Edited by Charles Black
Published by Mortbury Press, 2009.
The Fourth Black Book Of Horror is the …wait for it… fourth in the series of collections from Mortbury Press, a series which is rapidly becoming an essential read for Horror fans. From the gory, delightfully over the top cover to the wide selection of styles, the Black Book collection is highly reminiscent of the classic Pan Book of Horror series but can the stories live up to that promise…you bet.
Fifteen remarkably diverse tales have been selected by Charles Black and it’s testimony to his editorial skills that quality is consistently good. We start with Soup by Craig Herbertson a classy start to the collection that tells of the legendary Farantino, a chef who’s food is the exclusive domain of a secret, connected society. It’s a clever, imaginative and authoritative start.
Words by Paul Finch is one of my favourites, drawing heavily on the classic ghost stories, it’s the tale of a writer in search of a story who seeks out a cursed village. Richly descriptive and dark it’s a fine tale.
A Cry For Help by Joel Lane is a short and far from sweet tale of a town where everyone seems to have problems, dark and genuinely chilling. With Deepest Sympathy by Jonny Mains is a tongue in cheek story which sees the village busybody get her comeuppance in humerous if gory style, It’s clever and sad.
Many Happy Returns by Carl T. Ford sees a neighbourhood in fear of a killer but its a tale with a twist, another clever and original piece. All Hallows Eve by Franklin Marsh continues the humerous theme as a town is visited by death..twice.
Dead Water by David A Sutton, struck a chord with me. It’s rich in evocative natural descriptions but haunting at the same time.
And Still Those Screams Resound by Daniel MacGachey is another story written in classic Edwardian ghost story style. Again, richly evocative, tragic and moving it’s another star in this collection.
Love Is In The Air by Gary MacMahon is a bizarre little erotic tale where everything is definitely not as it first appears, it’s quite a treat, one of the shortest stories but one that you will remember for a long time. The Head by Reggie Oliver sees a taxi driver offered an unusual job, clever and gory in equal measure.
The Devil Looks After His Own by Ian C. Strachan sees a conman’s cunning plan go awry. Bad Hair Day by Gary Fry is definitely a cut above the rest as an arrogant woman meets her match at the hairdressers.
Flies by Hazel Quinn sees a woman with a compulsive dislike of flies meet her ultimate horror.
Nails by Rog Pile is probably the darkest story on offer here but is another very involving tale and finally we finish with The Lord Of The Law by David Conyers where one man’s world gets quite literally turned upside down, it’s another remarkably imaginative tale.
Humour, gore, pastiche, imagination and above all consistently good writing go together to create this collection. It’s one that for me never fails, there is enough variety here to ensure that everyone should find something to their tastes. Its probably pointless to single out any particular story but hey when has that ever stopped me, Words by Paul Finch was my favourite….. but then I also loved And Still Those Screams Resound…..Oh and Dead Water was great….. not forgetting Bad Hair Day…….Oh sod it just buy the thing and decide for yourself.
4.5 out of 5