Graham's Reviews > Dark Forces: New Stories of Suspense and Supernatural Horror

Dark Forces by Kirby McCauley
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Dec 28, 08

bookshelves: horror, anthology
Read in December, 2008, read count: 1

I adore horror anthologies, especially the ones that were released between the 1960s and 1980s - so when I saw this massive volume from Kirby McCauley, I had to have it. I'm glad I did. McCauley uses pretty much all the talent from the 1980 horror scene to deliver a rousing, frightening anthology that rarely disappoints.

First off, the not-so-good efforts. THE BINGO MASTER by Joyce Carol Oates is a distinctly non-horror effort that tries to be different and succeeds in being boring. It has no place here. A GARDEN OF BLACKRED ROSES, by Charles L. Grant, is too obtuse and abstract for my tastes, although some may like it. Edward Gorey's THE STUPID JOKE is a mildly amusing short comic strip, included in the interests of variety, while Gahan Wilson's TRAPS is a silly story about rats taking on human characteristics.

Next, we have the good stories. THE LATE SHIFT and THE BROOD are both fine examples of the work of Dennis Etchison and Ramsey Campbell, respectively. THE ENEMY by Isaac Bashevis Singer is an old-fashioned psychological thriller that reminded me of Guy de Maupassant and Edward Bryant's DARK ANGEL is a sickening little witchcraft story. Davis Grubb's THE CREST OF THIRTY-SIX is a nice piece of southern Gothic, reminding me of William Faulkner, while Theodore Sturgeon offers up a racy little morality tale in VENGEANCE IS.

Onto the really good stories. MARK INGESTRE: THE CUSTOMER'S TALE is an erotic retelling of the Sweeney Todd legend by ghost story master Robert Aickman. It's surreal and disturbing and well worth your time. THE DETECTIVE OF DREAMS by Gene Wolfe involves supernatural sleuthery as a period-era France is home to a man who haunts people through their dreams. THE PECULIAR DEMESNE, by Russell Kirk, is a good old-fashioned campfire ghost story, with the author's own unique spin, while A TOUCH OF PETULANCE marks Ray Bradbury at his most blackly comic. LINDSAY AND THE RED CITY BLUES, by Joe Haldeman, is efficient enough to put would-be tourists off visiting Morocco for life, and similar to Bryant's DARK ANGEL in tone.

That leaves us the excellent stories, and there are a few. WHERE THE SUMMER ENDS is another frightening, imaginative effort from Karl Edward Wagner, who rarely puts a foot wrong when it comes to his horror yarns. CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM by T. E. D. Klein is a lengthy, ponderous story about an underground race revenging itself on mankind, and Klein is worthy of the 'modern-day Lovecraft' monikor on the strength of this absolutely brilliant piece. WHERE THE STONES GROW is the best I've read yet by Lisa Tuttle, intelligent and well written, while THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS marks Robert Bloch at his darkest and has the best punchline I've ever come across. OWLS HOOT IN THE DAYTIME is another great story, this time by Manly Wade Wellman, and part of his 'John the Balladeer' series, although it also works as a stand-alone tale of demonic horror with plenty of authenticity. WHERE THERE'S A WILL marks a pairing of father/son writers Richard Matheson and Richard Christian Matheson in a fine retelling of the eternally popular 'buried alive' story.

The best story in the volume is saved until last - Stephen King's THE MIST. This novella is essentially a survivors-under-siege scenario involving the kind of massive, mutated beasties you'd find in a '50s B-movie, yet King's focus on the human element makes this affecting, moving and oh-so-frightening. It's a truly fantastic climax to an excellent volume of stories.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Jeannie Sloan Thank you for the review!You spent a lot of time on it and it shows.


Graham Thanks for the kind words, Jeannie! I probably spend WAY too much time on books as a whole!


Jeannie Sloan I spend a lot of time reading.I turned the TV off last year and don't really miss it.Too much real life horror on regular TV.
I get a lot of books from the library so I will look for Dark Forces.Otherwise I can order it used from Amazon.
I tend to read several anthologies at a time depending on my mood.My favorite one right now is The Dark Descent.I'm not big on grisly scenes and like suspence and terror much more.This means that I read a lot of Victorian ghost stories and the like.Happy reading!


Jeannie Sloan I broke down and bought DarK Forces from Amazon used for $4.00.You can't beat that!I am greatly looking forward to it.Thanks again for your great review.


Jeannie Sloan I have just received this book from Amazon and can't wait to start reading it.If it is anything like The Dark Descent I know that I will love it.


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