Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
In the introduction to his latest critically-acclaimed anthology, A Book of Horrors, out September 18th from St. Martin’s Griffin, horror editor extraordinaire Stephen Jones poses a question I’m sure a lot of us have been asking of late: “What the hell happened to the horror genre?” Jones goes on to lament the apparent demise of the creatures many of us grew up with: the “menacing monsters, vicious vampires, lethal lycanthropes, ghastly ghosts and monstrous mummies.” Instead, we have vampires who sparkle, zombies populating a Jane Austen mashup, “urban fantasy” and “steampunk”, among other “horrific” un-horrifying subgenres to wade through in our search for “real” horror as opposed to a world of “horror lite”. So, Jones continues in his introduction, “[t]he time has come to reclaim the horror genre for those who understand and appreciate the worth and impact of a scary story.”
And boy, does he! In this all-original anthology, Jones has assembled many of horror’s “big guns” as well as some up and comers worth keeping an eye on. Stephen King, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Ramsey Campbell, Caitlín Kiernan, Angela Slatter, Michael Marshall Smith, Richard Christian Matheson and Lisa Tuttle are just some of the fourteen authors represented in A Book of Horrors.
Beginning the anthology is Stephen King’s old-fashioned monster story “The Little Green God of Agony,” about a dying billionaire and the horrific creature that is removed from his body. Other stories include the brilliant novella “Near Zennor” by Elizabeth Hand, in which an American tourist to the Cornwall region of Great Britain discovers an entryway to another world; the incredibly creepy tale of “The Man in the Ditch” by Lisa Tuttle; the dark, fairytale-like “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter” by rising Australian writer Angela Slatter and the unique take on the traditional ghost story in “The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
As is the case with all anthologies, some of the stories in A Book of Horrors hit the mark while others… not so much. For me, the stories by King, Peter Crowther, Tuttle, Slatter and Hand were extremely effective in either scaring me to death or subtly getting under my skin. And isn’t that what a good horror story is supposed to do?
So no matter what kind of scare you are looking for, you should be able to find it in Stephen Jones’ excellent anthology. And for a true collector, you may still be able to grab the hardcover edition on the UK Amazon site (link below). Get started on (or adding to) that horror library!
4 out of 5