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This review is from: Psycho-Mania! (Paperback)
Psycho-Mania! is a collection of 36 short stories featuring killers and psychos from a wide variety of horror and crime writers, and edited by the excellent Stephen Jones. And it's a very good anthology!
As a long time fan of horror and crime fiction, it was no surprise that I was drawn to this book particularly with the garish but brilliant cover by Les Edwards. I've also read the latest edition of the Mammoth Book of Horror (no. 24), and was felt unusually under-whelmed by it, so I bought this on a whim. The book's stories are a mixture of new and classic, and I'll mention each in passing.
The anthology begins with a never-seen before introduction by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho (quite impressive since he died almost 20 years ago) which sets the scene perfectly. The first story in the book, by John Llewellyn Probert, forms a prologue, an epilogue and four `case conferences' in between which detail the findings of an investigative journalist when he arrives at the Crowsmoor Asylum. I read these together and the stories frame the anthology perfectly. The remaining stories are:
I Tell You Its' Love - Joe R. Lansdale (1983). Short but certainly not sweet - 8/10.
The Green Hour - Reggie Oliver (2013). An Auguste Dupin story (Edgar Allan Poe), set in nineteenth-century Paris and is a thoroughly evocative piece - 9/10.
The Secret Laws of the Universe - Steve Rasnic Tem (2013). A great piece, with a completely believable psycho - 9/10.
The Recompensing of Albano Pizar - Basil Copper (1973). An evocative and intriguing story set in Italy - 8/10.
Night Soil Man - David A. Sutton (2013). An atmospheric piece set in Victorian times. I just wish it was a little longer - 7/10.
Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella - Brian Hodge (2013). Quite a creepy story - 7/10.
The Trembling Living Wire - Scott Edelman (2013). A nice twist to this story - 8/10.
The Undertaker's Sideline - Robert Silverberg (1959). Good story by a great writer, but maybe a bit predictable - 6/10.
The Long Shift - Joel Lane (2013). I've never really been a fan of Joel Lane - I find that just as his stories get going they tend to end. However, this is an enjoyable, credible story - 8/10.
The Man Who Photographed Beardsley - Brian Lumley (1976). Short, not very creepy and not really for me - 4/10.
Hollywood Hannah - Lisa Morton (2013). The only story by a female writer in the anthology, and I absolutely loved it. I hope Morton writes more stories like this! 10/10.
I Spy - Paul McAuley (1999). An evocative piece about growing up in the seventies. Scarier than it sounds - 8/10.
Reflections on the Critical Process - Mike Carey (2006). This story opens brilliantly; it's laugh-out loud. But it seems to lose momentum after a while. Not bad - 7/10.
The Finger - David J. Schow (2013). Typically twisted-but-brilliant tale by Schow - 9/10.
Hot Eyes, Cold Eyes - Lawrence Block (1978). A story by perhaps the only dedicated crime writer here, which ends up being a rather disquieting horror story - 8/10.
Hush ... hush, Sweet Shushie - Jay Russell (2013). Excellent riveting Hollywood-set tale. Having read most of Russell's stories I have absolutely no idea why he's not more popular. A perfect blend of crime and horror, anyone interested in either genre should pick up Russell's back-catalogue as soon as possible - 10/10.
The Gatecrasher - R. Chetwynd-Hayes (1971). Not bad, but not spectacular seedy Soho-set story - 7/10.
The Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love - Robert Shearman (2013). Shearman is rapidly becoming one of my favourite short story writers, and this coming of age tale is wonderful - 10/10.
The Tell-Tale Heart - Edgar Allan Poe (1843). Poe needs no introduction and this is one of his classic stories, which should be read by everyone interested in crime or horror stories - 9/10.
Got To Kill Them All - Dennis Etchison (2001). I first read this in the Mammoth Book of Horror (volume 12) and loved it. Great twist - 9/10.
Essence - Mark Morris (2013). This story has a great set-up but I feel is let down by the supernatural element in it - 6/10.
The Beach - Michael Kelly (2013). Short but atmospheric - 7/10.
Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper - Robert Bloch (1943). Good but a little far-fetched - 7/10.
See How They Run - Ramsey Campbell (1993). I've never really understood Campbell's popularity as most of his stories seem a bit samey. This is better than most, however - 7/10.
Manners - Conrad Williams (2013). Short and very atmospheric, but I'm not quite sure where it's supposed to be set - 8/10.
Bryant & May and the Seven Points - Christopher Fowler (2013). Fowler, and for that matter, Bryant and May should need no introduction for horror and crime aficionados. Brilliant, London-based stories, and this is no exception - 10/10.
All the Birds Come Home to Roost - Harlan Ellison (1978). Great story, about a man living his life backwards - 9/10.
Wide-Shining Light - Rio Youers (2013). One of the pleasures of reading anthologies is discovering people you've never read, or even heard of, and then upon reading them, finding them to be utterly brilliant. This tale of a suburban killer and the after effects upon the protagonist is hauntingly wonderful. I look forward to reading more of Youers's work - 10/10.
Feminine Endings - Neil Gaiman (2008). Another reprint from the Mammoth Book of Horror (volume 19), this is intriguing, supernatural and different - 8/10.
Eater - Peter Crowther (1995). Great horror story, claustrophobic and tense - 9/10.
Mister Mellor Comes to Wayside - Peter Crowther (2013). Spooky follow-up to Eater - 8/10.
Failure - Michael Marshall (Smith) (2013). Like Ramsey Campbell, an author I've read numerous short stories by, but to be honest, few of them really float my boat. This is connected to his Straw Men novel. If you liked that, you'd like this, but I'm still sitting on the fence - 6/10.
The Only Ending We Have - Kim Newman (2013) One of my favourite horror writers, Newman triumphs here with a great tale based around the infamous movie Psycho. Any horror fan should read this. It's terrific - 10/10.
Kriss Kross Applesauce - Richard Christian Matheson (2013) Master of the horror short-short story, Matheson does it again. This tale of a woman writing her annual family newsletter is very well-timed for Christmas. I've just received a similar one from a dear old aunt. I wonder if she's going a bit psycho too? - 10/10
Well there we have it. A great anthology, which more than makes up for the disappointing Mammoth Book of Horror volume 24, which could have done with the inclusion of two or three of these tales. Most of my favourite stories in this collection are new ones, published this year (Russell, Youers, Oliver, Newman, Fowler, Rasnic Tem, Matheson, Sherman, Morton), which proves that the horror field is as alive as ever.