**spoiler alert** DEAD LETTER PRESS has a knack for unearthing lost treasures of the horror genre from long forgotten tombs, adorning them with vibran**spoiler alert** DEAD LETTER PRESS has a knack for unearthing lost treasures of the horror genre from long forgotten tombs, adorning them with vibrant new cover art by the great Allen Koszowski, and making them available for whole new generations to enjoy. IN THE DWELLING OF THE WILDERNESS, a short novel by C. Bryson Taylor originally published in 1904, is one such reintroduced classic.
The book begins with an excellent introduction by Tom English giving background on the novel which had fallen into virtual obscurity and the writer, C. Bryson Taylor, who was likely in her early twenties when she penned the tale. I always enjoy such insights into the history of a tale.
The story follows a group of American archeologists in Egypt to excavate an ancient tomb. Ignoring inscriptions inside warning against breaching a sealed inner chamber, they plunge forward, discovering the mummy of a woman who appears may have been walled-in while still alive. A mishap traps one of the archeologists in the chamber alone with the mummy, where he thinks he sees it move. He collapses shortly after being freed, and the next day the mummy has mysteriously vanished. In the days that follow, some of the men begin to disappear into the vast desert and an evil presence sinks through the encampment at night. The creeping dread as to the fate of those drawn into the waste by a creature they unwittingly released keeps the stakes high throughout.
The horrors herein tend more toward the subtle variety than most monster stories, which is generally how I prefer it. My one knock against it would be the author's attempts to convey the dialect of the local worker Ibraheem by spelling out his dialog phonetically, but since he's not a primary character, it doesn't occur too often. One of my favorite scenes was when one of the men has a disturbing, surreal vision of the mummy as the alluring beauty she was in life just before she transforms into a withered husk in his arms. So, if you're interested in reading a classic mummy horror tale, IN THE DWELLING OF THE WILDERNESS, is well worth a read. ...more
**spoiler alert** Among the gifts I received from my wonderful wife this Christmas was Ramsey Campbell's new novel, THIRTEEN DAYS BY SUNSET BEACH from**spoiler alert** Among the gifts I received from my wonderful wife this Christmas was Ramsey Campbell's new novel, THIRTEEN DAYS BY SUNSET BEACH from P.S. Publishing. After all the holiday craziness finally slowed down, I managed to find the time to give it a read.
The story unfolds from the point of view of Ray, the aging patriarch of a family that's taking a vacation together on a remote island in Greece called Vasilema. All the stresses of an extended vacation are explored, the rush to avoid missing their boat, the panic over misplaced passports, etc. Once they arrive on the island, Ray and his wife Sandra meet up with the rest of the family which brings along the struggles of how to keep a large group of disparate personalities unified and happy. Ray's adult children and their spouses often disagree over their methods of dealing with each other and with their children. There's also the trouble of interpreting the cultural differences of the locals who seem to be trying to subtly warn them against some hidden danger. Ray and his wife are withholding a sombre secret of their own from everyone.
Mutual harmony is threatened by more than just interpersonal conflicts however, after the group notices a pair of gaunt strangers observing them from a distance. Later, Sandra and some of the children begin to experience physical changes, and there are hints that some elusive force may be slipping into their hotel rooms at night. Sunset Beach itself turns out to be a strangely quiet place during the day, but they are repeatedly warned against going there after nightfall when it becomes loud and active. Add to this a grizzly discovery made inside a cave off the beach, the ominous words and actions of the locals, and the family's unsettling exploration of a deserted old monastery cloaked in darkness and surrounded by dead trees, and soon Ray's convinced they are being stalked by some ancient evil that resides on the island.
I very much enjoyed THIRTEEN DAYS BY SUNSET BEACH. Ramsey's ability to convey the persistent impression that terrible things are slinking just beneath the surface of normal, everyday life is masterfully on display here, presented in such a way whereas you understand why the characters experiencing these events don't take off screaming back to the safety of their homes. The protagonists struggle with holding onto the plausible explanations for everything they're experiencing or give into accepting their less-plausible, supernatural alternatives. At only 224 pages, this tale of quiet terror set on an exotic resort island is another classic by a true master of the genre.
**spoiler alert** A BOTANICAL NIGHTMARE: SIX SUCCULENT TALES OF VAMPIRIC VEGETATION edited by Tom English, is an anthology of classic horror stories p**spoiler alert** A BOTANICAL NIGHTMARE: SIX SUCCULENT TALES OF VAMPIRIC VEGETATION edited by Tom English, is an anthology of classic horror stories published by Dead Letter Press. As the subtitle suggests, each story is themed around bloodthirsty plants. With publication dates ranging from 1881 to 1919, the tales complement each other nicely. Adventure, horror, drama and romance are all masterfully displayed across these pages. "But, plants aren't scary," you might be saying. Read any of the offerings within, and see if your mind isn't changed. Most of the characters in these tales start off thinking the same thing, leading them to walk unaware into mortal peril sprouting around them. If pressed, I'd choose "The Purple Terror", "The Pavilion" and "The Sumach" as my favorites, but all are quite good. I had so much fun reading this anthology; it receives my highest possible recommendation.
1. "The Man-Eating Tree" by Phil Robinson (1881) - A man encounters a large carnivorous tree that attempts to grab and consume anything that passes into its circle of influence.
2. “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid” by H.G. Wells (1894) – A man who desires more excitement in his life, believes something special will happen on the same day he ends up buying some orchids. One is exceedingly ugly and looks to be in bad shape, yet he's intrigued by it. Claimed to have been recovered from beneath the body of the man who must have died procuring it, the hideous orchid eventually blossoms violently into life.
3. "The Story of The Grey House" by E. & H. Heron (1898) - Legendary occult detective, Flaxman Low investigates the inexplicable hanging deaths that have often occurred at The Grey House. Something sinister and unnatural seems to be at the root of these murders.
4. "The Purple Terror" by Fred M. White (1899) - Lieutenant Will Scarlett, tasked to deliver an important letter to another military official in Puerto Rico, becomes distracted by the flower a beautiful Cuban girl was wearing. He realizes it's undocking in the field of Botany. The girl's jealous boyfriend offers to take Scarlett and his party to the remote location in the forest where the flower blooms. Although he doesn't trust the guide, he can't pass up the chance at such a rare find. What follows is a fantastic weird tale of adventure and terror. This story was my favorite story in the book.
5. "The Pavilion" by E. Nesbit (1915) - Amelia is a plain girl, whose best friend Ernestine is a stunning beauty who enchants all the young men she meets. Two such men, staying at the same house as the girls, challenge each other to split the hours of the night sleeping in the creeper vine covered pavilion that has a dreadful history. Supposedly, anyone who spends the night within its confines is found dead the next day. This well written story has strong character development, increasing the fear for how things will ultimately turn out for them.
6. "The Sumach" by Ulric Daubeny (1919) - A woman becomes fascinated with a strange sumach tree whose leaves are prematurely red. Sitting between branches of the tree, she drifts off to sleep and has terrible nightmares. The explanation behind the origin of this vile tree is absolutely brilliant. ...more
**spoiler alert** Dead Lake is the first book in a series by Murphy Edwards centered around Vivid Valley Lake, a quiet, vacation community where famil**spoiler alert** Dead Lake is the first book in a series by Murphy Edwards centered around Vivid Valley Lake, a quiet, vacation community where families spend their days relaxing on the water, and criminals plunder its delicate eco-system for their own goals. It's also a place of secrets, secrets dark enough to trigger an ancient curse to fester beneath its murky waves. Charlie Nickles is the no-nonsense DNR officer charged with keeping the peace despite having to deal with corrupt local officials, greedy moonshiners, and an antisocial survivalist to name a few. When mutilated bodies begin turning up around the lake, Nickles investigates only to find himself confronted by a monstrous, undead fish-creature grown to monstrous proportions off all the bodies it's consumed. This abomination shrugs off everything thrown at it, forcing Nickles to team up with an unlikely adversary to try and take it down. This pulpy, action-horror novella is filled with colorful characters, vivid descriptions, and quick-striking horror. It's broken up into short chapters, which along with Murphy's fluid writing style, makes this a fast read. My only quibble is with the ending of this book which leaves things somewhat unresolved, but that's something I'm sure is addressed in the books that follow. I'd definitely recommend giving it a read as it kept my interest through to the end. ...more
Ghost Gleams: Tales Of The Uncanny is a collection of short stories by William J. Wintle which was published by Heath Cranton in 1921. Born in 1861, WGhost Gleams: Tales Of The Uncanny is a collection of short stories by William J. Wintle which was published by Heath Cranton in 1921. Born in 1861, Wintle distinguished himself as a versatile writer before becoming an Oblate for the Abbey of Caldey Island near Whales. It was there that he wrote these tales, specifically for the enjoyment of eight boys who attended there. In the forward of this collection, Wintle notes that the stories were originally told on Sunday nights while "crouching over a wood fire on a wind-swept island off the Western shore."
Wintle stories here are filled with secret passageways, cursed objects, disembodied voices and supernatural mysteries of all sorts. Some of them have a similarity to them but there are some stand outs too, such as "Red Rosary", "The Chamber of Doom", "The Black Cat", "The Horror of Horton House", and my personal favorite, "The Ghost of the Blue Dragon".
- "Red Rosary" - A man, who collects artifacts used in religious practices of uncivilized cultures, obtains a rare one called the Red Rosary. It's like a Catholic rosary but made out of rough jewels, one of which is shaped like a snake's head. It has a history of bringing bad fortune to anyone who possesses it and seems to move on its own.
- "When the Twilight Fell" - A man staying at a friend's Grange witnesses several spectral encounters, including candle flames that turn blue, an old book which moves on its own, and even the ghostly face of Henry VIII looking in through a window.
- "House on the Cliff" - A man asks to use a friend's remote cabin atop a cliff overlooking the water. The friend agrees but warns him that the house is haunted and that he plans to pull it down. During his stay the friend catches glimpses of a shadowy presence that stays just out of view and hears muted laughter. He also notices what appears to be the footprints of an enormous bird.
- "The Ghost at the Blue Dragon" - A man realizes he's acquired a malicious doppleganger after staying at The Blue Dragon. This evil double of his begins by damaging his reputation, but later its attacks become more deadly. This is one of the few great stories featuring this type of creature. Highly recommended!
- "The Spectre Spiders" - An unscrupulous money lender begins to see shadowy spiders darting around inside his house but can never get a clear view of them. As time goes on, they grow in size, number and solidity.
- "When Time Stood Still" - After finding a remote area by a hidden cave entrance, a man begins going there daily to read. The place fills him with an odd sense of antiquity as he begins to see Prehistoric beasts traveling through the nearby forest.
- "The Chamber of Doom" - A young Earl takes charge of the family castle, deciding to ignore the belief that the secret chamber hidden behind a wall in the gallery brings doom upon those who open it. Opening the wall releases something evil. This story (similar to Joseph Payne Brennan's "The Horror at Chilton Castle") seems to borrow heavily from the ancient legends attached to real life Glamis Castle.
- "The Black Cat" - A man with an innate fear of cats begins to see one everywhere, as a heap of earth and a moving shadow. It appears to be stalking him during the Christmas season.
- "Father Thornton's Visitor" - A priest sees a strange shadow in the garden of his parsonage when looking out his window at night by the moonlight. Eventually, the shadow forms into a man who walks through solid doors and fades away when encountered.
- "The Footsteps on the Stairs" - An unscrupulous merchant begins to notice a mysterious figure lurking around his place of business. He also hears its footsteps only to find no one there. He worries about the attention these distractions might bring from the authorities.
- "The Horror of Horton House" - A lord of Horton House is curious about a grim poem etched above a mantle in a dining room that contains a mysterious secret passageway that leads nowhere. He sees red eyes staring at him from inside the passage, and a fiery, six-fingered hand reaches out from it to grab him.
- "The Haunted House on the Hill" - A man moves into a house on a hill occupied by a friend and his servants. They all experience unexplainable things, such as an old woman wearing outdated clothes who vanishes at will, disembodied voices and footsteps, etc. They eventually piece together the reason why the place's spectral occupants still walk its halls.
- "The Voice in the Night" - Children and livestock are stalked by a mysterious wolf in a small town, but a girl who survives its attack swears it was an old woman who tried to bite her instead of a wolf.
- "The Light in the Dormitory" - When an old building in a monastery is put to use as a dormitory following years of disuse, the ghostly figure of a monk is seen walking it with a light shaped like a cross floating above it.
- "The Watcher in the Mill" - After inheriting a house, a no-nonsense man keeps seeing signs someone's been staying in a room in the abandoned mill on his property. He tries to find out who it is, and failing that, works to secure it against entry. The malicious entity inhabiting the mill seems to enjoy toying with the mill's new owner.
Ramsey Campbell is my favorite writer. His are the first stories I read in any anthology in which he's featured, and I've consumed more of his novelsRamsey Campbell is my favorite writer. His are the first stories I read in any anthology in which he's featured, and I've consumed more of his novels than any other writer. His collection of stories, ALONE WITH THE HORRORS, would be my "trapped on a deserted island" book choice for entertainment (in case being alone on an eerie, silent island at night wouldn't be unnerving enough). Holes For Faces is another great collection of supernatural horror by a grandmaster of the genre.
1."Passing Through Peacehaven" (2011) - A man on his way home finds himself in a strange subway station listening to the cryptic, barely audible messages over the intercom. This is a nice atmospheric piece of creeping dread.
2. "Peep" (2007) - A grandfather struggles to watch his unruly twin grandkids when his daughter and son-in-law come to visit. Reminders of the elderly aunt he was afraid of as a child are never far from his mind as he starts seeing signs she may now be stalking him from beyond the grave.
3. Getting It Wrong" (2011) - An unpopular man named Edgeworth employed at a movie theater begins receiving calls from an attractive coworker at night asking him for answers to trivia questions about old movies. The male host of the show sounds vaguely threatening as he interacts with Edgeworth, who thinking it's a prank, purposely answers the question wrong. The tension mounts as this eerie story advances towards its chilling conclusion.
4. "The Room Beyond" (2011) - Returning to his hometown for a funeral, a man reminisces about his childhood spent with his aunt and uncle. An eerie pall hangs over the hotel where he's staying, a place he and his beloved relatives used to dine. Murmuring and other ominous sounds begin to be heard from the adjoined room next door. The atmosphere of this story is heavy with eerie ambience and somber loneliness.
5. "Holes For Faces" (2013) - On vacation with his parents, a boy is deeply disturbed upon seeing the headless, skeletal remains in the walls of Italy's catacombs. He then starts catching glimpses of an obscured face following him as they continue through the tunnels.
6. "The Rounds" (2010) - A man repeatedly sees people attempting to leave a mysterious bag unattended on an underground train.
7. “The Decorations” (2005) – A boy, visiting his grandparent’s house with his parents for the holidays, is disturbed by his grandmother’s obsession with the plastic, lighted Santa on their roof. She believes something malicious she calls "the worms" inhabits it. This is a great tale of Christmas horror with a fantastic ending!
8. "The Address" (2011) - An elderly man, venturing out on his own, can't seem to find his way out from the forested area he's traveling through to reach his train. During his search, he happens upon a strange old school.
9. "Recently Used" (2010) - A man receives a phone call from a hospital telling him he should hurry there because his wife is there and has been badly hurt. His trek through the strange hospital is surrealistic and filled with oddities. The final reveal causes you to reassess what you've read.
10. "Chucky Comes To Liverpool" (2008) - A boy becomes obsessed with Chucky from the horror movies despite his domineering mother's activism against such films. He begins to think Chucky is influencing him and his friend for dire purposes.
11. "With The Angels" (2008)- A woman returns to the house where she she grew up, remembering how much her grandmother disliked and mistreated her. She also remembers her grandfather tossing her lovingly into the air while telling her an angel might catch her if she's good enough. She wonders what would catch her if she wasn't good enough as she catches glimpses of dark things around her. This is another eerie, atmospheric tale.
12. "Behind the Doors" (2010) - A grandfather becomes concerned after his grandson's math teacher gives the boy an Advent Calendar in the days leading to Christmas Day. The teacher is the same man who taught and tormented the grandfather forty years previous. Festering with hate spurred by his memories of the teacher, he starts trying to figure out what the teacher's end goal might be and how to stop it.
13. "Holding the Light" (2011) - Tom's handicapped cousin Lucas suggests exploring a section of old irrigation tunnels rumored to be haunted at Halloween. He reluctantly agrees rather than watch the "kid movie" Lucas wants to see at the theater, but it seems something else lurks in the darkened underground passageway.
14. "The Long Way" (2008) - This novelette focuses on a boy who walks to his wheelchair-bound uncle's retirement village every Saturday to help him buy groceries. The route takes him past a section of housing that has been vacated due to its proximity to a wooded area frequented by criminals. Through the doorway of one of those abandoned houses, the boy notices an obscured figure that appears to be leaning on sticks. There’s something unnatural about the way it moves incrementally closer to the open doorway each time he passes. Like with everything Campbell writes, the atmosphere is charged with potential menace. This is another tale of subtly-increasing supernatural menace. ...more