I knew this was going to be a keeper the minute I picked it up and read the description: a collection of favorite horror stories as selected by some of the finest horror writers the genre has to offer. Um. Yes, please.
Then I saw the Table of Contents and was walking to the cashier before I’d even finished:
- “Sweets to the Sweet” by Robert Bloch :: chosen by Stephen King.
- “The Father-Thing” by Philip K. Dick :: chosen by Ed Gorman.
- “The Distributor” by Richard Matheson :: chosen by F. Paul Wilson.
- “A Warning to the Curious” by M.R. James :: chosen by Ramsey Campbell.
- “Opening the Door” by Arthur Machen :: chosen by Peter Atkins.
- “The Colour Out of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft :: chosen by Richard Laymon.
- “The Inner Room” by Robert Aickman :: chosen by Peter Straub.
- “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne :: chosen by Rick Hautala.
- “The Rats in the Walls” by H.P. Lovecraft :: chosen by Michael Slade.
- “The Dog Park” by Dennis Etchison :: chosen by Richard Christian Matheson.
- “The Animal Fair” by Robert Bloch :: chosen by Joe R. Lansdale.
- “The Pattern” by Ramsey Campbell :: chosen by Poppy Z. Brite.
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe :: chosen by Joyce Carol Oates.
- “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce :: chosen by Dennis Etchison.
- “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Rampo :: chosen by Harlan Ellison.
This is such an amazing collection of short stories, bringing together some of my all-time favorite writers with several I’ve wanted to discover for quite a while. And the discovery of these authors was well worth the wait, including (finally!) my first taste of H.P. Lovecraft.
I know! How the hell I’ve gone this long without truly experiencing Lovecraft is a horror unto itself. I don’t know why, but I have a bit of a Cthulhu hurdle, which has in time metamorphosed into a Lovecraft hurdle. I think it has to do with the people whom I have encountered who were huge into the Lovecraft mythos of Cthulhu. They were hurdles to me, and I guess I now link the two so closely that I can’t think of one without shuddering at the other.
The two Lovecraft offerings in this anthology, “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Rats in the Walls,” were by far two of the strongest stories in a collection of absolute champions. Also, Harlan Ellison’s selection, “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Rampo, gave me chills, even as I sat on a scorching hot beach. Same with Dennis Etchison’s “The Dog Park” or Robert Bloch’s “The Animal Fair.” Oh wow, was that an awesome ending, even if fairly predictable. Still scores high on the creep-o-meter.
I think that’s the key for each of the stories in this collection, at least for me: They’re not in-your-face gore fests. They inch slowly under your skin, sending out tendrils that wind their way straight through your core and leave you feeling thoroughly unsettled, invaded, filleted. I love this kind of horror. I love this anthology. Plus, the stories selected to represent Poe, Hawthorne, and Bierce are three of the key discoveries that helped lead me to the altar of horror literature in the first place.
Final Verdict: Yeah, like I’d give up this collection. This is so worth the price of admission. If you love horror stories and can find a copy, I would highly recommend adding it to your own collection.