Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, December 23, 2016


Collected Stories by Roald Dahl (2006)

Long before he won fame as an author of children's books, Roald Dahl was noted for his short stories for adults.  Biting, acerbic, and macabre, the stories --many of which were televised -- brought wide acclaim.  Persnickety and opinionated, Dahl led an amazing life that might have come out of one of his stories.  A World War II fighter ace, diplomat, spy, Dahl was also one of the developers of an important piece of medical equipment. He won three Edgar Awards.  He wrote and hosted his own television show, Way Out; the television show Tales of the Unexpected was based on his short stories; he wrote the screenplay for a James Bond film; many of his children's books have been adapted as movies, from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to this year's The BFG.   He refused an OBE in 1986.  The Times named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.  Personal tragedy seemed to follow the 6 foot 6 inch Dahl:  when he was three, his older sister died from appendicitis to be followed weeks later by his father's sudden death from a heart attack; his third child, Theo, then just four months old, suffered from hydrocephalus after his baby carriage was struck by a taxi cab; his fourth child, Olivia, then 7, died from measles; and his first wife, the actress Patricia Neal, suffered from three devastating cerebral aneurysms while pregnant with their fifth child -- Dahl's efforts to help his wife re-learn to wake and talk was the subject of a film, The Patricia Neal Story.

Collected Stories is a new edition of 1991's Collected Short Stories.  It's what George Kelley would call a "big fat book" at 850 pages with 51 stories, from his early flying stories, to his shocker "twist" stories, to his sardonic sexual-themed extravaganzas, and beyond -- each marked by a mannerly and gently flowing ease of writing.  

Collected Stories reprints all but two of his adult stories -- those two had been included in his 1986 book Two Fables and were left out at the request of the Dahl estate.  Many of Dahl's stories were repackaged with newer stories for various collections.  I've sorted them out below to indicate what Dahl collection in which they first appeared.

From Over To you (1946):
  • An African Story
  • Only This
  • Katrina
  • Beware of the Dog
  • They Shall Not Grow Old
  • Someone Like You
  • Death of an old Old Man
  • Madame Rosette
  • Piece of Cake
  • Yesterday Was Beautiful

From Someone Like You (1953):
  • Nunc Dimittis
  • Skin
  • The Man from the South
  • The Soldier
  • The Sound Machine
  • Vengeance Is Mine Inc.
  • The Wish
  • Poison
  • Taste
  • Dip in the Pool
  • The Great Automatic Grammatizator
  • Claud's Dog (containing four shorter stories:  The Ratcatcher, Rummins, Mr Hoddy, & Mr Feasey)
  • My Lady Love, My Dove
  • Neck
  • Lamb to the Slaughter
  • Galloping Foxley
From Kiss Kiss (1960):
  • Edward the Conqueror
  • The Way Up to Heaven
  • William and Mary
  • Parson's Pleasure
  • Georgy Porgy
  • Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat
  • Royal Jelly
  • The Champion of the World
  • Genesis and Catastrophe
  • Pig
  • The Landlady
From Switch Bitch (1974):
  • The Visitor
  • The Last Act
  • The Great Switcheroo
  • Bitch
From Tales of the Unexpected (1979)
  • The Hitchhiker
  • The Umbreller Man

From More Tales of the Unexpected (1980)
  • Mr Botibol
  • The Butler
From Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life (1989):
  • Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life
From Collected Short Stories (1991)
  • The Bookseller
  • The Surgeon
A marvelous collection.  Highly recommended.


  1. I bought ROALD DAHL -- COLLECTED STORIES back in 2006 and loved it. Of course, I'd read about half of the stories from previous collections, but I didn't mind rereading them a bit. Dahl is a vastly underrated writer! Nice review!

  2. I have a collection, supposedly complete, at least this thick... read just one story so far... soon, soon.

  3. Excellent choice...Dahl, like William Campbell Gault and Joan Aiken and Gordon DIckson, was to be one of those writers whose young readers' work I saw all around me or loved intensely, and then discovered their adult work as a child and was at least as excited, often more so. Does this volume carry any story notes or suggestions as to why these stories were chosen...I certainly particularly remember "Royal Jelly" and "The Sound Machine" from my childhood reading of "Alfred Hitchcock" anthologies (one each of the Robert Arthur and Harold Q. Masur volumes).

    1. No story notes, Todd, but there is an informative 14 page introduction by editor Jeremy Treglown, as well as an interesting chronology covering 1916-2005.

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  7. For some reason, I can't post an active link in your comments...ah, well. My friend, the comedian Jackie Kashian, has been for some years now conducting an interview podcast devoted to the enthusiasms of (mostly, but not exclusively, fellow comedians), and her guest on this week's episode chose to discuss Roald Dahl: