Whit & Hallie Burnett (eds.) - Things With Claws (Ballantine, 1961)
Terrifying tales of clawed creatures with murderous motives
The Editors - The Claws Exposed ...
Daphne du Maurier - The Birds T. K. Brown III - The Cats J. B. L. Goodwin - The Cocoon Radcliffe Squires - Baby Bunting Jesse Stuart - The Red Rats Of Plum Fork Oreste F. Pucciani - Butch William B. Seabrook - The Salamander A. E. Shandeling - Return Of The Griffins Stuart Cloete - Congo Byron Liggett - The Cat Man
Daphne du Maurier - The Birds: (Kiss Me Again, Stranger, 1952).
"Owing to the exceptional nature of the emergency, there will be no further transmission from any broadcasting station until 7a.m. tomorrow.
They played God Save The Queen. Nothing more happened."
Cornish coast. On the morning of December 3rd, disabled World War II veteran Nat Hocken wakes to find that winter has arrived and the birds are acting strangely. During the night they attack he and his family in their cottage and the next day there are reports on the radio that the same situation has been played out across the British Isles. At first the BBC announcer treats the story as an amusing aside to the real news, but within days there have been several casualties and the air force are sent in - to no avail. When Nat calls in at the farm where he's employed as a handyman, he finds the Trigg family slaughtered, literally pecked to pieces. Together with his wife, he gathers all the provisions he can, drives home with his well-stocked car (neatly avoiding the dead postman in the drive) and sets to boarding all his windows in readiness for the nights attack.
Published so soon after the war, the Luftwaffe's bombing sprees were still fresh enough in the memory of those who'd lived through it for this creepy, doom-laden story to strike a haunting and frightening chord. The Birds was famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, although there was little left of Du Maurier in Evan Hunter's screenplay and the action was relocated to Botany Bay.
Byron Liggett - The Cat Man: (Story, 1960). Author Gerald Foster buys a tiny island in the Pacific, taking half a dozen cats with him for company. The narrator, Captain Rogers, agrees to deliver his supplies and over the next three years watches appalled as the cat population increases into the hundreds. It is all Foster can do to feed them and, now they've rid Tuo Atoll of its rats, birds and insects, the situation is desperate. Rogers makes him a present of two fierce dogs but they're easily overcome and eaten, so next he suggests poison. Foster won't hear of such cruelty, reasoning that this situation is down to him, not the ferocious felines. Rogers decides he's going to kill them with or without the recluse's consent, but his sloop is smashed in a hurricane and its four months until he can return to perform the operation.
It's obvious from the first how this will end but the sheer inevitability of it all adds to the horror of the thing. Picked up by Michel Parry for his theme anthology Beware Of The Cat (Gollancz, 1972) but nowhere near as well known as it should be, IMO.
J. L. Goodwin - Cocoon: Butterfly obsessive Danny Longwood, eleven, hides away in his room tending his smelly collection of caterpillars and pupae like a mad scientist. His father, a retired explorer of note and doesn't he let everyone know it, neglects him and his mother ran off five years ago so he's left to his own devices for the most part. When his father refuses to lend him his enormous cigar bowl, Danny has no alternative but to dispose of his prize find - a huge mutant moth with crab and mouth-like simulacra on its wings. But the cyanide jar fails to kill it ....
Jesse Stuart - The Red Rats Of Plum Fork: greenwood County, Kentucky. Nothing will shift the plague of rats overrunning Pa's farm; even a ferret comes out of a scrap with them eyeless and bloodied. Son Finn inadvertently hits on a solution to the problem. More whimsical than horrific and not my thing however well written.
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