Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Spectral Book of Horror Stories Volume 1 (2014): edited by Mark Morris

The Spectral Book of Horror Stories Volume 1 (2014): edited by Mark Morris, containing the following stories:

ON THE TOUR – RAMSEY CAMPBELL
THE DOG’S HOME – ALISON LITTLEWOOD
FUNERAL RITES – HELEN MARSHALL
SLAPE – TOM FLETCHER
THE NIGHT DOCTOR – STEVE RASNIC TEM
DULL FIRE – GARY McMAHON
THE BOOK AND THE RING – REGGIE OLIVER
EASTMOUTH – ALISON MOORE
CARRY WITHIN SOME SMALL SLIVER OF ME – ROBERT SHEARMAN
THE DEVIL’S INTERVAL – CONRAD WILLIAMS
STOLEN KISSES – MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH
CURES FOR A SICKENED WORLD – BRIAN HODGE
THE OCTOBER WIDOW – ANGELA SLATTER
THE SLISTA – STEPHEN LAWS
OUTSIDE HEAVENLY – RIO YOUERS
THE LIFE INSPECTOR – JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT
SOMETHING SINISTER IN SUNLIGHT – LISA TUTTLE
THIS VIDEO DOES NOT EXIST – NICHOLAS ROYLE
NEWSPAPER HEART – STEPHEN VOLK

Horror writer Mark Morris's attempt to create an annual, non-theme-specific, original horror anthology begins here with this 2014 anthology from tiny Spectral Press. It's a specific nod to some vanished English perennials, most notably the annual Pan Book of Horror Stories.

And it's very good. So far as I understand the introduction, the stories were expressly solicited for this anthology from notable horror writers young, old, and seemingly immortal.

There's quite a bit of range here, though all of the stories are indeed horror stories and not fragmentary exercises in the weird or the overly comical. 

A couple of misfires are the result, but much of the anthology ranges from good to excellent. Stephen Volk's novella, "Newspaper Heart," is a stand-out with its sad and surprising examination of childhood loneliness set against Guy Fawkes Day. Ramsey Campbell's somewhat addled never-was rock star unravels in Liverpool, longing to be included on the city's bus tours of the homes of the famous. And Alison Moore's "Eastmouth" is a chilly, suggestive bit of horror with some resemblance in content (though not in style) to Ramsey Campbell's work.

Another stand out is Canada's own Rio Youers with "Outside Heavenly." It's a sinister knock-out about a Southern small-town tragedy that leads a guilt-plagued sheriff down his own river of darkness to find answers in a place he never, ever should have travelled to. 

There are other fine stories here, in a number of different keys of horror. Hopefully sales of the anthology will allow this to become an annual tradition -- Morris has done good work here. Recommended.

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