The Eighth Black Book Of Horror
Selected by Charles Black
Published by Mortbury Press, 2011.
There’s something about horror and the short story format that just works. Just the right length to shock and surprise without outstaying it’s welcome. The burgeoning horror anthology market is testament to the success of the format with several yearly best offs and endless themed collections vying for the readers attention. Among this sea of anthologies the Black Books stand as a beacon for quality, intrigue and originality, will this Eighth edition shine as brightly?
The fantastic cover art by Paul Mudie neatly portrays the authors who’s works are included starting with:
Quieta Non Movere by Reggie Oliver – A typically classy start by Reggie Oliver as he introduces us to Dean Coombes a man who foolishly ignores local superstitions associated with his cathedral. It’s a beautifully written tale which will be thoroughly enjoyed by fans of M.R. James.
The Last Coach Trip by David A. Riley – Is a melancholic piece as we witness the last adventures of the patrons of a workingman’s club as they take a final coach trip. Lovely characters breath life and emotion into this story.
Home By The Sea by Stephen Bacon – Is a fabulously dark nightmare which follows a small town criminal who gets more than he bargained for when he breaks into an old house.
Boys Will Be Boys by David Williamson – Follows the peculiar journey of Morris from his gory birth to his difficult teenage years in a fantastically grotesque and macabre tale.
Behind The Screen by Gary Fry – Gary Fry has a knack for presenting nasty characters and then making sure they get their just desserts and this is an excellent example.
The Other Tennant by Mark Samuels – A new Mark Samuels tale is always welcome and this one invites questions about God, science and reality in typically nightmarish style.
Tok by Paul Finch – In this story, ancient Zulu witchcraft is brought to a British housing estate with devastating consequences. Paul Finch’s stories rarely disappoint and this is no exception.
Little Pig by Anna Taborska – Is a remarkably powerful, dark, mythic tale. Has a timeless fairy-tale quality worthy of the Grimms at their best.
Casualties Of The System by Tina and Tony Rath – Has a lighter tone and a clever central idea about how to deal with young offenders which makes for an enjoyable read.
How The Other Half Dies by John Llewelyn Probert – A small time burglar chooses the wrong house to rob as he meets the sadistic owners in this enjoyable tale from a master of the short story.
Music In The Bone by Marion Pitman – Another excellent tale about the power of music and one man’s quest for the perfect instrument. Unsettling, dark horror.
The Coal Man by Thana Niveau – A tale of childhood monsters made real in this dramatic and emotionally charged tale from a fine writer.
Mea Culpa by Kate Farrel – A really interesting story examining a couples strained relationship. Guilt, paranoia and a nice twist at the end.
While it may come across as the naughty schoolboy of horror anthologies with it’s garish (and thoroughly enjoyable) covers, the Black Book of Horror is maturing into an excellent annual collection. In particular this Eighth edition has a diversity in style and subject matter which makes for an ever changing reading delight. My favourites include Reggie Oliver’s fantastic addition to classic ghost story tradition, David A. Riley’s wonderful characters and melancholic tone and Anna Taborska’s fantastic, surreal, dark fantasy which is still seared in my memory. If you only buy one horror anthology this year, buy this one, you won’t be disappointed.