Hugh Lamb (ed.) - Star Book Of Horror #2 (Star, 1976)
Introduction - Hugh Lamb
Oswell Blakeston - The Ultimate Thrill Robert Bloch - Edifice Complex H. R. Wakefield - Into Outer Darkness John Blackburn - The Field Of Blood Ambrose Bierce - The Death Of Halpin Frayser C. D. Pamely - The Crimson Plague Joy Burnett - Marlston Water Charles Duff - Murderers Corner Bassett Morgan - Laocoon Nugent Barker - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Brian Lumley - The Man Who Photographed Beardsley A. Erskine Ellis - Compartment 1313A Ramsey Campbell - Baby Richard Middleton - The Wrong Turning L. P. Hartley - Podolo
Oswell Blakeston's nasty The Ultimate Thrill is a model of economy. In two pages, he introduces a young man in a bar who's "seen everything" and is jaded enough to blow a fortune if he can only witness something novel. He gets his wish. John Blackburn - who would later develop Blakeston's theme for his ghastly The Final Trick - takes us inside an asylum where the all-stars of K ward are preparing a warm welcome for a new inmate who believes himself to be Christ.
Mad artists are always good for some mayhem and the narrator of Lumley's The Man Who Photographed Beardsley doesn't disappoint as the trail of corpses he leaves in his wake silently testify. This collection's Weird Tales reprint is one of Bassett Morgan's patented mans-brain-transplanted-into-head-of-orang-utang-and-vice-versa monstrosities, the difference being that this time the unfortunate recipient is a sea monster.
Lamb describes Hartley's Podolo as "probably the closest he came to writing a tale of pure horror." A couple are rowed out to a shunned island where a murderous something awaits. Gloomier still, perhaps, Richard Middleton's The Wrong Turning finds the troubled author in downbeat mood: George finds himself stranded on treacherous marshland at night. Despite his misgivings, he stops at a cheerless homestead in the middle of nowhere, worryingly named 'The House of Woe'. Therein he finds two men, a mother and her baby, the woman, Mary, being the girl George deserted when she fell pregnant. Finding the atmosphere unbearable, George decides to leave. Mary kindly offers to show him the path through the bog ....
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.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Jan 24, 2012 0:21:53 GMT
I'm enjoying this one a lot so far. I think I'll be looking for more of Mr. Lamb's anthologies in the future (the only other one I have is Return from the Grave). The Wakefield, Burnett, and Duff stories are all solid; of the ones that I've read, however, the following three are my favorites (not counting the Bierce tale, which is outstanding but has been reprinted innumerable times):
I can't add anything about The Ultimate Thrill except to say that it's impressive how much impact the story carries given that it's so short. The Hostel series of films has nothing on this one.
Edifice Complex has one of the strangest menaces I can remember--about as bizarre as the monsters in "The Bald-Headed Mirage," another oddball Bloch science fiction/horror story. An opportunist lures a smashed woman to a desolate planet. His plans involve an unpleasant end for her and a fortune in diamonds for him. Unfortunately for both of them, he has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the situation.
The Crimson Plague was a revelation. Imagine Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" crossed with his "MS Found in a Bottle," plus a dash of Hodgson's The Ghost Pirates and an "I--can--write--no--more" ending that would do C. M. Eddy proud.
I wasn't crazy about the Blackburn story; the ending was too easy to see coming. As for the Morgan tale--well, I must give credit to the author for finding a theme and working it for all it's worth.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Jan 26, 2012 1:56:11 GMT
The rest of the stories were good, as well. Special notice for two more:
One,Two, Buckle My Shoe begins with a standard plot: a traveler lost at night finds a creepy place to spend the night owned by a disturbing character. In this case, it's a house that looks like "a bloated pancake with a blanket of heavy thatch on the top of it," tenanted by a monstrous woman with dirt in her hair. Shown a room for the night, the protagonist begins to enact a twisted version of an old nursery rhyme.
Podolo is about a day trip to an island near Venice. When the narrator's female friend finds a starving cat, she resolves to save it--or failing that, to kill it out of mercy. This turns out to be foreshadowing for a cryptic but awful turn of events.