Oddities Investigated: Tales from a Hero's Casebook: Daring adventures of John W. Hero, psychic investigator, vampire-slayer, monster-hunter, narcisist, etc, and his succession of comely female assistants. Acknowledgements reveal that certain of these vignettes saw previous publication in The Chelmsfordian, Zimri and how lovely!, The Count Dracula Fan Club News-Journal.
1. The Hero Introduced: The Hero and gym bunny secretary-minder go vampire-slaying in Waltham Abbey.
2. The Hero Strikes Again: Venomous blue arachnids infest the Chelmsford sewer system.
3. The Hero Heroic: A killer smog - emanating from the Hero's own Duke Street chambers, funnily enough. Most mysterious.
4. How to Be a Hero: The Hero briefly acquires the services of a Transylvanian assistant. She proves instrumental in curtailing a werewolf outrage at Sandon Egg Farm - by going home.
5. Portrait of a Hero: Misleading information puts the Hero in a tricky spot. He arrived at The Old Crown Inn, Messing Green, prepared to destroy a vampire. No one mentioned anything about exterminating a Frankenstein's monster tribute act.
6. Mister Hero Esquire: Traditional Essex witch-hag, Auntie Gutsache is out to avenge the imprisonment of her sister, Old Mother Boatpound, on evidence compiled by the Hero.
7. The Hero at Large: A Pagan God takes exception to Billericay council laying a sewage pipe beneath Temple Wood.
8. The Daily Hero: Gorgo climbs out of the sea, sets off on the rampage through Maldon. The Hero's busy-body assistant calms it with soothing words.
9. Our Man Hero: The Hero and latest replacement assistant confront a feasting ghoul in All Saint's Church, Maldon. A terrible business. New girl has even shorter shelf life than predecessors.
10. Hero Me no Heroes: Hero goes solo to investigate case of multiple haunting at Copford Old Rectory.
11. A Hero For All Seasons: Bishop of same haunted Parsonage as above now reports an outbreak of Satanism and Devil-Worship on the Heath. The Hero and returned assistant (you'd think they'd have names) witness a human sacrifice! Almost. Outcome reminiscent of similar hilarious mix-up in classic Widdershins episode of Hettie Wainthropp Investigates
12. One Man's Hero: A giant amoeba rises from the Estuary, re-enacts The Blob across Tiptree. The scene is set for final showdown at the Jam Factory.
13. Hero Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Hero is called upon to evict an ogre from Danbury Hill.
I found the ghoul, haunted Parsonage, and horror movie shoot episodes particularly entertaining, though no doubt most readers will have a different favourite and least favourite depending on their prefered supernatural entity. Pop culture refs include Peter Cushing, Dale Winton, Jane Fonda workouts, Famous Monsters of Filmland, "Dr. Horror's House of Terrors, or something," Michael Fish, and a signed photo of John Ingman "in full make-up as Mother Goose."
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.