Henrik's Reviews > The Year's Best Horror Stories Series IX

The Year's Best Horror Stories Series IX by Karl Edward Wagner
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's review
Apr 30, 08

bookshelves: currently-reading, horror, anthology, long-term-reading
Recommended for: those liking a thrill and horror short stories, from all kinds of places.
Read in April, 2008

Anthologies like this will be "currently-reading" for quite a while because I read a story here, a story there--and "oops, a year gone already???";-) In other words, in between reading other stuff. That's the nice thing about short story collections, IMO.

Anyway, MARCH 30, 2008, I read T.E.D. Klein's "Black Man With a Horn":

I didn't purchase this book because I wanted to read Lovecraftian inspired stuff--in fact, it was more so I could get a wider grasp of the genre's development--but if I should nominate a short story involving HPL superbly without in any way mimicking either him or the "Cthulhu Mythos" this is it! Wow!

The protagonist is an unnamed 77-year old pulp author who knew HPL when he was young; and is now living in the shadow of his long-dead friend (on a blurb the protagonist is reduced to "a disciple"), who encounters a strange mystery involving--maybe--dark, old, Asian rituals & tribes; all starting with a chance meeting on a plane.

I won't go into details, but the pun to the HPL phenomena (incl. a few excerpts from letters) combined with a well-written tale of silently growing direness works surprisingly well. And the, hm, un-ending of the ending is wonderful.

As of MARCH 31 I am reading William Relling's "The King" featuring--totally unexpected (I am a fan, actually)--Elvis impersonators. 'Tis something different indeed, so far... Later: Okay yarn. Not the worse, not the best. My main complaint, though, is that I don't find the "Elvis concert playlist" believable; not if you know how 1970s Elvis arranged them--and since I got the impression that the impersonator in question is basing his show around that area's Elvis (and not, say, they young one from the 1950s) that spoiled it for me. Sigh.

Late April:

"On Call" by Dennis Etchison: A very nice, little tale of growing horror through the optics of estrangement and paranoia caused by weird changes in the protagonist's life--really happening everywhere around him. And one wonders if not he's the real problem:-)

The advancing paranoia aspect with genuine horrific end notes, however, reaches a close-to-unparalleled sublimity in Ramsey Campbell's "The Gap". I rarely shudder, but the build-up of this story evolving around a writer's experiences following a visit from collegues and a weird friend of theirs really gave me the creeps--especially at the end. Perfect build-up by a master writer. Phew. Marvelously horrible!

More to come...

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