18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome reprint of the first of the classic series.
This review refers to the reprint of volume 1 of the Pan Horror Stories series, it may appear against other volumes due to a known glitch on Amazon.
Bear in mind that this anthology was first published in 1959 and as in all these portmanteau style books, the factor that ties them together 'horror' is often in the mind of the reader. To a modern audience who may...
Published on 6 Oct 2010 by I. R. Kerr
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Reissued
Originally published in 1959 this is a reissue of the first volume in the most iconic of horror anthology series, The Pan Book of Horror Stories, complete with original 1950's artwork. Reading this book is akin to taking a lesson in the history of horror literature. Many of today's contemporary writers hold a debt to the series this title spawned. Which begs the question,...
Published on 3 Nov 2010 by DC
Most Helpful First | Newest First
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome reprint of the first of the classic series.,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)This review refers to the reprint of volume 1 of the Pan Horror Stories series, it may appear against other volumes due to a known glitch on Amazon.
Bear in mind that this anthology was first published in 1959 and as in all these portmanteau style books, the factor that ties them together 'horror' is often in the mind of the reader. To a modern audience who may be used to far more graphic tales with sex and gore they may appear a little tame but persevere as amongst them are some nice spine-tingling tales. The article by Johnny Mains gives a great insight into the 30 year history of this memorable series.
There are some great stories the Lovecraftian 'Horror in The Musuem','House of Horror' and 'Raspberry jam'. Some creepy ones 'The Kill' 'The Copper Bowl' 'W S' and more than a few that have not stood the test of time.
The full line up is as follows
Jugged Hare (Joan Aiken) - pretty weak
Submerged ((A L Barker) almost a pre-cursor of Stand By Me, a young boy discovers a body.
His Beautiful Hands (Oscar Cook), Ok-ish
The Copper Bowl ((George Fielding Eliot) nice and with a grisly twist at the end
Contents Of The Dead Man's Pocket (Jack Finney) so so
The Kill, ((Peter Fleming) a nicely subdued werewolf tale
The Physiology Of Fear (C S Forester) a comment on Nazism
W S (L P Hartley) a forerunner of Stephen King's 'The Dark Half'
The Horror In The Museum (Hazel Heald) a great tale with Lovecraftian themes
The Library (Hester Holland) OK,
The Mistake (Fielden Hughes) a tale of premature burial
Oh, Mirror, Mirror (Nigel Kneale) a strange fairy tale
Serenade For Baboons (Noel Langley) OK
The Lady Who Didn't Waste Words (Hamilton Macallister) I won't either, move on.
A Fragment Of Fact (Chris Massie) hmmmm
The House Of Horror (Seabury Quinn) well creepy
Behind The Yellow Door (Flavia Richardson) an Ok tale of a mad doctor
The Portobello Road (Muriel Spark) a slow moving yet effective story of a murder victim haunting her killer.
The Squaw (Bram Stoker) ok and with a grisly end that you will see coming
Flies (Anthony Vercoe) excellent nice and with an odd twist
Raspberry Jam (Angus Wilson) starts slow but wait till the last page for the true horror
Nightmare (Alan Wykes) a weak tale to end the volume on.
As in the original printing the tales are represented A-Z by author's surname so the book starts with 2 quite poor tales and one so-so one before The Copper Bowl rescues it. A purely alphabetical listing does not make for sensible editing and if you based your opinions on the first few tales you may have given up and would have missed some real gems.
Raspberry Jam is the stand out tale but Flies, The Copper Bowl, The House of Horror, The Horror in the Museum and a few others are well worth reading.
Some of my copies of the earlier volumes are a little foxed and decidedly dog-eared and I look forward to future reprints.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Reissued,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)Originally published in 1959 this is a reissue of the first volume in the most iconic of horror anthology series, The Pan Book of Horror Stories, complete with original 1950's artwork. Reading this book is akin to taking a lesson in the history of horror literature. Many of today's contemporary writers hold a debt to the series this title spawned. Which begs the question, what are the stories like when viewed through contemporary eyes?
Some have definitely stood the test of time better than others. First up is a story entitled, Jugged Hare by Joan Aiken. I wasn't impressed by this story, and I think it highlights the problem that a number of the stories in the collection have, which is they're overly predictable. Due to the passage of time, and because subsequently so many of the themes have been taken and reworked by later writers into stories for one medium or the other, a number of these tales are simply too easy to foretell. This also means that some of the stories are not quite as creepy as they might once have been. Not such a great start then. Next is Submerged by A.L Barker, and this is much better. This was still reasonably predictable, but I enjoyed the writing style, and generally felt this tale of the spoiling of a young man's idyllic retreat, had more potency that Aiken's tale of murder. Next is His Beautiful Hands by Oscar Cook, which frankly, I thought was dull. The Copper Bowel by George Fielding Elliot, and especially The Kill, an atmospheric werewolf tale by James Bond author Ian Fleming's older brother Peter Fleming are much better. Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket is a visual and still effective piece by American pulp writer Jack Finney, whose best known work was probably The Body Snatchers. The story that inspired the film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
And so it goes, one average story, one dated one, and a few that still stand up well. The best for me include The Horror in the Museum by Hazel Heald, a great Lovecraftian story about a sinister selection of wax exhibits in a museum, and their fanatical curator. Bram Stoker's The Squaw, which although you'll see the end coming a mile off, is still entertaining; and it will make you think twice about upsetting a cat. The Portobello Road by Muriel Spark, captures well a melancholy tone of halcyon days lost to the scourge of time and obsessive behaviour. Raspberry Jam by Angus Wilson plods along until a gruesome final page ensures the story still has impact. Not so good, Serenade for Baboons by Noel Langley, which simply has not aged well. Neither, The Nightmare by Alan Wykes, an unfortunately weak story with which to end the collection.
So, read on their own merit with modern eyes, these tales are definitely a bit of a mixed bag. That said, this is still a massively important collection. The most effective of these stories show the art of creepy tale telling at its classic best. With a new foreword by horror expert Johnny Mains, there has never been a better time to acquaint yourself with this most influential of horror anthologies. These are stories that any serious horror fan has to read, even if you may feel like you've read a few of them before. Remember, in most cases it started here.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy...,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)Let me tell you of a dirty little secret, reissued from the UK's pulp past. This book is a glorious reissue of the first in a series of thirty horror books that delimited and defined many a British horror reader for over twenty-five years.
On its original issue it was seen as something garish and unpleasant, its horrific tales too gruesome and unsettling for many. When you ask many of the present day genre writers - Stephen Jones, Clive Barker, Mark Morris, Phillip Pullman - it is this series they remember that affected them when younger.
So: in this reissue, with a new introduction by Johnny Mains, we have a new edition of a book that otherwise stays the same, even down to the original cover of a black cat's face on a black background (related to the Bram Stoker tale in the book) and the 3'6 price label in the bottom right corner of the cover.
We have twenty-two tales, from some familiar names - as well as the aforementioned Bram Stoker, there's also Jack Finney, Nigel Kneale, C.S. Forester, and Seabury Quinn - to others which are less so these days - Hester Holland, L.P. Hartley, Hamilton Macallister, anyone?
Though the names may not necessarily be familiar, titles like `Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets' (Jack Finney), `The Library' (Hester Holland) and `The Horror in the Museum' (Hazel Heald) pretty much tell you what to expect. Some have been reprinted through the years - Bram Stoker's' The Squaw', for example, though this is one of his lesser known tales (and involves no vampires!)- and yet there are many other near-unknown tales that deserve a revivification. In fact, it is the fact that many of these are less known that made this a treat for me.
As perhaps you might expect from a British book of the 1950's, it often reads with that British sense of the stiff upper lip, of facing adversity under pressure, intermingled with a feeling of distress and tension, though it must be said that not all are British. (There are two stories reprinted by permission from the great Arkham House, for example, which give a decidedly Weird Tales feel to parts of the collection.) And yet there is that thing that can only really be described as a sense of unease. Although there is, unlike other books later in the series, no profanity, comparatively little grue and a surprisingly substantial amount of psychological subtlety, there are scenes of torture, gross awfulness and violence. We also have adultery, jealousy and the odd bit of nastiness. Though time may have diluted the chills a little, it is a wonderfully nostalgic read.
Two things struck me most on rereading. The first is that how important the settings are. Many are quintessentially English, from gloomy rooms and desolate buildings and the back streets of London to the quiet country lanes and softly flowing little rivers, all are here. It is these quietly beautiful and imposing environs that accentuate the weirdness within, and this makes the tales eerily effective.
Secondly, it was also surprising to find that many of the stories still hold up after all this time. Particular favourites of mine were Nigel Kneale's Oh, Mirror, Mirror, until recently very hard to get hold of, and Oscar Cook's His Beautiful Hands, a grisly tale of decaying flesh. In a similar way, C.S. Forster's The Physiology of Fear has a 1950's take on the Nazi concentration camps that fuses both horror and guilt. By contrast, Angus Wilson's Strawberry Jam is unsettlingly icky. It was great to read one of Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin tales again, in The House of Horror, though it is clear that some aspects of the character and culture have dated - the funnily translated phrases from French into English, the use of the term negro as acceptable. Despite this, this is an undervalued and near-forgotten series that deserves a wider reading.
On the other hand, there are exceptions that have dated quite badly: George Fielding Eliot's The Copper Bowl is a derring-do tale of Chinese torture that reads like a bad pulp tale of the 1930's. Had it not been for the unforgettable portrayal of a rat, burrowing beneath the skin of a torture victim, this one would not have been memorable at all. Similarly, Muriel Spark's tale The Portobello Road involves the word `nig'. Though it can be argued that these tales were a product of their time, and the tale is partly set in South Africa, contemporary readers may find such parlance shocking, in a way different to that originally intended.
On the whole though, there are more hits than misses. There are tales that unsettle (LP Hartley's W.S.), tales that make you look at normal things in a different way and tales that are just a little messy.
If you fancy reading the origins of a series that became influential, if you appreciate a gently delicious shudder on an autumnal evening, then this is a great read. Recommended perhaps for that Halloween read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent retro read,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)I bought this as it contained a story by Seabury Quinn I read years ago- "The House of Horrors" and couldn't track down anywhere else, unless I was prepared to pay a couple of hundred pounds (which I'm not).
The Quinn story was great, (it's not the greatest tale in the world but I had a bit of a thing for re-reading it), and the rest of the stories were ok.
This is the first of the Pan Horror series, before they got too over reliant on gore. It feels very retro, the cover being a reprint of the original volume 1. It's nice to be able to buy this as a clean, new book, rather than the often grotty second hand copies on offer.
A lot are a bit dated. I found "Jugged Hare" a bit pointless, and that "His Beautiful Hands" was a bit of a let down.
"The Copper Bowl" has a gruesome form of torture in it but apart from that, is not the greatest of horror yarns.
Bram Stoker's "The Squaw" is in the book, a decent story I had read before. Now, as before, my overriding impression from this tale is what an absolute drag the wife of the main character is- fainting at the drop of a hat; Stoker is in full Victorian gentleman mode here.
I thought the best stories were "The Kill", a werewolf story- not bad. "The Mistake", and "Flies"- which was pretty decent.
I also enjoyed "Raspberry Jam", about two elderly, eccentric, boozed up sisters who go from being a bit peculiar to potentially very dangerous.
I thought the actual plot in "Raspberry Jam" was quite weak, but saved by the writer's engaging description of the sisters and events.
I also liked the introduction and the bit of history about Herbert Van Thal and the Pan series in general.
It was worth buying for the Quinn story, and I enjoyed my little trip down memory lane.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am so excited by this.,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)I have just purchased this book. I remember purchasing the original copy for 3/6 back in 1959. It was this series of amazing paperbacks that introduced me to such writers as H.P Lovecraft, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Quiller Couch (`Q'), H G Wells, and many more; far more than I can mention here. But it was thanks to the late Herbert Van Thal, affectionately known as Bertie, whose publishing skills and insight into what made an interesting anthology of stories sell that kept me reading for years. It was he who brought these short story collections to the successful attention of the public at large, and for that I am truly grateful. I still prefer the 19th and early 20th century style of writing for this genre. There is always a more satisfying, perhaps eerie atmosphere surrounding them that tingles one's spine and makes one feel uneasy.
I had the majority of the original collection as I recall, and always kept a watchful eye out for the next edition when I had finished the current one. Whatever happened to them all I cannot say, but I most certainly will be on the lookout for more reprints now that Johnny Mains has fired Pan up to resurrect them for us fans.
EDIT: Yes, the years have left their toll on some of the stories! But even so, they are still great pieces of storytelling and shouldn't be dismissed by the young reader. The horror genre has changed over the years, and the modern horror does illustrate a bit more sex and violence. However, the old fashioned way does have its place in literature. For me, I prefer the suspense rather than the gore. Joan Aiken's Jugged Hare is a lovely piece of writing, even if it is predictable. Jack Finney's 'Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket' is a classic.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome return,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)Things were pretty grim in December, 1959 in Britain. The charts saw the likes of Adam Faith being knocked off the top spot by Emile Ford and the Checkmates with What Do You Want To make These Eyes At Me For (tragically later resurrected by Shakin' (shaky) Stevens). The Vietnam war was just starting and the cold war was heating up but amidst the winter gloom there were some bright spots. The Twilight Zone debuted in the USA in October, Ben Hur was taking the film world by storm and in a back office in London, Herbert Van Thal was about to change the history of horror literature.
That last event was of course the publication of the first volume of the most important British horror anthology ever created, The Pan Book Of Horrors. A series which ran nearly as long as the cold war eventually fading away with the Van Thal name in 1989. It is testimony to the series importance that it is now back in all its glory, scary black cat and all. Of course the series was honoured earlier this year with Back From the Dead, The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories edited by Johnny Mains which saw five of the classic originals reprinted along with a superb selection of new stories by some of the original contributors. All that whetted the appetite but other than some creased, yellowing, dingy, second hand copy the pleasure of reading the full blown original has been denied to modern readers, now all that has changed.
Johnny Mains is once again at the helm and the whole horror community owes him a great debt for the sterling effort he has put in to get the series back on the shelves. Johnny also contributes an excellent essay on the history of the series. But what of the stories, have they stood the test of time, should they still be read in daylight "lest you should suffer nightmares"? Let's find out.
The first thing to note is the sheer variety of styles on offer here, from the country house tale to revenge, crime and supernatural horror. There may be less sex and swearing than in a more modern anthology but otherwise there is everything else you might expect. For me the richest most powerful tales are those which achieve that strange weirdness, that indefinable otherness which unsettles the reader.
Some of my favourites include Submerged by A.L. Barker where a strange young boy, used to wild swimming alone, has a very creepy encounter. The Horror In The Museum by Hazel Heald brings a Lovecraftian nightmare to a wax museum. Both Hamilton Macallister with The Lady Who Didn't Waste Words and Chris Massie with A Fragment of Fact bring to life more strange encounters with people and places.
The stars of the show for me are an excellent trilogy found towards the end of the book. Bram Stoker's The Squaw features the black cat from the cover in all its gory, glory. Anthony Vercoe's Flies is full of strange unsettling and chilling scenes but it is Angus Wilson's Raspberry Jam which steals the show. This slow burning tale of the psychological troubles of young Johnny and the adults who surround him bursts into life with a shocking, visceral climax that shows masterful pacing and characterisation.
Sure there are a couple that don't quite work for me, C.S Forester's, The Physiology Of Fear, was a nice idea poorly executed whilst the pseudo Poirot/Holmes character in Seabury Quinn's The House of Horror detracted from some otherwise nice scenes. Overall though the quality of the 22 stories on offer is excellent. Most have stood the test of time well and some have matured into excellent pieces.
The critics of the series would tell you that these books were shoddily written gorefests, simplistic tales for simplistic readers. This book completely refutes that and stands as an excellent testimony to the breadth, depth and creativity of the horror genre. Here's hoping this reissue is a success and that Pan go on to reprint others in the series...oh and a few new volumes wouldn't go amiss either.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Reprints of The Pan Books Of Horror, Please.,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)Having always been an avid reader of the The Pan Book of Horror Stories, I was really thrilled when they reprinted the first volume a few years ago. I would just like to know when are the publishers going to reprint more of these classic volumes? Please, please do not leave it at just the one, as these books really do deserve a rerun, as they are absolutely timeless, and the best collections of horror stories ever.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horror as it used to be,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)I read this when it first came out - enjoyed it then, enjoyed it again now. When are the rest being reprinted, soon?
1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly not for the modern horror audience,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)Horror over the last few years has come on leaps and bounds so it's a great shame when a title is re-released that sadly shows its age. This is the case with this offering from Pan originally released in 1959 which is more a book with a twist at the end of the short stories, which whilst by some of the names who made their name in horror, are sadly now no longer identifiable for the modern reader in situation or in character.
It was a brave move by Pan, it definitely had potential but the market has long since moved on with the readers tastes and demands having changed. A sad shame to be honest as I loved the nostalgic look of the cover which could bring back some fond memories for your parents or grandparents, so perhaps might make an interesting christmas gift.
0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and Racist Disappointment,
This review is from: The Pan Book of Horror Stories (Paperback)My title says it all, really. Many of these tales suffer from being totally outdated. As a result, many are dull.
Others suffer from the kind of racist point of view that wouldn't be relied on in stories today. Awful racial caricatures are hardly characterisation, and non-white skin does not work any more as a short-hand for 'sinister'.
You might say that this is just how it was in those days and readers should judge on other merits, but an emotional response is always going to be a factor. For instance, I couldn't feel any sympathy for the characters in Portobello Road after the dreadful racist slurs against the African wife of one of them, which rather defeats the purpose. I used to love these collections, but I'm afraid this anthology comprises far from the pick of the bunch.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Pan Book of Horror Stories by Various (Paperback - 1 Oct 2010)