Edited by Charles Black
Published by Mortbury Press, 2009.
It’s over fifty years since the Pan Book of Horror first hit the shelves. Within those slim volumes were the blueprints for the horror revival, a place where new generations of horror writers could hone their skills and create the foundations for a genre. Today, of course, the Pan book is no more but slowly like some gargantuan, demonic beast a new king has risen from the ashes. The Black Book of Horror is here and hopefully it’s here to stay.
Edited in fine style as always by Charles Black the fifth edition of the Black book contains thirteen stories which between them cover a huge range of sub genres.
Mrs Midnight by Reggie Oliver sees a cynical TV presenter discovering hidden depths to an old theatre during restoration. This story manages to stir together Jack the Ripper and Zoophagy (the eating of still living beings.. no I didn’t know that either) to create a delightfully gruesome starter.
Starlight Casts No Shadows by Ian C. Strachan takes us into B-movie territory. It seems something has leaked from a nuclear Power plant construction site and that something is now killing people. It’s a fun adventure.
Leibniz’s Last Puzzle by Craig Herbertson is a heady mix of black magic, occultism and mathematics as an ancient puzzle is found. A clever and hugely atmospheric story.
Hangman Wanted: Apply In Writing by Paul Finch, the title says it all really. A unique job opportunity that offers huge rewards and huge dangers. It’s a great story which twists and turns to great effect.
In The Garden by Rosalie Parker is an almost poetic short piece full of emotion and atmosphere.
Their Own Mad Demons by David A. Riley comes across as a mix between Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and a traditional ghost story. It’s fun and engaging.
Winter Break by Raymond Vaughn is a short sharp shocking Christmas tale.
De Vermis Infestis by John Llewellyn Probert is an excellent tale of an old house with hidden secrets and an infestation of something nasty!
No Such Thing As A Friendly by Richard Staines, the magnificent Dick Staines (for further thrills see here) provides us in his usual down market style with a tale of poor sporting manners.
Schrodinger’s Human by Anna Taborska should be avoided like the plague by animal lovers but provides a superbly gory treat for everyone else.
And talking of the plague, The Chameleon Man by David Williamson is the story of a man who can develop any illness at will (including said plague) but who is faced with the ultimate challenge.
Finally, Two For Dinner by John Llewellyn Probert rounds things off in fine style with a tribute to the Pan book and the traditions it has passed on to the Black Book, another excellent JLP story.
Diversity is a key quality in this collection, here we have everything from the elegiac Rosalie Parker tale to the murky depths of Richard Staines, traditional ghosts to gangsters. Sure some work is better than others and depending on individual tastes your favourite will probably be different from mine (Leibniz’z Last Puzzle) but as a snapshot of horror in 2009 and as a showcase for the vast array of talent that is working in the field it is a worthy successor to the Pan book’s crown. The king is dead long live the king!
You can read more at the Mortbury Press site here.
Rating 4.5 out of 5