Post by Craig Herbertson on Feb 16, 2014 13:57:32 GMT
Completely identified with this John. I could change about thirty words and it would express exactly my experience. Even down to the really memorable stories. I probably told the same tales to my friends at school and got the same expressions of anxiety, perplexity and resignation from my teachers. A trip down memory lane
Post by charliegrenville on Jun 18, 2014 19:53:03 GMT
Pan 9 seems to be held in high regard by many- and I have to admit that, whilst normally my tastes fall outside the "common man" 's perception of what is and isn't a classic, I thoroughly concur on this one.
Possibly because it was the first EVER edition to feature entirely previously unpublished tales, all from contemporary writers (although seasoned veteran Dot Haynes had been around some three or four decades, and several contributors, such as Martin Waddell, had been 'on the books' for quite some time now), and thus the first truly 'modernist' horror anthology, it stood out a mile from its peers. This may also explain why it continues to do so for so many, as, whereas all its predecessors had nudged towards this, even the 8th featured stories from the 40s (SAD ROAD TO THE SEA) and the 7th had contained that old chestnut THE MONKEY'S PAW. Pan 9 was, by comparison, a TOTAL journey into the unknown for both publisher and reader alike, summing up the seedy, dark essence of 60s Britain- and in some cases America- better than ANY other compendium of short horror fiction. Sick, sadistic and slightly squirm-inducing, set (CROCODILE WAY aside) in a wonderfully drab world of rundown tube stations, drab strip clubs, lino-encrusted cafes, tattered back gardens and dreary suburbs, a London or New York as bleakly beautiful as the 80s Birmingham (they always were a few years behind) I first purchased the book in aged a mere 11. Mine's a light and bitter, please, guvnor, and a Tom Collins for the dollybird.
On the other hand, detractors could equally say (and they'd be right) that for exactly the same reason, many of the stories now seem impossibly dated. There's little or no chance the characters of STICK WITH ME KID AND YOU'LL WEAR DIAMONDS, COMPULSION, SMILE PLEASE or DON'T AVOID THE RUSH HOUR- superb though they all are in their way, would be allowed to socially exist in 2010s London (or indeed the family in STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS be able to afford a flat so near Regents Park), and as for the description of "Charles" in the final paragraph of AN APPARITION AT NOON, well, it doesn't bother me, but I'm sure it would ruffle someone's feathers...(incidentally enough, writer Adobe James comes out with a similarly 'candid' description of someone else at the end of the 5th book's I'LL LOVE YOU ALWAYS- not that I'm making any assumptions, but...) Yet for those of us who have been in love with this sort of thing since our pre-teens, isn't that kind of thing precisely what we look for in such a book?
My copy is thumbed to fuckery (a descriptive term Waddell or Harry E Turner might well have later used), also hinting how many times it's been read over the years, either in whole or in part, but, whilst it may be hard to pick individuals from the many diamonds on offer, I would have to list BLOODHIRSTY, JOLLY UNCLE, MRS ANSTEY'S SCARECROW, NOT ENOUGH POISON, THE WHISPERING HORROR, FATHER FORGIVE ME and OLD FEET, plus the aforementioned STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS and COMPULSION/SMILE PLEASE/RUSH HOUR triumvirate, as the highlights of a rather exemplary collection. But it's not all about torture and pain: RUSH HOUR and COMPULSION, particularly the description of the dead man in the former, are genuinely sad windows into human failure. And again, it wouldn't happen today.
Oh, and for comedy value, special mentions must be given to the single-paragraph EUSTACE (up there with JUSTICE by 'The Gibsons', as anthologised in one of the Hayes ghost books) and THE BEST TEACHER- even my old university mate Jason Soo, usually the dullest man in Christendom, had owned a copy of this book once, and he found the "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh"'s of Sadelim's victim to be the most hilarious thing he'd ever read.
Perhaps the definitive Pan anthology. I want the cover on a t-shirt: and, incidentally, does anyone think it reminds them of the mummy voiced by Valentine Dyall in Anthony Balch's BIZARRE, the Brit sex-horror portmanteau movie released the same year? Possibly more than a coincidence....
"I need some help, I've erred."
"Yes, well, we've ALL 'eard, duckie. It's common knowledge."
I want the cover on a t-shirt: and, incidentally, does anyone think it reminds them of the mummy voiced by Valentine Dyall in Anthony Balch's BIZARRE, the Brit sex-horror portmanteau movie released the same year? Possibly more than a coincidence....
Well observed! It had never occurred to me before, but you're quite right. Unlikely to be anything other than a coincidence but nevertheless, it does tie two interesting sexy sleazy pieces of BritEntertainment together quite nicely!
Mkay, it took awhile to get through this one due to the sheer number of stories + personal entanglements lately, but it was worth it.
"Man-Hunt" - 2/5 Williams' writing seems rather sloppy and amateurish, and the back cover gives away the ending, but I do at least appreciate his commitment to being vicious.
"The Fly" - 3/5 Another little slice of nastiness, rather well done; the drabness and misery of this couple come across well in only a few pages, and there's some nice gore at the end.
"Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch..." - 5/5 This almost made me physically ill. Not that it was overly graphic, it was just so horrible and depressing that I had trouble finishing the last couple pages. Between the emotional effect and the fact that it was well-written, I'd say it's one of the best and most memorable, but don't think I'll want to re-read it anytime soon.
"Strictly For the Birds" - 5/5 One of my favorites so far. Love the melodramatic opening narration and the absolutely disgusting nature of what's going on (even if there's no explanation for it). Reminds me of something Poe would have written.
"Bloodthirsty" - 4/5 Absolutely batshit crazy and quite hilarious. I get the impression that the Brain is not quite so unique as it likes to think.
"An Apparition at Noon" - 3/5 Interesting Weird-Tales-esque vignette; not all that much to it, but good sense of place and tension even for how short it is. And frankly the un-PC closing line is artistically appropriate for the setting, the character, and the situation, really.
"The Baby Machine" - 3/5 Could be a tad more developed, but the main character's selfishness seemed believable, and the ending is really quite disturbing (and accurate, actually - there was a Psych experiment awhile back in which baby monkeys raised by a combination of feeding machine and piece of metal with terrycloth on it regarded the latter as their "mother").
"The Best Teacher" - 3/5 So apparently we're terrible people for reading gory & sadistic stories, like this one? Har har. Still, the undercurrent of black humor and overwhelming gruesomeness made it entertaining enough.
"Stick With Me, Kid, and You'll Wear Diamonds" - 3/5 Basic but effective; it's hard to go wrong with one of those endings where the protagonist thinks crazily absurd thoughts while doing something with a corpse.
"The Happy Return" - 4/5 in general, or 5/5 for emotional effect Holy CRAP did this one ever disturb me. The quickie writing style leaves a bit to be desired (perhaps we could have gotten some description of what the helmet/mask looked like, for example), but the basic idea makes up for it. Just the though of a mother doing THAT to her own child is bad enough, but I had to stop myself from thinking too hard about what "THAT" entails (i.e. what the kid might have looked like while moaning "Daddy...") in order to get to sleep. Christ!
"Father Forgive Me" - 3/5 Again, Williams/Harvey does not know how to use a comma and in general writes like a ninth-grader who didn't pay attention in eighth-grade English class, but I'm giving this one a decent score simply for being one of the most vile, repugnant, loathsome stories I've ever read; I have to respect that.
"A Comedy of Terrors" - 4/5 More vileness, this time with a bit more technical flair. Quite enjoyed the sending-up of the film industry and found myself squirming as much over how nonchalant Robbie is about his little atrocities as over the atrocities themselves. Their idea for the new film, about the girl psychically linked to another girl who's buried alive without her skin, would have made a hell of a story itself.
"The Boy Who Neglected His Grass Snake" - 2/5 Compared to some of the other stuff in the book this seemed underwhelming, but the image of the HUGE snake-ghost at the end was pretty cool.
"Jolly Uncle" - 3/5 This one seems more black comedy to me; impressive that Stewart managed to make a story about a man plotting to kill a six-year-old seem funny. The ending was creepy but could have had more build-up. And yes, I caught the connection/reference to her previous story in this same volume.
"Mrs. Anstey's Scarecrow" - 2/5 I feel like I wanted to like this one since scarecrows are scary, but something about it - the tone and attitude of the author, the way small-town drama was inflated to Lovecraftian proportions, maybe - rubbed me the wrong way. Meh.
"Not Enough Poison" - 3/5 Another story that could have had more to it, but still pretty good; interesting how Sarah is too busy being a lazy, stuck-up tease to notice how dangerous things are getting, and how the drunken neighbor can't grasp what's going on.
"Old Feet" - 2/5 Not as good as Waddell's other bonkers contribution and the stream-of-consciousness writing is kinda overdone, but at least he laid on the disgusting imagery nice and thick.
"Don't Avoid the Rush Hour" - 4/5 (?) Unfortunately, my copy of the book was missing part of the last page - "Good Condition" my ass, Amazon seller - so I was unable to read some of it, but I liked what I did see; even for being brief it built up a lot of suspense, had some memorably horrid gore, and I did get the gist of the nasty, ironic ending.
"The Whispering Horror" - 4/5 The kind of thing that scares the crap out of kids, and frankly is still creepy to an adult. Good stuff. Some of the word-usage was a bit awkward but I see that Bertin isn't a native English speaker (or was this a translation?) so it's forgivable. In a volume full of eye-gouging and limb-sawing, it's interesting to read a story in which the horror mostly comes from a sound.
"Smile Please" - 4/5 Once again, not thrilled with the prose, but I actually liked this one quite a bit since it took its time developing poor Delorice (who's likeable even if not very smart) and gave us some memorable locations and images, and an interestingly elaborate death-setup.
"Compulsion" - 3/5 Another murderer story without anything truly standout, but well-told and fairly realistic in its psychology. As some of you mentioned, people could get away with murder more easily in times past.
"Crocodile Way" - 4/5 The subject matter is kinda odd for a "horror" collection, but the atmosphere and suspense packed into this little tiny story is pretty impressive. Then again, crocodiles and alligators scare the crap out of me anyway.
"The Green Umbilical Cord" - 3/5 By now we seem to have a lot of murdered spouses on our hands. So, the setup has lost some of its novelty, but the creepy imagery of the ivy growing EVERYWHERE and the black humor made for a pretty good read.
"Eustace" - 3/5 What the hell? Actually not a bad way of closing out the book, since it's memorable enough and doesn't waste time, but I think "what the hell?" sums it up.
All in all, a very good volume; I can see why a lot of you guys remember it so fondly, since it has some real gems and a relatively consistent "feel" across most of the stories, in addition to a level of depravity that might be almost unpublishable today. I recently saw a debate on the Horror Writers' Association's facebook page about how gore and disturbing content have fallen out of favor with some readers; the consensus seemed to be that complaining about horror being horrible is sort of like complaining about comedy being funny.
As a foreigner I never could quite "get" the fondness about the "Pan" as is evident in so many reviews and memoirs. The only translated issue in Germany was No. 1, in an abridged form. It was quite memorable with its Quinn, Lovecraft/Heald and especially Fielding Eliot, but as years later became evident, this was basically a best of Weird Tales.
I bought the excellent Back from the Dead by Mr.Mains, sampled a few stories, but mostly read the fine essays.
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon the two Pan originals I bought in a bundle on Ebay, but never read.
As I wanted to break the habit of just browsing a few pages and then going to the next one I made the effort to keep reading for a chance.
And I kind of finally understood why at least this issue is thought one of the best. To this moment I have read ¾ of the anthology. Maybe I am in the right mood, but I thought a lot of the here presented stories marvellous in their unflinching horribleness and mean-spiritedness.
Even if I kind of agree that the compilation tends to overdo the conte cruel and neglects supernatural horror, it didn't bother me much. The stories are often a bit rough, some could have used a further re-write. Still a lot have what seems missing in a lot of today's productions. Less writing school, more from the belly writing. Not this damn self-awareness which makes the current output often so boring..
The stories have been written up in this thread often enough, so I will just give a nod to my highlights.
The Fly – very well done. Two unsympathetic characters, still one is intrigued how the gruesome end will be. And I still didn't see the twist coming.
An Apparition at Noon – I thought the set-up not convincing, is it Aliens or is he going mad, but I liked the writing and the ending.
The Baby Machine – I am not convinced on the SF here, but I also don't see this published in any of the SF magazines of the time. Insofar it was a good choice.
The Best Teacher – I have to confess that nowadays I have come to loathe horror stories in which the protagonist is a writer. Maybe I have watched too much Castle. I think it is lazy writing and plotting, vain and boring. But I had to chuckle at the end. At least Graham was consequent. And it is another nice argument against these people who think tales like SAW were original in ist conception. Like those people who think Scott's Prometheus is deep and philosophical. No, it's not. Do your homework.
The Happy Return – See above. Only without the chuckle. This is truly disturbing stuff. Compared to this even the most gross American stories in anthologies like the Hot Blood series seem just loud and cartoonish.
Father forgive me – Hands down the best story for me. I still have to chuckle when I think about it. Sure, all characters are mean, shallow caricatures and prejudices are turned to the max. It is nihilistic and awful. But after 50 years the theme itself seems frightfully topical. Which is no mean feat for any writer and a sad testament to our times.
I am looking forward for the rest of the stories and the next few Pan numbers I just bought. I admire van Thal not only for his choices, but for sticking with them. Not with those tales which were absolutely in tune with the times 1968. But with the darker and grimmer stuff or the genre-hopping tales. And all this without any fuss or the self-gratulating how "edgy" one is.
And I can understand better what Pan was about and why it is so loved. I would have too.
Not enough poison – a bit slow, but I liked the ending. Didn't see that coming.
Old Feet – absolutly absurd and gross. But funny as hell. Had a bit of Monty Pyton.
Don't avoid the Rush Hour – a bit pointless in the end.
The whispering Horror – very traditional and thoroughly american. Even if the writer isn't.
Smile please – contrary to others I thought this well written, a slow but suspenseful build-up, writing against the readers knowledge that this will not end well. I also liked the characterisation of the stripper, rather progressive for its time. The story let me look up the writer. If there are no two Williams', I am rather suprised that a Drama Professor at Cambridge wrote this. Seems it was an only tale.
Eustace – what the hell indeed. I expected more then six lines by a writer who later did those big fantasy novels. Weird.
What surprised me most is the variety. You never know what comes the next. I liked the no nonsense approach to horror and black humor and comedy. If you consider that his was published some years before Herbert, Smith and Hutson, I can see the impact it must have had. Looking forward to No. 10.
Andy's recent flagging of this volume reminded me that my copy has not been read in ages. So far, I have enjoyed Mr Anstey's Scarecrow (I'm a sucker for creepy scarecrow stories), Jolly Uncle, The Happy Return (Phew, that was grim), The Boy who Neglected his Grass Snake and The Baby Machine (Satisfying to see the vile Malinda get her just desserts).
Mr Brown was responsible for covers on #4 doll & spider, 8, 9, 10, 11. Wouldn't be surprised if #12 was one of his as well.
Well done, Dr. T. That sure fills in plenty of gaps.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.