Bite Sized Horror
edited by Johnny Mains
Published by Obverse Books, 2011.
Emblazoned with the Johnny Mains seal of quality on the cover this is the latest anthology from Obverse Books, a small publishing house that continues to impress with its increasingly diverse range of authors and subject matter. This is the first in a proposed series of Obverse Quarterlies which will include a range of authors and genre’s in the tradition of the New English Library paperbacks of the 70’s.
This collection contains six horror stories starting with Brighton Redemption by Reggie Oliver, a story of child murder and ghosts. Jamesian in tone, it’s a wonderful ghost story and gets the collection off to a fantastic start. Paul Kane’s The Between takes us right up to date when a father’s desperation at a custody meeting turns into a horrific nightmare in the lift journey from (or should that be to) hell. With Lovecraftian creatures set against the personal torments of the occupants this is an excellent dark tale, one to avoid if you suffer from claustrophobia.
His Pale Blue Eyes by David A. Riley is a zombie tale but one which focuses on selfishness in society. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of gore, it does, but still manages to retain a degree of originality and intelligence which elevates above much of the standard zombie fare we are fed these days. Talking of cliches brings us nicely to The Unquiet Bones by Marie O’Regan which begins with that most overused chestnut of a broken down car with only a creepy building nearbye for shelter, oh and it’s raining. Again, though, the writer takes that well used story and develops it into a much richer tale of ancient witchcraft with a few cunning twists for good measure.
Johnny Mains returns us to the emotion of marital breakdown in The Rookery as a father struggles with limited access to his son, a struggle with tragic consequences. The rural setting adds much to this tale and the ending is very powerful and very well written. That could also be said of Conrad William’s The Carbon Heart which, after a slow start, escalated into his usual deep and intelligent writing. It’s an unusual mystery set in a city coated in volcanic ash, and has a definite noir feel but it’s not long before the story descends into much more horrific and much more typical Williams territory.
This is a short anthology but one full of highlights, the standout for me being Paul Kane’s The Between, but all the stories here deliver quality horror for you to chew on. Bite sized it may be but it’s still able to provide a feast for the more discerning palate.
Rating 4 out of 5