There are not a lot of things I look forward to each year. Most of the time they fail to live up to my expectations. However one thing I do really look forward to is the publication of the latest Black Book of Horror. This anthology edited by Charles Black is im my humble opinion one of the best and most consistent anthologies out there. The range of story styles and mix of lesser known and more well known authors is almost pitch perfect. The Ninth Black Book of Horrors keeps this high level of excellence going for another year.
I do judge a book by it's cover, the cover to this book is excellent, but a book only succeeds if the stories are worth reading.
I don't know how many submissions Charles must have to read through to get to the final draft of the book, judging by the high standard throughout this anthology I would be interested to see some if the stories that didn't make the grade.
The anthology kicks of in glorious, theatrical style with a highly entertaining and macabre story form the splendid John Llewellyn Probert. The Anatomy Lesson is just brilliant, John balances the gory elements of the story with a sense of dramatic flair that is sadly lacking from a lot of horro writing today.
The other fifteen stories in the collection are all of a very high standard, that manage to bring in a lot of different styles and tones to the anthology. Some of the other stand out stories for me were
Thana Niveau's The Things That Aren't There, this is a wonderfully subtle and creepy story, with horrible things living in the shadows beneath the stairs. It's stories like this that keeps my electricity bill so high. One of these days I'll become brave enough to turn the hall light out when I go to bed.
Paul Finch's What's Behind You? Where an art teacher takes seven of his students on a trip to supposedly haunted rectory, where hey are warned "not to look behind them" is a classic example of supernatural horror. Chilling, spooking this story will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
Marc Lyth's The Man Who hated Waste is a fun blackly humorous piece of writing.
Simon Bestwick's Salvaje, sees a couple terrorised by a gang of mercenaries determined to retrieve something her Grandfather had buried after the Spanish civil war. This is a brutal and powerful tale of revenge.
If you are going to buy one horror anthology this Christmas, then I think this is the one for you.