This is the second installment in Paul Finch's English 'terror tales' series and hopefully it won't be the last. Once again, Finch selects a bunch of chilling new stories from a host of well-known talent. It is great to see Alison Littlewood in here. She is a new novelist making massive inroads in the thriller market, but her contribution to this book is sheer supernatural horror. John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau are two writers I'd never heard of before, but their stories are hair-raising. Almost fairy tale-like in their concept, but totally chilling. Ramsey Campbell is among many others who contribute, and his story is typically horrific. One again, Finch gives us lots of local folklore and mythology, which adds a great feeling of authenticity. The Cotswolds, it seems, are as scary a place as they are beautiful. Hopefully there will be many more in the series.
As one would expect from a cast of award winning authors, and new contenders to that title, this offering from the Terror Tales series edited by Paul Finch is well worth a look. Beginning with Alison Littlewood, who sets the superior tone of most of the collection, we have 'In The Quiet And In The Dark' where young Steph comes from out of town to Willow Cottage, Long Compton and instantly hates it. The horrible prospect of the coming term at a new school is helped by a chance meeting with new friends and the prospect of a `liaison' with Kix, a handsome enigmatic youth who seems to have taken a shine to her. The young people have a strange way of talking and she wonders about their connection to the stone circles.... It's a well written piece echoing some of the motifs that follow - strong, character based tales.
As a man with a fairly old fashioned taste in horror I was struck at times by the quality of the prose which sometimes competed with the terror invoked. Highlights for me were Reggie Oliver's Charm a delightful tale of the degeneration of a hooray Henry and Thana Niveau's The Scouring about The White Horse Of Uffington. Thana, who never fails to inflict a suitable degree of pathos in her awful tales is one of the best new female writers in the genre. Unsurprisingly, Ramsey Campbell and Paul Finch both pack a powerful punch and John Llewellyn Probert manages to extract the maximum horror from a simple piece of yellow Cotswold stone. It would be churlish to dismiss the other stories, all strongly written and conceptually perceptive; interspersed with fascinating snippets of truly terrible history there is something here for everyone.