Friday, September 27, 2013

Short Rounds

Ten Tales Calculated to Give you Shudders (1972): edited by Ross Olney containing the following stories: Sweets to the Sweet (1947) by Robert Bloch; The Waxwork (1931) by A. M. Burrage; Used Car (1932) by H. Russell Wakefield; The Inexperienced Ghost (1896) by H. G. Wells; The Whistling Room (1910) by William Hope Hodgson; The Last Drive (1933) by Carl Jacobi; The Monkey's Paw (1902) by W. W. Jacobs; Second Night Out (1933) by Frank Belknap Long; The Hills Beyond Furcy (1966) by Robert G. Anderson; and Floral Tribute (1949) by Robert Bloch.

This little reprint anthology was a staple of my childhood, and probably the childhood of a lot of other Americans and Canadians, given that it was a Whitman book for older kids, or 'Young Adults' as the publishing industry now names them.

And it's a very good ten-story assortment, though the inclusion of two Robert Bloch stories, the second one a bit of Bradburyian supernatural nostalgia that won't make anyone shudder, seems odd. Maybe Olney and Bloch were buddies. Other than that oddity, the selection can stand beside that of pretty much any decades-spanning anthology I can think of. It's certainly still relevant today. I wonder if Wakefield's story is the first haunted used-car story? Recommended.

 

Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks (1987) by Richard Christian Matheson containing the following stories: Third Wind; The Good Always Comes Back; Sentences; Unknown Drives; Timed Exposure; Obsolete; Red; Beholder; Dead End; Commuters; Graduation; Conversation Piece; Echoes; Incorporation; Hell; Break-Up; Mr. Right; Cancelled; Mugger; The Dark Ones; Holiday; Vampire; Intruder; Dust; Goosebumps; Mobius; Where There's a Will; and Magic Saturday.

Horror and fantasy great Richard Matheson's son Richard Christian Matheson is no slouch either, having carved out a prominent career for himself in television, movies, and short stories by the time he was 30.

Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks is the younger Matheson's first collection of short stories (and one teleplay for Amazing Stories). As he pretty much specialized in very short stories, there's quite a range of stories included here, with supernatural horror, realistic horror, science fiction, and gentle whimsy all showing up. And one disturbing narrative that doubles as a poem ("Vampire").

The impact of such short stories requires a certain type of writer: terse and concise in his style, imaginative and unusual in the subjects he deals with and the POV he uses to view those subjects. Matheson is astonishingly good at these things at a very young age, an engaging mutation from the schools of O. Henry and Dennis Etchison (who provides one of the two glowing-with-praise forewords, the other coming from a similarly enthusiastic Stephen King). Recommended.

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