Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: 'The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series II', edited by Richard Davis


2 / 5 Stars

‘The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series II’ is DAW Book No. 109 and appeared in July 1974; the cover illustration is by Hans Arnold.

The stories all originally appeared in 1972 / 1973 in various anthologies, small press magazines, and ‘slick’ magazines (such as Playboy). As was always the case with this series, there are three or four good stories in this anthology.  Dracula actor Christopher Lee provides the Forward.

My capsule summaries of the contents:

‘David’s Worm’ by Brian Lumley: tongue-in-cheek tale of a monster on the loose in the placid English countryside.

‘The Price of A Demon’ by Gary Brandner: bored housewife dabbles in the occult. A competent tale of modern mores colliding with arcane knowledge.

‘The Knocker at the Portico’ by Basil Copper: an eccentric experiences various torments; employs a traditional horror theme. Well-written, if not particularly imaginative.

‘The Animal Fair’ by Robert Bloch: a surprisingly good tale from Bloch about a creepy carnival sideshow, with a bleak Midwestern setting.

‘Napier Court’ by J. Ramsey Campbell: one of two Campbell tales in the collection; two too many, in my opinion. ‘Court’ is the leaden tale of a sickly young woman alone in a haunted house.

‘Haunts of the Very Rich’, by T. K. Brown the Third: spoiled rich people arrive on at a Fantasy Island and get some nasty surprises. Not really a horror story, as much as it is a satire of the pettiness and self-indulgent attitudes of the wealthy.

‘The Long-Term Residents’, by Kit Pedler: overworked scientist vacations in a strange countryside B & B. A bit too opaque and slowly-paced for my tastes.

‘Like Two White Spiders’ by Eddy C. Bertin: a reworking of the traditional Hands of Horror theme, albeit with a bit more imagination and verve than is usually the case.

‘The Old Horns’ by J. Ramsey Campbell: another Campbell entry, this one just as underwhelming as ‘Napier Court’. ‘Horns’ deals with British beachgoers discomfited by a dank patch of forest.

‘Haggopian’ by Brian Lumley: another Lumley entry. This one deals with a warped, Jacques Cousteau - style explorer, and very unpleasant undersea life forms.

‘The Events at Poroth Farm’ by T. E. D. Klein: this novelette is the longest entry in the anthology. A neurotic professor of English literature decides to spend the summer on a remote farm; there are indications that the local fauna are not very welcoming. As is common with Klein’s fiction, the narrative is slow-paced and takes its time unfolding, and the denouement, when it eventually arrives, is underwhelming.

The verdict ? I wouldn't pay the $25 or more that copies of this book in very good / like new condition are commanding, but if you can find a copy for $5 or less, it might be worth picking up.

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