violet Books]
"H. Russell Wakefield."