Edited by Rosalie Parker
Published by Tartarus Press, 2009.
The Strange Tales collections are rapidly becoming essential reading for lovers of the weird tale. Whilst not exactly annual this regular collection gathers together some of the best writing and writers around. It’s unique sideways take on genre leads, as Rosalie Parker intimates in the preface, to something which not only encompasses the traditional horror, ghost story, fairy tale and fantasy story but also the spaces in between.
This time round we get seventeen stories :-
The Lammas Worm by Nina Allan is a new take on the dark carnival tale. A strange young girl is taken in by a travelling carnival but her presence soon brings problems. Its a subtle blend of folk tale and something wicked which works well.
Morpheus House by Mark Valentine is a strange and moving tale of a museum which collects dreams and attempt to find connections between them. Mark valentine is as always intelligent and thoughtful in his writing.
Sanctuary Run by Daniel Mills is a tale of transition and the places between life and death as winter storm causes a man to seek shelter in a mysterious place.
A Woman Of The Party by Elizabeth Brown concerns relationships under the watchful eye of state control. It’s a strong political piece.
The Good Light People by Gary McMahon sees a strange young silent girl gradually reveal her secret. As always with Gary McMahon it’s a powerful story.
Countess Otho by Reggie Oliver is an excellent tale in which an actor finds an unknown script for “Countess Otho” which brings him success and failure in equal measure.
Melting by A J McIntosh takes us deep into 19th century Edinburgh as Dr. Adamson finds his morals and beliefs tested. It’s full of period detail and drama and very good.
It’s White And It Follows Me by Tina Rath was one of the stories in the collection that didn’t quite work for me. We meet Lady Mary in the court of Queen Anne but the story is really just a protracted joke which turns out to be not that funny.
Yet No Greater Love Or Promise by Joel Knight and a simple house viewing turns into a far more sinister affair.
Divan Method by Eric Stener Carlson again didn’t work for me. A man out of touch with reality but the story seemed to wander too much.
Party Talk by John Gaskin is an excellent ghost story. More traditional than most in this collection but full of deep musings on life and death.
The Other Box by Gerard Houarner was superb. A child’s disappearance is linked to a mysterious box. It’s deep emotional and entertaining.
The Great Blind God Passes Through Us by Adam Golaski is a well written story delving into South American folk tales and myths.
Her Fathers Daughter by Simon Strantzas is an outstanding and brilliantly atmospheric tale of a girl stranded with only a pair of mysterious elderly sisters for company.
Sister, Sister by Angela Slatter is a dark fantasy tale of two sisters which feels almost like a traditional fairy tale.
A Taste of Casu Marzu by David Rix is proof that cheese can indeed give you nightmares. Bizarre, funny and good.
The Solipist by Phil Bampus finishes us off in strong style as a man discovers his true value.
Seventeen stories of huge variety, there is bound to be something you will love in this collection. For me the stories by Simon Strantzas and Gerard Houarner were outstanding. Yes, there were a couple which didn’t quite work for me but given the variety on offer here that is hardly surprising. It’s also likely that depending on individual tastes your favourites will differ from mine but the quality throughout is so high that I would recommend this to any fans of weird tales or dark fiction.
You can buy the book from Tartarus Press here.
Rating 4 out of 5