Sunday, August 11, 2013
The Horrors of the 'Me' Decade
Undertow by Karl Edward Wagner; Berryhill by R. A. Lafferty; The King's Shadow Has No Limits by Avram Davidson; Conversation Piece by Richard Christian Matheson; The Stormsong Runner by Jack L. Chalker; They Will Not Hush by James Sallis and David Lunde; Lex Talionis by Russell Kirk; Marianne by Joseph Payne Brennan; From the Lower Deep by Hugh B. Cave; The Fourth Musketeer by Charles L. Grant; Ghost of a Chance by Ray Russell; The Elcar Special by Carl Jacobi; The Box by Lee Weinstein; We Have All Been Here Before by Dennis Etchison; Archie and the Scylla of Hades Hole by Ken Wisman; Trill Coster's Burden by Manly Wade Wellman; Conversation Piece by Ward Moore; The Bait by Fritz Leiber; Above the World by Ramsey Campbell; The Red Leer by David Drake; and At the Bottom of the Garden by David Campton.
Stuart David Schiff's Whispers was the biggest little magazine of horror and dark fantasy in the 1970's, so much so that it became the Little Engine That Carried on The Tradition of the Mostly Defunct Weird Tales. Schiff couldn't pay a lot, but with weird fantasy markets in decline, he was able to assemble a Who's Who of then-contemporary greats, with careers sometimes extending back to the 1920's and 1930's.
Whispers II collects fine stories by names familiar and unfamiliar. I've got a real soft spot for David Drake's revisionist werewolf tale "The Red Leer," which also seems to act as a commentary on the sorts of manly men who once frequented the horror stories of Robert E. Howard. There really aren't any weak spots here, though Ken Wisman's "Archie and the Scylla of Hades" is bizarre in both tone (it's like a Jack Vance fantasy story as reimagined by Robert Service) and style (it's a long poem!). When you see these Whispers compilations in used bookstores, you should snap them up. Along with editor Charles L. Grant's hardcover original anthology series Shadows, Whispers represents the height of 1970's and early 1980's dark fantasy and horror. Highly recommended.
Tales of Fear and Fantasy by R. Chetwynd-Hayes, containing the following stories: Manderville; The Day Of The Underdog; The Headless Footman Of Hadleigh; The Cost Of Dying; The Resurrectionist; The Sale of the Century; and The Changeling (Collected 1977): Chetwynd-Hayes was amazingly prolific in the late 1960's and early 1970's. His learning curve was dramatically steep: six years after the release of his first, enjoyable, pulpy collection, this collection shows a writer rounding into top form.
Five of the stories mix horror with black comedy, with the most successful being one of the adventures of "the world's only practicing psychic detective" as he and his lovely, extremely psychic assistant try to solve the mystery of "The Headless Footman of Hadleigh." There are two non-humourous stories here, and they're both hauntingly excellent: "The Resurrectionist", in which a man falls in love with photos of a woman long dead, and "The Changeling", a creepy riff on pop-culture 'horror families' such as The Munsters or The Addams Family. This family, though, not so much fun to belong to. In all, recommended.