The last 18 months or so has seen an explosion in the number of short story anthologies and collections. It feels as though every man and his dog are throwing a bone in the arena. A lot of these books are generally rather poor when it comes to the quality of not only the stories but in the quality and care taken with the production of the book. Thankfully there are still pedigree editors and publishers out there capable of winning best in breed.
Mark Morris and Spectral Press have teamed up to bring us The Spectral Book of Horror Stories. Featuring a line up of authors that almost beggars belief, this should be one of the anthologies of the year....
Where do you start when you have a dream team of authors in your book? A wise man would probably start with grandfather of British horror Ramsey Campbell, good thing Mark is a wise man. On The Tour is a typically brilliant story from Campbell, that somehow manages to inject a thread of humour into a story that deals with ego and the Id, and growing paranoia of loneliness.
Next up is perhaps my favourite story of the anthology, Alison Littlewood's The Dog's Home. A creepy story that wrong foots the reader at just the right moment, with a truly nasty ending, this is one of those short stories that shows the real power that a short story can have.
Other personal favourites include a powerful and emotional story from Gary McMahon Dull Fire is a classic McMahon story that explores just how far families can mess you up.
Alison Moore's Eastmouth, is a classic example of a quiet horror story that just works perfectly. Eschewing the in your face and direct approach of many of the for a much more subtle approach, Eastmouth will chill you to the bone, especially with one of the greatest final lines to any short stories.
Now I can't do a review without mentioning one of my favourite authors, John Llewellyn Probert's The Life Inspector, is full of John's trademarked joyous sense of fun and tongue in cheek approach to the horror story.
Overall this is a first class anthology, and despite a couple of stories that didn't work for me Helen Marshall's story for me suffered from a main character who was just impossible to connect with and Stephen Law's story just felt odd to me, this is an outstanding anthology.
Mark Morris has a keen eye for what makes a great horror story, and he has managed to ensure that the anthology itself isn't bogged down with too many stories that have a similar theme or tone, he uses Probert Oliver and Royle perfectly to break up the book.
The Spectral Book of Horror Stories is as close to anthology perfection as you can hope to get.
The first volume in a new annual anthology edited by Mark Morris and with cover artwork by award-winning artist Vincent Chong. Featuring nineteen stories by Ramsey Campbell, Alison Littlewood, Helen Marshall, Tom Fletcher, Steve Rasnic Tem, Gary McMahon, Reggie Oliver, Alison Moore, Robert Shearman, Conrad Williams, Michael Marshall Smith, Brian Hodge, Angela Slatter, Stephen Laws, Rio Youers, John Llewellyn Probert, Lisa Tuttle, Nicholas Royle, and Stephen Volk.
Formats: paperback and eBook
Purchase a copy here