Back From The Dead: The Legacy of The Pan Book of Horror Stories
Selected by Johnny Mains,
Published by Noose & Gibbet, 2010.
Back from The Dead: The Legacy of The Pan Book Of Horror Stories is officially released this weekend at the World Horror Convention so this is the final part of my six part review. To finish we have another classic story, two new ones and finally Johnny Mains’ biography of the man who will always be associated with the series, Herbert van Thal.
21 – School Crossing by Francis King.
Originally published in the 20th Pan Book of Horror Stories in 1979, Francis King takes us into the dark and bitter world of a former teacher. He seems to have a strong dislike for everyone but especially the school where he used to work. He is also suffering from hallucinations…or is he? Another strong story with a powerful ending that still works 31 years later.
22 – Sounds Familiar by Harry E. Turner
Without a doubt one of the most bizarre stories in the whole collection. Involving Owl nipples, servants and death, I won’t even try to describe the plot. It’s dark, humorous and very, very strange.
23 – An Outing With H by Conrad Hill
The final story in the collection is another full of black humour, wide boys and city life as we meet ‘H’. It’s only later though that we see that there is much more to H than previously told.
24 – ‘Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares’ Herbert van Thal: A biography by Johnny Mains
The book concludes with an incisive, illuminating and very entertaining look at the man who will always be associated with the Pan books, long time editor, Herbert van Thal. Johnny Mains speaks to former colleagues and authors to track down the remarkable details of van Thal’s life and his seemingly never ending inventiveness which saw the Pan Books rise to stratospheric popularity. It’s clearly been put together by a passionate fan but he doesn’t spare any details in outlining some of the ‘sharp’ practices that helped to make the series a success.
And there you have it: A full history, a biography and a remarkable selection of classic and new stories in the Pan tradition. The most powerful thing that comes across throughout this anthology is the love and passion that all the writers and editors had and still have, for the Pan books. It’s perhaps fitting therefore that this anthology also exudes passion.
At over 520pages this is a big book in more senses than one. Big is physical size, big in passion and big in importance. Regardless of the future of the Pan Book Of Horror Stories, this anthology stands on its own merits as an important book, both as a tribute but also as a damned fine collection of stories in its own right.
Of course numerous horror anthologies still exist and The Black Book of Horror is doing a fine job at maintaining the Pan tradition in all but name but this book demonstrates that the name was and may still be important. Here’s hoping the spark lit by this anthology will catch and grow in the future.
Finally, we should communally doff our hats to Johnny Mains who has put together this remarkable collection and he has done so not for money or kudos (although he will hopefully get both) but because this is a legacy that deserves it. All horror fans should be grateful for that kind of commitment.
As you may already have guessed, I heartily recommend Back from The Dead: The Legacy of The Pan Book of Horror Stories, both as a fine collection but also as a historical document and tribute to an important part of the horror genre. You can read the other parts of my review here, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 , Part 5 or get more information from Noose & Gibbet Publishing here.
Rating 5 out of 5