The Other Passenger Essay - Critical Essays

John Keir Cross


Cross was a Scottish writer, anthologist, and broadcaster who, under his own name and two pseudonyms, Susan Morley and Stephen MacFarlane, was best known for his juvenile science-fiction novels, Angry Red Planet (1945) and SOS from Mars (1954; published in the United States as The Red Journey Back); several distinguished horror anthologies; and The Other Passenger, which collects the majority of his short adult fiction. Cross’s knowledge of Scottish locales, dialects, and manners is effective in establishing appropriately atmospheric and detailed contexts and moods. “The Lovers” is narrated in Scottish dialect. He is a careful craftsman, and he fashions his horrors with a kind of needlepoint precision.

Although the Grand Guignol elements and flashes of diabolical humor may be compared to elements of the work of John Collier and Roald Dahl, Cross’s subjects, tone, and style most strongly recall the early nineteenth century German master E. T. A. Hoffmann. Cross’s narratives are complex, elliptical stories within stories, aggregates of fragments told by numerous witnesses and filtered through the sensibility of a central narrator. Frequently, this outer narrator will interrupt the tale, comment irresolutely on its direction and meaning, digress momentarily, and then return to the work at hand. Ultimate meanings are elusive. As a character suggests in “Miss Thing and the Surrealists,” life is like an onion:...

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