Mary Danby - The 13th Fontana Book Of Great Horror Stories (Fontana, 1980)
David Langford - Cold Spell Guy De Maupassant - Vendetta Sydney J. Bounds - The Circus William Charlton - Undesirable Guests Anthony Burgess - An American Organ Ken Alden - The Warrior's Return William Wood - One Of The Dead Barbara Joan Eyre - Anaesthetic Frederick Marryat - The Werewolf Nyki Blatchly - Safe As Houses H. P. Lovecraft - Herbert West - Reanimator Mary Danby - Woodman's Knot
David Langford - Cold Spell: Stephen Carling is pissed off at the poker-faced participants in the Morris Dance who take it all so bloody seriously. And how comes he’s standing out here in the cold like a feeb while they’re in The Olde Coach House enjoying a pint? When they tell him that they’re all trooping off to Coldrock to complete the performance, he rebels. The following day, he has several visits from the senior dancers, solemnly explaining the importance of the tradition, but his mind is made up. He’s not doing it.
Like he has any say in the matter …
H. P. Lovecraft - Herbert West: Reanimator: "Looming hideously against the moon was a gigantic, misshapen thing, covered with bits of mould, foul with caked blood, and having between its glistening teeth a snow white, terrible cylindrical object terminating in a tiny hand ..."
A penny dreadful, HPL style! The Cthulhu Mythos is all very well but wish he'd written a few more barking, all-out, no nonsense mindless horror pulps like this, The Hound and his immortal 'revision' of C. M. Eddy's The Loved Dead. Even the chapter headings are tops - who could resist The Plague Demon. The Scream Of The Dead or The Tomb Legion.
Herbert West - Reanimator was published over six issues of an early fanzine, Home Brew, from February to July 1922, and details the exploits of the anti-hero and his loyal assistant from 1903 through to West's "disappearance" in 1921.
Herbert West is a brilliant if somewhat unstable student at Miskatonic University, Arkham, whose obsession is the resurrection of the dead. His Dean, the brilliant Dr. Allan Halsey, appalled at the number of small animals West and the narrator - presumably Lovecraft - have destroyed during their experiments, bans them from pursuing their program on the premises. Unbeknown to him, they've already revived a corpse at the derelict Chaplin house which they've converted into a makeshift lab. The re-animated body, that of a drowned man they'd dug up within hours of his death, is soon up and about - but that's the problem. He goes AWOL.
A typhoid epidemic! What a stroke of luck! Better still, Dr. Halsey is among the victims having heroically given his all to save as many lives as possible. With his detractor out of the frame, West gets down to business. So far, it's been a rotten year for Arkham, but it's about to get worse as a sadistic killer is on the lose, tearing innocent citizens apart and biting off their flesh. Thankfully, he's captured and committed to an asylum but what a dreadful shock for the locals that he should bear such an uncanny resemblance to their recently deceased savior, Dr. Halsey!
West and Lovecraft now set themselves up as general practitioners in Bolton, the neighbouring factory town. an illegal boxing match provides them with the raw materials they need in the burly form of Black Robinson, 'The Harlem Smoke', who has just been punched out of this world (albeit temporarily). Lovecraft pauses to describe the late Mr. Robinson in terms that would make Dennis Wheatley splutter on his Bollinger.
"He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore-legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-toms pounding under an eerie moon. The body must have looked even worse in life - but the world holds many ugly things."
After another partial success with a heart-attack victim - at least they got the poor bastard to scream - West moves the practice to Boston until come 1915 he joins the medical corps and heads for Flanders where the corpses are plentiful. By now even Lovecraft has his concerns: " I did not like the way he looked at healthy living bodies." When their mutual friend and sometime trusted collaborator Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee is all but decapitated in a plane crash, West completes the job and injects the headless body with his special life-giving serum.
Up until this point, give or take alienating the entire black population, HPL hasn't really put a foot wrong plot-wise but, if you ask me, I'd say it all gets slightly silly beyond this point. The war is over now and West and Lovecraft are back in Boston, having taken yet another remote property. We are now expected to believe that the animated remains of Clapham-Lee fashions himself a new synthetic head, spirits himself back to America, and frees the thing that was Dr. Halsey from Sefton asylum! These two now organise the small army of West's unlovely bodged experiments into a 'Tomb Legion', each of them with a justified grudge versus the reanimator. They descend in awful silence on the old dark house overlooking the cemetery ...
William Charlton - Undesirable Guests: Berkshire: Seraphim Durness returns to England an “invalid” and married to an Indian girl, Mercedes. His old friends Matthew and Julia Brooks put the couple up at their country home, although not without misgivings. When the self-invited guests are out of earshot, Matthew asks his wife “What did you make of all that stuff they had in their car? It looked as if Seraphim was carrying his coffin around with him.” “I expect its the oxygen tent you were telling me about. His wife seemed very efficient at looking after him.” Let’s hope she’s as efficient at looking after the Brooks’ three children as Matt and Julia are out for dinner at the Engleby’s. All is well until some fool blurts out the disturbing rumours he heard pertaining to Mercedes while on a recent trip to Bolivia … (Horror 13)
Sydney J. Bounds - The Circus: Arthur Bragg, a reporter whose career has been dedicated to exposing hoaxes and phonies, chances upon a travelling circus when his car breaks down in the West Country. The handwritten poster reads; “Before your very eyes, werewolf into man! See the vampire rise from his coffin! Bring the children - invest in a sense of wonder!”
Dutifully, the Sunday Herald scribe attends the event, and it is a truly spectacular show. Along with the advertised attractions, ringmaster Dr. Nis introduces a mummy and an animated corpse.
After the performance, an outraged Bragg confronts Dr. Dis in his caravan. He is not unexpected.
Ken Alden - The Warrior’s Return: John’s return home from hospital via a Japanese POW camp was never going to be painless, but this is even worse than wife Marjorie could have feared. Their little boy Michael notes his dad’s unfortunate resemblance to Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera and legs it while Marjorie desperately tries to communicate with the soulless thing in the chair. A dead man walking if ever there was.
Anthony Burgess - An American Organ: Narrative of a disturbed man who trades in his late mother-in-law’s ornaments for a keyboard. Recovering from the initial surprise, impossibly understanding wife suggests he give a recital while she takes a bath. She doesn’t baulk even when he asks what Crippen played to his victims.
Barbara Jane Eyre - Anaesthetic: Samantha, 35, is in hospital for an operation and terrified. Her main concern is that she'll choke to death when they put her under. When it's all done, she wakes in the notorious Curie Ward with its unfeeling, sneering nurses and a room full of yellow women on drips. Everybody knows what happens to you in Curie Ward ...
To be honest, I much prefer her For Charity's Sake in #11.
Guy De Maupassant - Vendetta: When her son is murdered the widow Saverini swears vengeance. But how can an old woman and a gaunt sheepdog overcome a robust young killer? It’s amazing what you can do with some bales of straw, your husband’s old clothes and a string of black pudding.
Nyki Blatchley - Safe As Houses: Mrs. Parker's lodging house is the last in a row built by a man who was later hung for murder and the place has a sinister reputation on account of the high mortality rate among the tenants. When Mrs. Parker decides to sell up, the house realises it will be demolished and attacks the occupants in a series of vampiric attacks. Much better than I've made it sound.
Mary Danby - Woodman’s Knot: “Carneads: A nomadic European tribe which, in the belief that it could create a race of great physical strength weaned its children on the mother’s flesh. Their way of life took on a Religious significance …”
17 year old shop worker Sandra Morrison meets Daniel Carne at a funfair and quickly falls in love with this tall, brooding hunk. Evidently he feels the same way about her as a marriage proposal is not slow in coming and he whisks her off to live on the family commune, Woodman’s Knot. The massed ranks of his relatives are kindness itself, even if she finds some of their ways rather strange by her own standards. Then she falls pregnant ….
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. - Christine Campbell Thomson