Karl Edward Wagner (ed.) - Intensive Scare: Scalpel-Edged Tales From Terror's Operating Room (DAW, 1990)
J. K. Potter
Karl E. Wagner - Introduction: Trust Me, I'm A Doctor
Dennis Etchison - The Dead Line Seabury Quinn - The House Of Horror Richard McKenna - Casey Agonistes Robert Louis Stevenson - The Body-Snatcher Micheal Shea - The Autopsy Manly Wade Wellman - Back To The Beast M. John Harrison - The Incalling Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle - The Case Of Lady Sannox George R. R. Martin - The Needle Men Edgar Jephson & John Gawsworth - The Shifting Growth Jack Dann - Camps H. P. Lovecraft - Herbert West, Reanimator C. M. Kornbluth - The Little Black Bag
There must have been more anthologies based around the theme of medical horrors but damned if I can think of one. As you'd expect from an editor of the much-missed Wagner's calibre, it's a thoughtful mix of old pulp and new horror of the most far out persuasion.
H. P. Lovecraft - Herbert West: Reanimator: "Looming hideously against the moon was a gigantic, misshapen thing, covered with bits of mould, foul with caked blood, and having between its glistening teeth a snow white, terrible cylindrical object terminating in a tiny hand ..."
A penny dreadful, HPL style! The Cthulhu Mythos is all very well but wish he'd written a few more barking, all-out, no nonsense mindless horror pulps like this, The Hound and his immortal 'revision' of C. M. Eddy's The Loved Dead. Even the chapter headings are tops - who could resist The Plague Demon. The Scream Of The Dead or The Tomb Legion.
Herbert West - Reanimator was published over six issues of an early fanzine, Home Brew, from February to July 1922, and details the exploits of the anti-hero and his loyal assistant from 1903 through to West's "disappearance" in 1921.
Herbert West is a brilliant if somewhat unstable student at Miskatonic University, Arkham, whose obsession is the resurrection of the dead. His Dean, the brilliant Dr. Allan Halsey, appalled at the number of small animals West and the narrator - presumably Lovecraft - have destroyed during their experiments, bans them from pursuing their program on the premises. Unbeknown to him, they've already revived a corpse at the derelict Chaplin house which they've converted into a makeshift lab. The re-animated body, that of a drowned man they'd dug up within hours of his death, is soon up and about - but that's the problem. He goes AWOL.
A typhoid epidemic! What a stroke of luck! Better still, Dr. Halsey is among the victims having heroically given his all to save as many lives as possible. With his detractor out of the frame, West gets down to business. So far, it's been a rotten year for Arkham, but it's about to get worse as a sadistic killer is on the lose, tearing innocent citizens apart and biting off their flesh. Thankfully, he's captured and committed to an asylum but what a dreadful shock for the locals that he should bear such an uncanny resemblance to their recently deceased savior, Dr. Halsey!
West and Lovecraft now set themselves up as general practitioners in Bolton, the neighbouring factory town. an illegal boxing match provides them with the raw materials they need in the burly form of Black Robinson, 'The Harlem Smoke', who has just been punched out of this world (albeit temporarily). Lovecraft pauses to describe the late Mr. Robinson in terms that would make Dennis Wheatley splutter on his Bollinger.
"He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore-legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-toms pounding under an eerie moon. The body must have looked even worse in life - but the world holds many ugly things."
After another partial success with a heart-attack victim - at least they got the poor bastard to scream - West moves the practice to Boston until come 1915 he joins the medical corps and heads for Flanders where the corpses are plentiful. By now even Lovecraft has his concerns: " I did not like the way he looked at healthy living bodies." When their mutual friend and sometime trusted collaborator Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee is all but decapitated in a plane crash, West completes the job and injects the headless body with his special life-giving serum.
Up until now, give or take alienating the entire black population, HPL hasn't really put a foot wrong plot-wise but, if you ask me, I'd say it all gets slightly silly beyond this point. The war is over now and West and Lovecraft are back in Boston, having taken yet another remote property. We are now expected to believe that the animated remains of Clapham-Lee fashions himself a new synthetic head, spirits himself back to America, and frees the thing that was Dr. Halsey from Sefton asylum! These two now organise the small army of West's unlovely bodged experiments into a 'Tomb Legion', each of them with a justified grudge versus the reanimator. They descend in awful silence on the old dark house overlooking the cemetery ...
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle - The Case Of Lady Sannox: Her loose behaviour scandalises polite society and drives her husband to distraction. The latest to share her bed is the brilliant young surgeon Dr. Douglas Stone, renowned for his prowess between the sheets as much as his cool handling of the scalpel. How can his Lordship make the baggage less lippy and ruin Stone into the bargain?
Edgar Jepson & John Gawsworth - The Shifting Growth: "Uncompressed, it looked as if it would have filled a drainpipe, and split the colon of an ox."
Euw. The charming story of swimming champion Sylvia Bard, her perplexed surgeon lover and the nasty something she swallowed. Probably the most reprinted of the Thrills stories.
Seabury Quinn - The House Of Horror: Lost in a storm, De Grandin and Trowbridge chance upon Marston Hall, home to the brilliant surgeon Dr. John Beirsfield Marston who retired after his deformed son committed suicide when his bride to be, actress Dora Lee, jilted him. Not much has been heard of Marston since then, although a number of young girls have gone missing in the area …
Rarely was Quinn to pen anything quite as nasty as this (although he tried, and even rewrote The House Of Horror at least once: The House Where Time Stood Still).
Manly Wade Wellman - Back To The Beast: "Let whoever reads these words take warning from my plight. Do not meddle with the scheme of things as nature has planned - delve not into her mysterious past. I have done that and it was my complete and dreadful undoing ....." The brilliant Dr. Lawlor develops a serum which rapidly degenerates the body until it resembles that of primeval man when he first crawled from the swamp. Unfortunately, in his ape-like form, his clawed hands are unable to apply the restorative or keep up his journal as it reaches its most interesting stages. "Even now the sliding back into lower and lower form continues ...."
Jack Dann - Camps: Companion piece to his collaboration with Gardner Dozios, Down Among The Dead Men. Present day hospital patient Stephen dreams vividly and coherently of events he could never have witnessed - the efforts of two Jewish Concentration Camp prisoners to save a friend from being loaded onto the death cart - but which are all too familiar to his nurse, Josie. A sombre and quite brilliant treatment of horrible subject matter.
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.