Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Uncanny Banquet


Uncanny Banquet, edited by Ramsey Campbell, containing Russell Kirk - Behind The Stumps;; Dorothy K. Haynes - A Horizon Of Obelisks ; Alison Prince - The Loony ; Henry Normanby - The First-Nighter; Fritz Leiber - The Hill And The Hole; Robert Aickman - Ravissante; Donald Wandrei - The Lady In Gray; Walter de la Mare - A Mote ; Ramsey Campbell - McGonagall In The Head, and Adrian Ross - The Hole Of The Pit (collected 1992):

Leave it to Ramsey Campbell to create a horror story oriented around the malign effects bad poetry has on the mind of a young newspaper writer, complete with a tribute to one of the world's worst poets in the title ("McGonagall In The Head"). It's one of Campbell's most playfully sinister stories, as the possibly supernatural mania affecting the protagonist manifests itself in the character obsessively finishing every sentence he hears or thinks of with a rhyme.

Campbell's second reprint anthology had as its stated goal the reprinting of lesser-known stories by major horror writers, along with offerings from a few lesser-known talents and one lost novel, The Hole Of The Pit, of which more in its own entry. My only complaint would be that I'd like more, though the anthology still clocks in at about 350 pages.

As Campbell notes in his introduction, none of the stories are blood- or grue-filled ('Splatterpunk' was in the middle of its ascent at the time Uncanny Banquet appeared). Instead, terror and suggestion reign throughout, whether the setting is a lonely backwoods area of rural America in Russell Kirk's offering, or the salons of Paris in Robert Aickman's. Campbell selects one of the late, great Fritz Leiber's eeriest offerings, an emblematic collision of ancient horror and modern technology oriented around surveying ("The Hill and the Hole"). Two 'young adult' horror stories are solid ("The Loony" and "The First-Nighter"), as indeed are the rest of the entries . Along with Adrian Ross's odd, haunting novel, a solid collection. Recommended.

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