Tales From The White Hart

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 5 stars

Although a fan of Arthur C. Clarke, I’d never heard of this collection before reading Charles Stross’s short story A Bird in the Hand on his blog (well worth reading itself), which was written in homage to ‘Tales from the White Hart’. I’ve encountered a few of the stories before in other collections, but never as a set, and I must say that I really enjoyed them.

The humour in these tall tales and shaggy dog stories is evident right from the word go, many of them are build-ups to a single pun delivered in the last line (and as someone who loves puns, I heartily approve) and even where it’s not, there’s always a good end to the story. The conceit is that Clarke himself is recording these stories, told by Harry Purvis, at a pub in London that was a mix of writers, editors and scientists (primarily physicists and engineers).

Amongst the humour, there’s place for some genuinely touching stories, with ‘The Man Who Ploughed the Sea’ being a great story of a rich man who’s running out of time, and all he wants is a yacht. ‘The Reluctant Orchid’ is genuinely creepy right up until the point it switches and baits and becomes hilarious, while ‘The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch’ is just good old fashioned farce.

Much like Spider Robinson’s ‘Callahan’s’, the ‘White Hart’ never existed, but if it did, it’s a place I’d love to stop for a drink some time.

Book details

ISBN: 9780283979101
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Year of publication: 1957

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