EIGHTH BLACK BOOK OF HORROR
Charles Black, ed.
reviewed the 7th Black
Book of Horror a year ago, as Strange Things
was just launching, and here we are twelve months later with the
next volume. Well, they do say good things come to those who wait…
and this is a good thing.
Once again, this is a collection of short stories that will resonate
with fans of 1970s horror compendiums, and who are perhaps but
off by some of the more dominant anthologies out there, which
often seem to be more of a closed shop for old mates of the editor
than the actual pick of what is out there (unless you believe
that the same authors, year in, year out always write the best
I imagine some of the self-proclaimed horror elite might well
turn their noses up at much of the content here, which offers
a mix of gruesome, sometimes crude, sometimes socially conservative
stories. But so what? I doubt anyone included here is too worried
about being respectable. And while a couple of tales do indeed
seem to have a slightly reactionary bent to them, isn’t
horror supposed to challenge our beliefs?
This is quite a solid collection – there’s nothing
terrible here, with the thirteen stories ranging from the entertaining
(if predictable) to the excellent. Reggie Oliver’s opening
tale Quieta Non Movere gets things
off to a slow-burn start, with his tale of a vengeful ghost (or
is it zombie) priest, and ghostly experiences return in David
A. Riley’s The Last Coach Trip
and Stephen Bacon’s Home by the Sea,
which sees an abuser revisited by the ghosts of his past.
Mark Samuels’ The Other Tenant
is a classic story of something strange going on in the flat next
door that ends with a brutal and gruesome payoff, while Gary Fry’s
Behind the Screen reveals the dangers
of telling strangers too much about your life – and having
a video link to your family at home.
David Williams’ Boys will be Boys,
Thana Niveau’s The Coal Man and
Anna Taborska’s Little Pig all
deal with childhood terrors – in the former story, the terroriser
is very much the mutant, hyper-intelligent child who is unwilling
to share his parents with any new arrival, while The
Coal Man is a grim story of invented bogeyman characters
becoming real, and Little Pig is a brutally
bleak story of sacrifice and desperation – probably the
least ‘horror’ story in the collection, but certainly
one of the most affecting.
Paul Finch’s Tok sees an African
fetish doll coming to life to protect its owner from imaginary
fears, while Marion Pitman’s Music in the Bone
is a story of sexual obsession and the search for the perfect
musical instrument (horror fans will need no clues as to what
materials make up such instruments). Kate Farrell’s Mea
Culpa is a tale of domestic violence with a neat
twist at the end.
The two stories that theoretically stray into Daily Mail
reader area are Tina & Tony Rath’s Casualties
of the System and John Llewellyn Probert’s
How the Other Half Dies. The former
sees young offenders sent back in time by their social workers
to face a more appropriate punishment, while the latter has a
respectable couple torturing a burglar. Both are, I suspect, more
satirical than wishful thinking, but more sensitive Guardian
readers might be distressed by their take on law and order.
So, another impressive mixture of cold chills and grotesque splatter.
Once again, I highly recommend this for anyone who misses the
days when tales of (as the back cover says) beasts, brutes, the
creepy and the unsettling filled the shelves.
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