OR: Dark Terrors 4

A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #23:-

DARK TERRORS 4

Edited by Stephen Jones & David Sutton

Millennium pb, 349pp, £6.99

Dark Terrors continues to build on its reputation as the UK’s leading (only?) horror anthology series, this latest volume weighing in with a tasty nineteen prime cuts by some of the best storytellers in the genre.

There’s good writing here by the coffin-load. Highlights include ‘A Place to Stay’ in which Michael Marshall Smith gives an unstuck in time twist to the familiar New Orleans vampire riff and Roberta Lannes’s ‘Mr Guidry’s Head’, a finely observed piece on a child’s fears lingering into adulthood. My favourite story, Jay Russell’s ‘Sullivan’s Travails’, is a witty and engaging Hollywood ghost story, much lighter in mood than any of the other pieces (think Topper for the 90s). At the other end of the spectrum there’s ‘The Incredible True Facts in the Case’ by David J Schow which seamlessly merges fiction and bloody fact to give us an alternate version of the Jack the Ripper murders. Poppy Z Brite offers a similar slice of docufiction with ‘Entertaining Mr Orton’, playwright Joe’s death acting as the prelude to an erotic encounter. Ramsey Campbell’s ‘Never to be Heard’ is a creepy piece in the Jamesian manner, with the world premier of a forbidden symphony, while ‘Inside the Cackle Factory’ by Dennis Etchison runs a cyncical eye over the cutthroat world of television sitcoms.

Not everything appeals. ‘The Great Fall’ by Richard Christian Matheson is a cleverly done character study, but too slight to make any real impact. From Donald R Burleson we get ‘Tumbleweeds’, an almost risible slice of bucolic horror. ‘Suburban Blight’ by Terry Lamsley, the longest story in the book and a tale with an eco message, lacks the subtle effects of his best work, perhaps because this time around the author gives us a rationale of sorts for what is taking place. On balance though there’s much more here to like than not, and even the most demanding horror fan should find enough adrenaline kicks to jump-start his heart.

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