Archive for the ‘Horror Books’ Category

Horror Books Review

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

An anthology is a collection of short stories, each one complete in themselves and each written independently by different authors. One of the best anthologies, ‘Shadows’, won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. It was published by Doubleday between 1978 and 1991, and was edited by Charles L. Grant. This anthology is more classic horror than many contemporary horror books today: there is little violence perpetrated. Most of the horror comes from understated episodes where a presage or premonition is anticipated – with things that occur within everyday settings – that contributes to the development of the horror. 

Another anthology, this time edited by Douglas E. Winter, was published in 1988 and contained a selection of short stories where all but one are original to this particular anthology. This anthology is entitled ‘Prime Evil’. An older anthology, published in 1964 by Arkham House to mark their 25th anniversary, was ‘Over the Edge’ which was edited by August Derleth. Personally, I am not a fan of horror stories, although I am sure many of you reading this will write in telling me that horror stories are the best thing since sliced bread! I am sure you will find some interesting titles within our Horror section: anthologies such as ‘Song of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul’. This anthology is edited by William Blake and published by Oxford Paperbacks. To add to the thrill of horror, you have full colour illustrations throughout. 

Classic Horror
Who else could we possibly have for classic horror than Frankenstein? In our section on classic horror we have included ‘Frankenstein: or ‘The Modern Prometheus’: The 1818 Text’. This is written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and is in her original wording. Then, published by Wordsworth Classics, is ‘Doctor Jerkyll and Mr Hyde’ that was written by Robert Louis Stevenson and, classic horror just would not be complete without the Dracula stories written by Bram Stoker. These are all true classic horror tales. 

Contemporary Horror
When it comes to contemporary horror, try reading Neil Gaiman’s book, ‘The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes’. This features the tale of somebody who, while seeking the physical manifestation of death, meets up with the King of Dreams. Basically, if you are going to read this book, don’t put it down until you have finished the chapter on ’24 hours’ – after that, if you’re not hooked, I will be very surprised! Of course, no contemporary horror could possibly be complete without a contribution by Stephen King. Try reading his book ‘The Dark Tower’ if you want to be spooked! Even reading the synopsis on our website is enough to make me shudder! 

Genres & Characters
If you take a look at this section of genres and characters you will find a range of pretty diverse titles – books such as ‘The Turn of the Screw’ that is published by Penguin Popular Classics. Written by Henry James, it tells the story of the governess living a delightful life whilst sensing a powerful presence of sinister and profound evil. This book is classic Henry James at his best. Horror – yes, but this title is much more than horror: it’s a book you will have to read. We’ve all heard of the ‘fairer sex’, well Mike Ashley’s book might help you revise that epithet. Try reading his book ‘The Darker Sex: Tales of Death and the Supernatural by Victorian Women’. This book is an absolute feast of some of the best in Victoria writers – Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Riddell, Mary Penn, plus others. It makes for powerful reading, with each story written by a different hand, in their inimitable styles. It makes a very enjoyable book. 

I think many people view the Victorian women, in retrospect, as being delicate females always reclining around with ailments when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. These women were pretty resilient – they had to be: after all, there were no antibiotics around when they were ill. They just had to overcome it through their own inner strengths. As a result, death was always stalking close by, invariably a visitor to most families at some time or another. What could be more natural than these Victorian women authors writing about ghosts, death, the afterlife and precognition – as well as suicide which was still illegal at that time. 

Some of the most insightful writers of that era contribute stories to this book – women such as Elizabeth Stuart Phelps whose leap to fame followed the publication of a book she wrote about a mill fire which occurred in 1859 and featured the deaths of innumerable mill girls. Nine years’ later she wrote ‘The Gates Ajar’ which increased her popularity ratings but, what she really became famous for was her re-telling of the legends of King Arthur which she re-set into the 19th century. Meanwhile, Violet Quirk wrote completely different literature while Mary Braddon and Charlotte Riddell developed the art of the ghost story, making this genre appear darker than it was before. 

How to scandalise the public and get away with it! Sir James George Frazer seems to have perfected the art of that with the 12 volumes of his book ‘The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion’ which was published between 1890 and 1915 and which we feature in our reference section. Sir James George Frazer has been classed as the founder of modern anthropology and, reading this treatise you can see why. Sir James George Frazer aimed these volumes at a wide reading public and introduced to them the concept of discussing religion and magic in an unemotional fashion rather than relying on the theological perspective.  

The book unfolded more as an anthropological treatise than a fictional book of the time and caused a bit of a rumpus due to his discussions of Jesus being thrown open to possible non-Christian ridicule. He dealt with fertility rites and mystic deities and incorporated myths and magic alongside discussions on religion – hardly surprising he caused such uproar in the era this book was published!