Hugh Lamb (ed.) - The Man-Wolf And Other Horrors(W.H. Allen, 1978)
Cover: Bob Haberfield
Introduction - Hugh Lamb
Frederick Cowles - The Horror Of Abbot's Grange R. E. Vernede - The Finless Death Maurice Level - The Kennel A. C. Benson - The Snake, The Leper And The Grey Frost E. F. Benson - The Case Of Frank Hampden R. H. Benson - Father Bianchi's Story Philip Murray - The Charnel House M. R. James - Twelve Medieval Ghost Stories Eleanor Scott - The Cure Howard Pease - The Warlock Of Glororum Amyas Northcote - The Downs Erckmann-Chatrian - The Man-Wolf
Difficult to know where to put this on the board as, the title story apart, all the stories were published between 1903-1936 - which makes it ideal for the Gruesome Cargoes board - but somehow it's so rooted in the decade it was published I settled for here.
And who really cares?
Frederick Cowles - The Horror Of Abbot's Grange: Seeking whom he may devour. God frustrate him always.
Ritton. Michael and wife Joan lease the Grange which has remained untenanted for so long that the present Lord Salton has it earmarked for demolition. Terms are agreed with the agent who is insistent on one point: should they wish to visit the chapel - closed these three hundred years - they must do so only during the day and on no account allow the door to be unlocked between dusk and daybreak. It transpires that the chapel houses the tomb of William, the first Lord Salton (1501-97), a Cistercian monk who dabbled in black magic and was dismissed from the Abbey. He was given his title in return for informing against the Abbot and his holy brethren which saw seven of them executed, and there's an impressive portrait of him hanging under the stairs. The artist was clearly a conscientious man: he's even painted in the guy's fangs.
Come the housewarming party and, of course, some fool just has to nose around the chapel. A blood-curdling laugh and - William Salton is free!
Child sacrifice, dead party-goers, a haunted portrait and a vampire with Tod Slaughter tendencies. This is Cowles at his most pulpy, cliched and unutterably entertaining. And, God help me, he even slips in some Jamesian touches.
R. E. Vernede - The Finless Death: Mexico. Kender and Flackman ignore the pleas of Don Miguel the Innkeeper and go fishing at the lagoon as planned. So two Germans failed to return from the same spot yesterday - what is that to them? Their bravado pays off when they land a peculiar catch: a rotund white fish which, truth be told, neither of them like the look of. The boat containing the dead Germans - stood stock-still like waxworks - floats toward them. The floppy white thing - ugly brute! - oozes slime .....
Philip Murray - The Charnel House: Henry Vokes is a mortuary assistant. One night he admits a ghoulish thrill-seeker to watch him embalming one lucky corpses and muses: "I wonder if I shall come to this myself?" When he dies, he gets to find out, as he remains conscious throughout the whole procedure, right down to the lid being screwed shut on his coffin.
Maurice Level - The Kennel: M. de Hartevel surprises his wife Marie Therese with a man in her bedroom. His friend. And the fellow has had a heart attack. After pronouncing him dead, de Harteval goes on to make a drama of the shame that would befall their good name should the servants get to hear of this as, while he accepts her innocent explanation, others might not! Informing the police is obviously out of the question, so what to do with the corpse? It's at times like this when a man fully appreciates his forty vicious mastiffs.
Amyas Northcote - The Downs: The narrator, a Londoner holidaying at a farm, learns that walking the Branksome Downs after dark is not without its perils. Especially this night when the restless dead rise up from the earth. Atmospheric enough but far from a second Brickett Bottom.
Howard Pease - The Warlock Of Glororum: The great Scottish tower is said to contain a hidden chamber, once home to a powerful sixteenth century wizard. Dick vows to discover his ancestor's secret and he and the narrator have a dull old time doing so. Now they stand peering down into the darkness and their torches light upon .... a monstrous venus fly-trap finishing off the farmer's daughter! -
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.