(Re) Discovering the pleasure of shaked bones – A Book of Horrors (edited by Stephen Jones)

a-book-of-horrorThe introduction that Stephen Jones signed titles “Whatever Happened to Horror?” Reading the anthology, I agree with him. Stephen Jones, you are so damn right!

Lately, the books tagged as “horror” don’t supply anymore the creeps that this genre implies. The vampires, those horrific creatures that some time ago were the masters of the night, have become a lecherous species. They don’t terrorize anymore villages and cities, don’t covet for ladies’ blood, but they are some characters that are feeding with artificial blood or kills the bears in Montana and Alaska. Instead of biting jugulars, they are showing “a pirate smile” or “a sprightly smile”. The werewolves are conspiring with the vampires for protecting people race. The ghosts are helping humans to solve cases that are in the detectives’ files. Or, even are growing kids, as it’s happening in “The Graveyard Book”. There even exists a skeleton detective that walks with a borrowed head. The only hope is in Zombies, a race that doesn’t evolve too much. They just know how to dismembered walk, to roar in a disjointed way and… to bite. At least, now, but in the future perhaps we will be forced to read about zombies that are struggling to save the planet of the Apocalypse caused by… them.

Shortly, “These are not the Creatures of the Night that have scared multiple generations over the centuries”. We are facing a radical change of the thrills and horrors genre. A change that we can live without, the fans say – me among them.

The pure, traditional horror is depleted; is replaced by lite-horror.

“These are not the Creatures of the Night that have scared multiple generations over the centuries”

Fortunately, there are many writers that can revive the old thrills. Stephen Jones succeeded to gather some big names with big stories. Stories that thrill us, stories that send shivers down our spines. A Book of Horrors” is what its name says: a book fully of fear and thrill.

Stephen King, the name that couldn’t miss from an anthology that claims it’s reviving the old frights, it’s opening the scene with “The Little Green God of Agony”. A billionaire, “the sixth in the richest world top”, is struggling for two years in his bed in a luxurious villa. A plane crash that he’s feeling responsible for has sent him in the world of agonizing pain. Or maybe not, if we listen the licensed advice of nurse Katherine Macdonald. She saw many things and knows many things too. Mr. Newsome seems to indulge the vegetable that he is, denying cooperation in front of proposed physiotherapy cure. He started to use any kind of “experts” to get him out of pain, saying them a story that Katherine knows good.

The way to comforting the pain is leading from doctors to quacks. Being sixth in the richest top assume a sharp mind, shielded against charlatans’ attacks. But when the queen of pain is your faithful comrade the fortress wall can break. And seems Rideout can exploit the breaches.

Caitlin R. Kiernan signs “Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint”. Billy, a man that hides a terrible secret that is gonna blow out, pities a lost in the night girl and takes her in his car – a good deed that will be fully rewarded. The girl knows a lot of things about everything that related of fire or explosions. She learned from her father, whose craft is changing with every sentence that she says.

But her pyrotechnic knowledge is nothing in front of her skills in bed. Billy is not the only one with secrets.

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© Ali Express

Peter Crowther offers a substantial contribution to anthology. “Ghosts with Teeth” reminds me the hallucinating Kafka texts and Twin Peaks series too. Hugh and Angie, a middle-aged couple, are coming home after visiting Nan, Angie’s sister. Even if this happens in the Halloween’s eve, they don’t worry. Instead, they should worry about the closed road. The downpours have disordered its structure and they need avoid it, taking a long walk. But Maude, the deputy sheriff, seems sympathetic, removing the barrier. “Ain’t like you’re going to be going anyplace once you get there.” And the terror is gonna unleash.

“Ain’t like you’re going to be going anyplace once you get there.”

Angela Slatter is “The Coffin – Maker’s Daugher”. When you work in a branch whose revenues are fully depending by death people number, sometimes you need to do your own luck. Hepsibah Ballantyne is real skilled with this, even if her father’s ghost is a pain in the a$$. She hides a lot of secrets (to many) for a girl. But if we consider she’s the coffin-maker’s daughter…

Dennis Etchison signs “Tell me I’ll see you again” a not too long, not too claiming story. I could say it’s a story more depressing than thrilling. Little David has remorse because his mother took his brother in their car trip, instead of him, as they planned.

Robert Shearman writes about “Alice through the plastic sheet”. As it seems, the author inspired the story from his real life experience, having neighbors with loud speakers and less respect. A peaceful couple has one in a lifetime challenge. The nearby house is put on sale. Seems it will be a lot of time empty. But it’s sold fast. And the musical nightmare starts, even if no one ever saw the new neighbors.

Lisa Tuttle has a problem with “The man in the ditch”. A young lady married with an older guy. The dream house built in an isolated area and the man in the ditch seen just by Linzi. All are the perfect combination for a first-class shiver.

Reggie Oliver asks us solve “A child’s problem”. The inception made me drop the reading for finding details about Richard Dadd, the author of “The child’s problem” painting – thrilling image. But the picture can’t even be compared with the story. The little George is let with his uncle. In his room is a chess table with chessmen involved in a game that George believes can win easily. The abbey, a huge weed-grown building, seems to have no surprises at all. But deeply in the story, we discover more thrilling things and actions. The uncle draws impossible missions to George. Creepy secrets see daylight and the shivers increases. Is the longest and the most thrilling story in the anthology.

Elizabeth Hand invites us to a trip “Near Zennor” . A widow man orders his dead wife’s things. And he discovers – in a candy box – some letters written long time ago, when she had twelve, to a famous writer at that time, but convicted for pedophilia afterwards. Mystified, our character starts a journey with definitely other meaning than finding out the truth behind the facts of those years. He arrives near Zeenor, there where the passing of time has a different pace and strange worlds overlap. More fantasy than horror, but enough thrilling for sending shivers down our spines.

Richard Christian Matheson writes “Last words”, a short but dramatic story. Sooner or later we all say the last words. But a certain serial killer has developed a morbid fascination for those last words. The story is the real proof for obtaining the horror without a lot of pages.

Finally, I could say A Book of Horrors is a welcome book in a world where the horror is entertaining instead of thrilling. The only thing I can reproach is that the book finishes too soon. Way too soon.

Buy A book of Horrors on Amazon.

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