Christine Bernard (ed.) - The 4th Fontana Book Of Great Horror Stories (Fontana, August 1969)
"Hair-raising horror! 13 stories to make your flesh creep!"
Francis King - The Doll Joseph Conrad - The Idiots R. Chetwynd Hayes - Looking For Something To Suck Edith Nesbit - The Head Nigel Kneale - Chains Algernon Blackwood - The Empty House Sydney J. Bounds - The Flesh Is Weak Dino Buzzati - Seven Floors Malachi Whitaker - New Moon Francis King - Mess Sydney J. Bounds - Young Blood Violet Hunt - The Telegram Prosper Merimee - Mateo Falcone
Francis King - The Doll : Reynolds, Sir Malcolm's man-servant, is acting shifty following the abduction (and probable murder) of a pretty, mentally-handicapped girl, an article of whose blood-stained clothing is all that has been seen of her since she disappeared. Reynolds is convinced that he is the killer and even leads the police to the spot where her body is buried. But a bus conductor has already been apprehended and he's confessed to the crime.
Algernon Blackwood - The Empty House: Shorthouse's aunt Julia procures the key and persuades him to accompany her in holding an all night vigil in the allegedly haunted house. the haunting "has to do with a murder committed by a jealous stableman who had an affair with a servant in the house. One night he managed to secrete himself in the cellar, and when everyone was asleep, he crept upstairs to the servants quarters, chased the girl down to the next landing, and before anyone could come to the rescue, threw her bodily over the banister into the hall below."
It is a harrowing evening, at the climax of which the now terrified ghost-hunters have the murder re-enacted before their eyes.
Sydney J. Bounds - Young Blood: Mini-skirted hipster Joy Eager goes to see her favourite band, the Ghouls, at the Swing-In Club ("But they're zany, mum. Way out"). The band are famous for their smash hit You're My Meat, Baby, and Joy gets taken to meet them backstage ....
Nigel Kneale - Chains: 1731. A slave trader inspects the wares of a gnarled old sea salt, winds up crushed beneath twenty fathoms of anchor chain. The old boy had served time as a galley slave ...
Sydney J. Bounds - The Flesh Is Weak: Jonathan Pike is convinced that his skeleton is in revolt against his body, "breaking free of its natural confines, shredding muscle and tendons, skin and flesh!" His doctor won't listen.
Malachi Whitaker - New Moon: The horror of a hateful marriage. Mrs. Mollineaux wed young and soon learnt that her husband is a cruel and despicable despot. unfortunately, her three sons - most notably the debauched Godfrey - take after their father. Only after the men are dead can Mrs. Mollineaux reclaim the life that went into suspended animation when she was fifteen.
R. Chetwynd-Hayes - Looking For Something To Suck: "It was all of thirty foot long, and perhaps a foot in circumference, a long snake, or more likely a worm: covered with a beautiful white, delicate skin, such as might grace a woman's shoulder. In places there was a pale pink flush... "
A vampiric shadow enters the Wilton's home in search of its feed - the psychic Jane. Despite Jane - and the dog's - protestations, Jerry insists on switching out all the lights at bedtime. When he awakens it is to discover a scene of sheer horror as the shadow - having taken the form of something akin to one of E. F. Benson's slug-like elementals - gorges on "all the goodness" inside his wife. As Jerry clutches the pile of bones in a skin bag that was once his partner, the worm dies an agonising death in the light, the only thing it's vulnerable to.
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.
Have decided to make a dent in my pile of 'actual real, live books' this year. Have made a start on this one. Here's the cover of mine,
Seventh Impression May 1977. Cover illustration, John Holmes.
Thus far I've read, Looking for Something to Suck, The Head, Chains, The Flesh is Weak and Young Blood. I'm quite impressed with them all so far, with R. Chetwynd-Hayes' yucky worm being by far the fave so far. Young Bloodstruck me as a bit run-of-the-mill to move me too much but wasn't terrible. Chains had me disliking the monologue style right from the off, but I finished up not hating it as much as it deserved. The Flesh is Weak was entertaining given that it's not often you read a story about a man's skeleton attempting a coup-de-tete upon it's owner. The Head didn't spring any surprises on me but was a good read nonetheless, and it had a nice sitting-in-front-of-the-fire atmosphere which always gets an extra point from me, especially in the Winter.
All quite enjoyable so far. I'd say Looking for Something to Suck will prove hard to beat though. That was great.
Note: At some point I'm really going to have to dig out my scanner and scan 'my' actual copies rather than relying on google images.
Of the few more that I've read, it's Seven Floors by Dino Buzzati that really stands out. Giovanni Corte alights from the train heading for the sanatorium that has been recommended to him as being particularly suited to the curing of his particular ailment. When he arrives he soon gets used to the idea of patients being assigned to one of the seven floors depending upon the severity of their illness. Giovanni is quite smug at first being assigned to the topmost floor, floor seven, but soon changes his tune when he finds himself gradually being persuaded downwards. What I liked here was that you could no more see any good reason for him to refuse each subsequent move than poor Giovanni himself could. Having said that, he does on the odd occasion attempt to stem his descent to depths of the building, only to be convinced of the wisdom of his continued descent. It's very well done and just strange enough without tipping over into that 'what on earth was that about' kind of story.
The Dollby Francis King almost had me forgetting that it was a horror anthology, and could very nearly have come from a detective/mystery story anthology; Nearly. It wasn't bad, but wasn't on a par with either Seven Floors or Looking for Something to Suck.
The Idiots by Joseph Conrad I just couldn't get on with this one at all and had to give up on it after a few pages. It may just have been my particular mood at that moment. I'll try again with it once I've read the others.
New Moon by Malachi Whitaker was quite poignant and just like the new moon each month tells of renewals and new beginnings, in this case after the deaths of her husband and three children. She then finds herself able to take up where she left off at the tender young age of fifteen. I feel like I've learnt something important from this story. Or should have at least.