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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling tales of the seaside, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Terror Tales of the Seaside (Paperback)
The good old British seaside resort, an escape for the working classes in days gone by, but no longer fashionable. Today, most of these towns are rundown and neglected with abandoned piers, derelict fairgrounds and boarded-up guest houses.Ghostly, yes, and a lush stomping ground for writers wishing to unnerve the reader. This collection, with a wonderfully disturbing cover by Steve Upham, contains 14 stories and 13 factual pieces that (with titles like 'The Kraken Wakes', 'Hotel of Horror' and 'The Ghosts of Goodwin Sands') prove just as entertaining as the stories; and there is much to enjoy here, especially in the longer offerings. Editor Paul Finch contributes a slow-burning thriller called 'The Incident at North Shore' in which finely-detailed descriptions of a derelict amusement park draw you into the unfolding events, making you feel the growing terror and paranoia of the central character as she is seemingly tracked through the ruins by an escaped serial killer. There is, of course, a twist, and it's a great pay-off.
In similar fashion, 'Men With False faces' by Robert Spalding, builds up the suspense gradually, and creates an atmosphere of dread before delivering a blood-curdling climax. The good thing about this book is that it has a wide variety of stories that are only limited by their location, and while there were one or two stories that didn't appeal to me, the majority of them did. The opener, for instance, 'Holiday From Hell' by Reggie Oliver, has a really retro feel to it that takes you back to the days of the Pan/Fontana books of horror, as a struggling young actor witnesses disturbing goings-on in a seaside town where he is trying to find work. It's a low-key start, but a good lead into the collection.
'The Magician Kelso Dennett' by Stephen Volk is another stand out, a long story that takes its time to involve the reader in the increasingly menacing events that occur when a David Blaine-like magician arrives in town to be buried alive in a coffin for 40 days and nights. The ending may not entirely surprise you, but it should manage to unsettle you. Elsewhere, Paul Kane contributes a modern horror story with a Lovecraftian feel, where the residents of a seaside resort start disappearing. There are no elaborate descriptions of monsters (in fact, it hints at a very different explanation, but I won't go into detail) and is all the more effective for it. Sometimes in fiction, what you don't see can be a lot more frightning than what you do, especially in the hands of a skilled story-teller.
Other gems incluse 'The Causeway' by Stephen Laws, which might not be the most original of tales (a man murders his wife, fakes an accident and then gets his just desserts from seemingly supernatural causes) but it still makes for a grim and edgy chriller; and 'The Jealous Sea' by Sam Stone, which I suppose is a fish-out-of-water tale. I won't go into details, but it has a strong ending, a great atmosphere and is certainly one of the highlights of this anthology.
Of course, a few stories didn't hit the mark for me, and there were one or two that dragged. But the general quality is high, and the factual pieces that punctuate the stories and enhance the collection earn it those five stars; and with other contributions from Ramsey Campbell, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Joseph Freeman and Gary Fry, this is a great read for those who relish spine chillers of both the real life and fictional variety.
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