The Unsettled Dust
by: Robert Aickman
The Unsettled Dust by Robert Aickman / ISBN 9780571311736 / 362-page paperback from Faber & Faber
This one contains maybe my favorite Aickman story, "The Stains" (though it's hard to choose).
Robert Aickman, the supreme master of the supernatural, brings together eight of his self-proclaimed "strange stories". The stories in this collection are constructed immaculately; the neuroses of his characters painted in subtle shades. He builds dread by the steady accrual of realistic detail, until the reader realizes that the protagonist is heading towards their doom as if in a dream. His characters are often lonely and middle-aged, but all have the same thing in common - they are all brought to the brink of an abyss that shows how terrifyingly fragile our piece of mind actually is.
Robert Aickman (1914–1981) was the grandson of Richard Marsh, a leading Victorian novelist of the occult. Though his chief occupation in life was first as a conservationist of England's canals he eventually turned his talents to writing what he called 'strange stories.' Dark Entries (1964) was his first full collection, the debut in a body of work that would inspire Peter Straub to hail Aickman as 'this century's most profound writer of what we call horror stories.'