NINTH BLACK BOOK OF HORROR
Charles Black, ed.
ninth volume of this annual collection is now out, and much like
the previous reviewed Volume
7 and Volume
8, it proves to be a cracking collection of modern
horror tales with its dark heart firmly rooted in the classic
compendiums of the 1970s.
As with other volumes, this isn’t a collection of stories
by the big wheels of horror fiction, and I’m sure that they
would treat it with disdain. No matter. This is generally (though
not entirely) excellent, unpretentious horror with a
decidedly nasty bent.
The collection gets off to a solid start with John Llewellyn Probert’s
grisly The Anatomy Lesson, where a mad
doctor who runs live snuff shows for an invited elite stops getting
away with it – a grim, graphic and disturbing story that
nicely sets the scene for the rest of the book. Craig Herbertson’s
The Mall is a bleak tale of a man who’s
life is spiralling out of control, even more than he realises,
and Simon Bestwick’s Salvaje is a gripping tale of revenge.
Things get decidedly twisted in Gary Fry’s Pet
– a tale with a final image that will linger in your mind
– and David Williamson’s Ashes to Ashes
is a simple but effective story of a man slowly decaying. Anna
Taborska’s The Apprentice is a
brutal story about a thug who beats his young apprentice, with
a suitably warped twist at the end, while Sam Dawson’s Life
Expectancy is a more subtle, but highly effective
The terrors of childhood – namely the fear that imaginary
monsters might turn out to be real – lies behind Thana Niveau’s
effective The Things That Aren’t There.
Paul Finch’s What’s Behind You?
also deals with childhood fears and, with its old-fashioned, MR
James inspired style, is one of the book’s highlights. Equally
effective is the short, sharp shock of Gary Power’s Ben’s
Best Friend, where teenage friendship is not all
The ghost of infidelity haunts Tom Johnstone’s Bit
on the Side and John Forth’s A
Song, A Silence is a grim tale of monsters lurking
in the dark. Marc Lyth’s The Man Who Hated Waste
adds a dose of black humour to the proceedings and David A. Riley’s
Swan Song is a grim story of right
wing bullyboys who finally meet their match.
The collection is marred by two stories that lurch rather too
far into the reactionary. Marion Pitman’s Indecent
Behaviour is truly dreadful – a series of
stereotypes and graphic sex scenes in a story about two ‘queer
bashers’ who them find themselves being turned gay by the
ghost of a victim. The story has the potential for satire, but
this is just shoddily written and offensive to just about everyone
– working class youth, gay men, you name it. Kate Farrell’s
His Family is less crass, but still
seems to suggest that it’s fine for coppers to beat up mentally
ill murder suspects.
Still, you can’t win ‘em all. Two out of sixteen is
a reasonable level of duffers, and the rest of the collection
is first rate. The cover promises ‘gore, grue, stalkers
and sadists’ and the book certainly delivers. Another fine
entry in the series, and a must for fans of no-nonsense horror
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