Saturday, November 22, 2014

Several Pounds of Horror Stories

The Giant Book of Ghost Stories (Edited version of The Mammoth Book of Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories): edited by Richard Dalby (Original version 1995/This version 2005), containing the following stories::

Ghosts (1887) by Anonymous; Schalken the Painter (1851) by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu; M. Anastius (1857) by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik; The Lost Room (1858) by Fitz-James O'Brien; No. 1 Branch Line: The Signalman (1866) by Charles Dickens; Haunted (1867) by Anonymous; The Romance of Certain Old Clothes (1868) by Henry James; John Granger (1870) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon; The Ghost in the Mill  (1870) by Harriet Beecher Stowe; The Ghost in the Cap'n Brown House (1870) by Harriet Beecher Stowe; Poor Pretty Bobby (1872) by Rhoda Broughton; The New Pass  (1870) by Amelia B. Edwards; The White and the Black (1867) by Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian; The Underground Ghost (1866) by John Berwick Harwood; Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk (1889) by Frank Cowper;  Dog or Demon? (1889) by Theo Gift; A Ghost from the Sea (1889) by Dick Donovan; A Set of Chessmen (1890) by Richard Marsh; The Judge's House (1891) by Bram Stoker; Pallinghurst Barrow (1892) by Grant Allen; The Mystery of the Semi-Detached (1893) by E. Nesbit; Sister Maddelena (1895) by Ralph Adams Cram; The Trainer's Ghost (1893) by Lettice Galbraith;  An Original Revenge (1897) by W. C. Morrow; Caulfield's Crime (1892) by Alice Perrin; The Bridal Pair (1902) by Robert W. Chambers; The Watcher (1903) by R. H. Benson; The Spectre in the Cart (1904) by Thomas Nelson Page; H. P. (1904) by Sabine Baring-Gould; and Yuki-Onna (1904) by Lafcadio Hearn.

Enjoyable and wide-ranging anthology of 19th and early 20th century ghost stories selected by the always reliable Richard Dalby. One will run across this volume and a few others with a fair bit of regularity, as it's an edited-down version of an earlier anthology, created by Barnes&Noble as an "instant remainder."

Dalby goes for breadth as well as non-typical selections in many cases -- while the Dickens story is oft-anthologized, entries from Fitz-James O'Brien, E. Nesbit, Robert W. Chambers, Amelia Edwards and other stalwarts are much less typical, which is to say I haven't come across them before.

Among the stand-outs are Grant Allen's "Pallinghurst Barrow", a fascinating entry in the Sinister Hidden British Race sub-genre that Arthur Machen would make his own, and "Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk" by Frank Cowper, which has one of the greatest titles ever. "Schalken the Painter" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu is my top pick of the bunch, an early effort by the fine and prolific Mr. Le Fanu that actually gave me a nightmare after I read it the first time.

There are a few piffles here, many from the better-known writers. The Nesbit story, for example, is almost a fragment. In all, though, and even truncated by the last eleven stories of its original version, the anthology offers a solid overview of time and writers, with an eye towards reprinting stories by the legion of female ghost-story writers that dominated the genre in the 19th century. Recommended.

Masters of Horror & the Supernatural: The Great Tales (Edited version of The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural): edited by Bill Pronzini, Martin H. Greenberg, and Barry N. Malzberg (Original version 1981/ This version 2010), containing the following stories:

"Man Overboard!" (1899) by Winston Churchill; A Teacher's Rewards (1970) by Robert S. Phillips; Bianca's Hands (1947) by Theodore Sturgeon; Black Wind (1979) by Bill Pronzini; Call First (1975) by Ramsey Campbell; Camps (1979) by Jack Dann; Come and Go Mad (1949) by Fredric Brown; Hop Frog (1849) by Edgar Allan Poe;  If Damon Comes (1978) by Charles L. Grant; Namesake (1981) by Elizabeth Morton (aka Rosalind M. Greenberg); Passengers (1968) by Robert Silverberg; Pickman's Model (1927) by H. P. Lovecraft; Rappaccini's Daughter (1844) by Nathaniel Hawthorne; Sardonicus (1961) by Ray Russell; Squire Toby's Will (1927)by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by J. Sheridan Le Fanu ] Sticks (1974) by Karl Edward Wagner; The Crate (1979) by Stephen King; The Doll (1980) by Joyce Carol Oates; The Explosives Expert (1967) by John Lutz; The Fly (1952) by Arthur Porges; The Girl with the Hungry Eyes (1949) by Fritz Leiber; The Hand (1919) by Theodore Dreiser; The Jam (1958) by Henry Slesar; The Jolly Corner (1908) by Henry James; The Middle Toe of the Right Foot (1890) by Ambrose Bierce; The Mindworm (1950) by C. M. Kornbluth; The Oblong Room (1967) by Edward D. Hoch; The Party (1967) by William F. Nolan; The Roaches (1965) by Thomas M. Disch; The Road to Mictlantecutli (1965) by Adobe James; The Scarlet King (1954) by Evan Hunter; The Screaming Laugh (1938) by Cornell Woolrich; The Squaw (1893) by Bram Stoker; The Valley of Spiders (1903) by H. G. Wells; Transfer (1975) by Barry N. Malzberg; Warm (1953) by Robert Sheckley; You Know Willie (1957) by Theodore R. Cogswell; and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (1943) by Robert Bloch.

With three stories removed from its previous edition as one of the Library-Ubiquitous Arbor House treasuries of the early 1980's, Masters of Horror & the Supernatural: The Great Tales remains a bit of a Frankenstein's Monster of an anthology.

Co-editor Bill Pronzini's background was primarily in mystery and suspense at the time, while Martin H. Greenberg and Barry Malzberg worked primarily in the science fiction field. How this got them a gig editing a comprehensive horror anthology is anyone's guess. Well, actually my guess would be that they worked on other Arbor House treasuries as well.

So many of the selections aren't, in my appraisal, actually horror. Instead, they're short thriller and suspense stories. They shouldn't be in a horror anthology. One of these mis-selected stories is by Pronzini himself ("Black Wind"), which doesn't increase my appreciation of the selection criteria. Two other slight, very slight, selections come from Malzberg ("Transfer") and Greenberg's wife Rosalind ("Namesake"), the latter appearing under a pseudonym. Apparently, Rosalind Greenberg has only published three stories in her life. One of them is here! And it's sort of pointless!

There are some worthy entries here, from perennials like Stoker's "The Squaw" and Henry James' "The Jolly Corner" to re-discoveries like Theodore Dreiser's "The Hand" and to then-recent stories like Jack Dann's haunting "Camps". For an anthology dedicated to the prolific and influential Cornell Woolrich, however, its Woolrich selection is completely baffling. "The Screaming Laugh" is an overlong mystery story; its one horror element has been seen before and since in much better stories, including Ray Russell's "Sardonicus," reprinted in this same anthology!

As this book seems to have been created as an instant remainder (it's a mainstay of the ChaptersIndigo Remainder pages, anyway), it shouldn't set a person back much in the purchasing. The selection is odd and self-serving, but there are many fine stories here. There's also Stephen King's "The Crate," adapted by King and George C. Romero for the movie Creepshow but never included in any of King's prose collections. Lightly recommended.

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