Tag Archives: Chekhov

Madness in the Garden

The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov (1894)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 7, 2016



Some think there’s a fabled connection between genius and madness. Van Gogh and Virginia Woolf come to mind. Poe too. Aristotle said that “no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”  Anton Chekhov wrote The Black Monk in 1893 while living in the village of Melikhove. “I wrote ‘The Black Monk’ without any melancholy, in cold reflection,” he reported in a letter to his publisher. Chekhov said he had dreamed of a ”monk who floats over the field and when I woke up I wrote about him.”




This short story is about a young man named Andrei Vasilich Kovrin. A story full of realism, mystery, supernaturalism, sanity, madness. Kovrin is on the verge of a breakdown when his doctor advises him to live in the Russian country for restoration. He visits his childhood friend Tanya on her father’s estate. Long autumn walks in the garden, star gazing and conversation: Kovrin begins to relax and becomes enchanted with Tanya and his surroundings. One day, beyond the treasured garden, across a wide field, he sees the Black Monk. He becomes haunted by this odd creature who makes regular visits and chats with him. Their meetings are actually pleasant experiences, probably “a hallucination,” Kovrin decides about this Black Monk, born of legend. But nature has its way and plays a compelling role in this tale of the unexpected. Gothic. Fantastic. Romantic. And just a little bit slippery.

“What’s the harm in a hallucination?”






Read The Black Monk at Eldritch Press.com

Listen to the audio on You Tube.




Anton Chekhov is recognized as a master of the short story form, known for his lyrical and atmospheric qualities. His plays are still performed worldwide. More about Anton Chekhov at “How to Write Like Chekhov,” book review and commentary.


If you are a Chekhovian reader and love historical fiction, you might like The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson. Released May this year from HarperCollins, this enchanting story of Anton Chekhov’s summers at the Luka estate on Sumy where he meets a young blind woman and establishes an endearing friendship is a beautiful read.



Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.


Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine    

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZ Publishing


Filed under Anton Chekhov, fiction, horror blogs, literary horror, phantoms, psychological horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, tales of terror

How to Write Like Chekhov

How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration, Straight From His Own Letters and Work.

Edited by Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek

Book Review and Commentary   May 31, 2016


Reading the letters of authors is often an eye-opening experience for writers. In correspondence we can find an intimacy that a writing craft book fails to provide.  In How to Write Like Chekhov, editors Brunello and Lencek give us an experience with Chekhov that goes beyond a technical craft book. And for this, I truly appreciated getting to know Chekhov’s thinking and values as he digs deeply into expressing himself as an artist and a man. Chekhov wrote 568 short stories, numerous novels, and plays. Tolstoy called him an ‘incomparable artist—an artist in life.’

How relative is his advice from over 100 years ago? Well, if you are looking for a mentor who understands the transformative power of art, this is your guy for the price of a $10 or $20 book. Or a free read at your library.

The book is in two parts: correspondence and travel memoir: part 1 is theory (mostly correspondence) and part 2 is demonstration (from his travel memoir The Island of Sakhalin). Lots of character sketches and landscape descriptions, which are models of prose. What stands out in this book is his voyage of discovery. This for any writer is really good bread to chew on.


For Whom Should One Write is a chapter four pages long. Money? Praise? Pleasure? You will find many short tips like practice makes perfect, don’t preach, don’t teach, talk long walks, visit cemeteries, lock up your story for a year and then read it again. I especially liked his advice on deadlines: “they [deadlines] produce haste and great weight and get in the way of writing.” Tell that to the Nanowrimo folks.

While he spends some time on brevity, polishing, cutting, and the literary police, it’s not until we get to Part 2, Good Shoes and a Notebook that the book comes full circle.

Chekhov says that a writer must ‘insert yourself into the scene.’ If a writer is the investigator of a scene, he or she ‘is also the object of the observation.’ How does this work? In the chapter “The Actual Writing” the author writes a scene from the Voyevodsk prison in Due. The prose here is impeccable with emotional truth that is classic Chekhov. I had to close the book for a moment; it was that powerful.

This book is not a guide on how to write; it is not a roadmap on how to write a better book. It is a clear observation into deep artistic expression and how to live the life of a writer, not just do it.

ChekhovHow toWriteimgres






Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860 — 1904) was a Russian physician, short story writer and playwright. Chekhov is thought to be the founder of the modern short story, known to influence such writers as Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Somerset Maugham, Raymond Carver, and John Cheever. Most famous for his plays The Cherry Orchard, The Three Sisters, The Sea-Gull.




Anton Chekhov died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 in 1904. His last words were, “I haven’t had champagne for a long time.” When there was no hope for a patient’s recovery, it was customary for the doctor to offer the patient a glass of champagne.


My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.



Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing
     the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay


Next writing book on my list to review is for mystery and supernatural writers:

The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker) Annotations by Mort Castle.

Writer’s Digest Edition.

 Come with me and explore the craft and techniques of Bram Stoker.




Filed under Anton Chekhov, Book Reviews, fiction, horror blogs, literary horror, short story blogs, supernatural

A Witch is a Witch

The Witch  by Anton Chekhov (1918)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 3, 2015


The lovely and young Raissa, adorned with hair plaits that touch the floor, is a witch. Or maybe not. Her husband Savely is a red-haired, grouchy and repulsive  older man who believes his wife is a witch and blames her for the wicked snowstorm and cold they must endure in their little house in the countryside.

Our story opens in true Chekhovian style with descriptive atmospherics.


imgres“A plaintive lament sobbed at the window, on the roof, or in the stove. It sounded not like a call for help, but like a cry of misery, a consciousness that it was too late, that there was no salvation.”

A postman and his partner become lost in the storm and knock at their cabin door. Raissa opens the door to these strangers. And the postman becomes enchanted, or should I say bewitched, by Raissa’s lovely neck.




Watch for the fascinating dark imagery that is the star of this story. Sexual and spiritual desires are themes in this fiction by the long acclaimed master of the short story, Anton Chekhov. He is famous for his anti-climactic endings that leave a reader to ponder Chekhov’s messages. And his prose! We can still marvel today at his talents.  Eudora Welty  said “Reading Chekhov was just like the angels singing to me.” For my writer followers here, in case you’ve not read Chekhov’s Six Principles of a Good Story, here they are. My favorite is #6. Chekhov certainly fulfilled that one.

  1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature
  2. Total objectivity
  3. Truthful descriptions of persons and objects
  4. Extreme brevity
  5. Audacity and originality: flee the stereotype
  6. Compassion


150px-Anton_Chekhov_and_Olga_Knipper,_1901Chekhov’s death has been a well-known story in literary history. Raymond Carver fictionalized it in his short story Errand (read it here). If you’re a Chekhov fan, you must read Errand. Chekhov’s wife Olga  tells it like this.  “Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe (“I’m dying”). The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: “It’s a long time since I drank champagne.” He drained it and lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed and call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child.” [From Olga Knipper, Memoir, in Benedetti, Dear Writer, Dear Actress, 284]




Read The Witch at the Classic Reader http://www.classicreader.com/book/394/1/

Unfortunately I could not find an audio of this story but there are many others here at Chekhov Audio.

[Art of nude witch is by Albert Joseph Penot, “Sabbat,” 1910]


Other Reading Web Sites to Visit


Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com        Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian   Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books     The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.


Filed under Anton Chekhov, fiction, horror, horror blogs, literature, psychological horror, short stories, suspense, tales of terror, witches

Watching A Dead Body in White Linen

A Dead Body  by Anton Chekhov (1886)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  June 4, 2013

How many stories have you read where the dead body is the main character? This short-short (really a snapshot of a moment in fiction, a 15-minute read) by Chekhov is probably not one his most praised pieces of work. We know Chekhov for his brilliant plays, for his literary and spiritual intelligence, but he’s not well known for his tales of terror. Most would be surprised to hear that his first short story sold to Dragonfly in 1880; thus began his career as a crime and mystery writer.

I liked A Dead Body because the story does not really “develop” for the reader, but more “envelopes” the reader. It’s highly mysterious and a puzzle that still haunts me with its drama and symbolism. In fact, everything here is emblematic and makes for a fascinating attempt to draw connections. Dan Brown could learn something from Chekhov’s subtle and elusive prose.

The scene opens on an August night in the misty forest. A dead man is shrouded  in white linen on the ground. A wooden cross is upon his chest. Two peasant men are sitting by “watching.”  One man is smart. The other man, Syoma, is not so smart and doesn’t really understand; he is told to “Think!”

There is perfect stillness.

There is sleepiness.  A small camp fire is burning down. There is mention of an owl … a crane … three minutes … three days. A soul.

The “watch” is silent.

And then a stranger in a monk’s cassock, a pilgrim, comes by. There is talk of outer darkness, murder, and suicide. There is an offer of money, five kopecks. The monk makes a movement of five steps.

There is the fear of the dead.

Chekhov weaves us into a moment of pure suspension. Don’t miss it because the ending will cause you to say, What? What happened here? Typical of Chekhovian endings, which often just suddenly stop or hit you with the unexpected. In fact, the absolute last image still has me captured … as it will you.

Take fifteen minutes to read this story that is likely a forgotten and puzzling tale. And if you have any insight as to the meaning of the last line, do post your thoughts in the Comments. I’m starving for opinions on this one!

Read the full text at The Literature Network




Filed under Anton Chekhov, fiction, literature, mysteries, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror, weird tales