Saturday, March 18, 2017

Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper: Volume 2 (2013)

Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper: Volume 2 (2013) by Basil Copper, edited by Stephen Jones.

The second volume of PS Publishing's Collected Basil Copper is a solid effort with several stand-outs. Not as consistently excellent as the first volume, but well-worth buying for fine stories that include "The Flabby Men," "Shaft Number 247," and "Beyond the Reef."

Introduction  (Darkness, Mist and Shadow: Volume 2) by Kim Newman.

  • The Flabby Men (1977): Sinister post-apocalyptic tale shares characteristics with "Shaft Number 247" (1980) and "Out There" (1999). A combination of the Lovecraftian and the post-atomic mutant story.
  • The Way the World Died (1978): Very minor sf story.
  • The Treasure of Our Lady (1978): A throwback to tales of explorers searching for treasure in the jungle, unironically told. Wouldn't be out of place in a 1927 issue of Weird Tales.
  • Justice at the Crossroads (1978): Ironic, non-supernatural tale of a 'real' vampire.
  • Mrs. Van Donk (1978): Minor bit of Hitchcockian social satire/thriller.
  • The Stranger (1980): A psychological horror story with a 'twist' you will probably see coming.
  • The Madonna of the Four-Ale Bar (1980): See "The Stranger."
  • Shaft Number 247 (1980): Copper's brilliant, vague novella written for Ramsey Campbell's New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. One of ten or at most 20 of the greatest post-Lovecraft Lovecraftian stories ever written. 
  • The Candle in the Skull (1984): Fun, slight tale of a creepy child and Hallowe'en revenge.
  • Wish You Were Here (1992): Excellent, slow-building ghost story doesn't quite have a workable ending. Still, the ride is a lot of fun.
  • Better Dead (1994): A bit of marriage-based horror that satirizes the too-committed film buff (the title comes from Bride of Frankenstein).
  • Beyond the Reef (1994): Neo-pulp follow-up to Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Innsmouth." Fun stuff, though far better as an homage than as actual horror.
  • Death of a Demi-God (1995): Weak, creaky story falls into the 'Paul Harvey' category enumerated in my review of Volume 1 -- Copper's 'Paul Harvey' stories eventually reveal that they're about a real, historical personage.
  • Reader, I Buried Him! (1995): Fun little vampire story seems to exist for the sole purpose of its title's play on the last line of Jane Eyre.
  • Bright Blades Gleaming (1995): Another 'Paul Harvey' story, intermittently interesting but with an extremely telegraphed ending.

Overall: Recommended, though the stories start to sag after 1980. 

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