The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume 3
Edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Basically there are two types of horror anthologies: the ones which keep collecting the same old “classic” material and those which collect new stories by contemporary authors. In addition there are the “best of the year” anthologies, supposedly assembling the best horror stories appeared in print during the previous year.
By contrast, the horror anthologies from the excellent small imprint Valancourt books mainly unearth and collect forgotten or lost stories from the past, making them available again to today’s readers.
The third installment in this successful series includes sixteen tales penned by authors whose work has been already partially re-published by Valancourt (plus, this time, a couple of brand new stories).
Needless to say, this new volume is yet another treat for any lover of short horror fiction, and the stories included, bar none, are extremely enjoyable thanks to the extremely good taste (and competence) of the editors.
As a reviewer, my task is to pinpoint those stories that I found especially accomplished and that make the book so worthy that it would be a shame to miss it.
Good examples are “Courage” by Forrest Reid, a tense yet melancholy piece where the time-honored subject of a haunted house is enriched by new shades leading to a surprising ending, or “The Life of the Party” by Charles Beaumont (of Twilight Zone fame), an offbeat, disconcerting story showing the uncanny ability to create ingenious plots by one of the more talented authors of the last century.
“Monkshood Manor” by LP Hartley, an acclaimed mainstream author little known for his dark literary production, is a very entertaining, delightful supernatural mystery, and “The Face in the Mirror” by Helen Mathers a conventional but quite accomplished ghost story.
The eclectic Simon Raven and JB Priestley contribute respectively “The Bottle of 1912,” a sad, ghostly tale featuring a man going back home to reunite with his family, and “Underground,” a clever allegory set in the London Tube, depicting the rapid moral and physical downfall of a man with a malicious, selfish plan.
“Beelzebub,” a seldom reprinted supernatural piece by YA author Robert Westall blends horror and humor while portraying a mother trying to register the birth of her unusual offspring.
My personal favorites in the volume are “Pete Barker’s Shanty” by Ernest G Enham, a powerful, terrifying tale set in the Canadian prairie, where a dilapidated shanty in the middle of nowhere becomes the location of past and present horrors; and “The Parts Man,” actually the latest product of a living author, the prolific Steve Rasnic Tem, an outstanding, insightful story about a man making a supernatural deal to briefly bring back to life long-gone members of his family. For a price.
In short, an excellent anthology leaving the reader looking forward to the next volume.