The Fifth Black Book of Horror
Charles Black, Editor

Mortbury Press
Paperback, 207 pages, £5
Review by Mario Guslandi

If you’re not familiar with the Black Book of Horror, shame on you, inattentive horror fan, because this British series of anthologies, now in its fifth volume, is one of the best treat for anyone fond of dark fiction. The latest installment, needless to say, is up to the level of the previous four books, providing shivers and thrills galore to the reader.

The contributing authors include both established genre masters as well as newcomers, but the overall quality of the fiction therein remains equally remarkable. Among the former, Reggie Oliver exhibits his usual superb talent as a storyteller in the delightful “Mrs Midnight” which casts a new light on the Ripper murders by portraying an unconventional doctor become a music hall entertainer. The always dependable Paul Finch provides “Hangwan Wanted: Apply In Writing,” an extremely enjoyable piece where a man diagnosed with cancer offers to an eager applicant a huge sum to get help for his suicide, but … David A Riley’s strong and terrifying “Their Own Mad Demons” (my favorite tale in the book) starts out as a gangster story, then turns into a supernatural tale featuring a smelly ghost and an inexplicable, powerful horror.

In “Two for Dinner” John Lewellyn Probert effectively revisits the theme of the cuckolded husband taking revenge on his wife’s lover and does it with a mischievous wink. Rosalie Parker (“In The Garden”) delivers an interesting but naughty lecture about the secrets of tending a garden, while Marcus Gold contributes “The Man With A Hole In His Head,” a fine pulp fiction tale in which a man unable to feel pain meets with a terrible fate.

In the group of unknown (at least to me) horror writers, I’ve especially appreciated the contributions by David Williamson (“The Chameleon Man”), the breathtaking, suspenseful report of an incredible scientific experiment, Anna Taborska (“Schrodinger’s Human”), a nasty story about an obnoxious cat controlling the actions of an easily influenced man and Richard Staines (“No Such Thing As Friendly”), an unusual example of “sporting” horror, with a humorous touch, depicting a football game in which disconcerting events take place.

So, once again, praise to editor/publisher Charles Black for starting and continuing this successful anthology. And while I’m here discussing volume #5 I understand he’s already completing the following volume … I’m eagerly awaiting.

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