Over the last year or so I have been working my way through the old Pan Horror Stories series and got this to see how the horror anthology genre is faring. The answer seems to be pretty good, I'll also be checking the Mammoth Best New Horror stories out now as well.
In his introduction to this book, editor Charles Black, pays tribute to those anthology series of bygone days especially the Pan and Fontana volumes; and as a nice touch the book is dedicated to Herbert Van Thal, the brains behind the renowned Pan Horror Stories series.
This volume contains 18 varied tales and like the Pan books this volume contains some great tales, lots of decent ones, a few that just miss the target and an occasional lemon. The cover artwork is excellent, looking like a cadaverous Bruce Campbell readiing some ancient tome.
Crows (Frank Nicholas) - is a reasonable starter, a property developer is left an old house in a relatives will and goes to examine it, nice ending.
Regina vs. Zoskia (Mark Samuels) - a young lawyer inherits his practice's oldest legal case questioning the definiton of sanity.
The Older Man (Gary Fry) - odd events witnessed by a builder working on a house.
Power (Steve Goodwin) - strange goings on in Eastern Europe involving a cemetery, an old castle and a group on skinheads.
Cords (Roger B. Pile) - a young tourist couple visit an old cathedral and enter a nightmare world.
The Sound of Muzak (Sean Parker) - another very odd tale involving an odd alien organism, a struggling composer and inane music, witty rather than terrifying.
Shaped Like a Snake (D. F. Lewis) - a Doctor of Philosophy's stay at a seaside hotel and an ancient secret. Short and with a very open ending.
Only in your Dreams (David A. Sutton) - another great story, a child is menaced by night time visits from The Jelly Man, nice twist at the end.
The Wolf at Jessie's Door (Paul Finch) - a man is hounded by visions of a giant demon dog that coincides with his meeting an old flame, now a local Policewoman. My favourite tale from this volume.
Size Matters (John L. Probert) - yes it is what it sounds like, a darkly humourous horror story based on penis enlargement.
Spare Rib: a Romance (John Kenneth Dunham) - love after death.
Family Fishing (Gary McMahon)- a grandfather takes his grandson fishing, an old family traditin but certainly not what you might expect. Has a family link to a beloved classic horror story.
Subtle Invasion (David Conyers) - a frighteningly quick alien invasion largely seen through Australian eyes.
A Pie With Thick Gravy (D. F. Lewis) - a man-eating pie!
Lock-In (David A. Riley) - 4 old friends trapped in a pub that becomes enveloped in darkness and which comes under attack from that darkness, nice Lovecraftian twist.
Last Christmas (I Gave You My Life) (Franklin Marsh) - another nice ghost story with a reasonable twist.
"Shalt Thou Know My Name?" (Daniel McGachey) - a professor gets revenge on a rival who stole his work many years ago, echoes of Casting the Runes.
To Summon a Flesh Eating Demon (Charles Black) - the search for an ancient book, similar to Lovecraft's Necronomicon, with a comic twist and a nice tale to end the volume on, and one written by the editor himself.
The Pan Horror tales were produced Annually over 30 years. This, the first volume in the Black Book series was published in 2007 and the series is already on volume 7, which just goes to show that the horror anthology is alive and well.
I've got the next two lined up already.
on 23 September 2011
This book is a wonderful find! If like me you enjoy the old Pan horror anthologies or the films of Amicus then you will appreciate it.
I won't single out any individual tale or attempt to emulate the comprehensive review already posted here, but can only say that none of these stories entirely disappoints. The combination of traditional format coupled with more modern content makes for a perfect brew of horrific delights.
I was not familiar with any of the authors included here but will be looking out for their contributions to future volumes.
So sit back, crack open the beverage of your choice and enjoy.