We are now in the approach to Hallowe’en, or “the spooky season” as TV anchors in America like to call it when introducing reports about pumpkin spice latte, costume parties or alleged hauntings. We Britons more typically – and paradoxically – associate our ghost stories with Christmas. Dickens and Scrooge must be to blame.

Either way, as the clocks go back and the days shorten towards the Winter solstice, the darkness descends, stirring our fearful imaginings. To nurture them the English author John Lanchester has just published a new collection of disturbing tales for the digital age: Reality and Other Stories.

Lanchester’s books do not have a common theme. His first, The Debt to Pleasure, about a villainous epicure won a Whitbread Prize while falling into the poorly regarded category of belles-lettres. He has become more worldly since. After the 2007/2008 financial crisis he produced two volumes, one fiction and the other non-fiction. Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No-one Can Pay tried to explain what had happened in layman’s terms. The novel Capital, which dramatized the impact of a banker’s family, was turned into a peak time TV series starring Toby Jones. His dystopian fantasy The Wall was long listed for the booker prize in 2019. It seems to pre-figure some of the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s ideas for wave machines and floating barrages to keep out migrants.