{Book + Short Stories} What Went Back to the Library Today

Took a couple of #RIPXIV / #somethingWickedFall books back to the library today:

Cover via Goodreads

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

Two chilling ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black, both set in crumbling English houses that are haunted by the spirits of thwarted children.

In The Small Hand, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn and stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house with a lush, overgrown garden. Approaching the door, he is startled to feel the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, almost as though a child had taken hold of it. Plagued by nightmares, he returns with the intention of figuring out its mysteries, only to be troubled by further, increasingly sinister visits. In Dolly, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his forbidding Aunt Kestrel at Iyot House, her decaying home in the damp, lonely fens. With him is his spoiled, spiteful cousin, Leonora. And when Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful doll is denied, she unleashes a furious rage which will haunt Edward for years afterward. (via Goodreads)

Read both The Small Hand and Dolly. I enjoyed them well enough, but really don’t have too much to say about them. Neither was as good as the other Susan Hill book I’ve read, The Woman in Black, but that *is* considered a ghost story classic. I probably liked Dolly better because The Small Hand felt a little padded out. Still, some nice reading for autumn nights.

Cover via Goodreads

Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub

From the incomparable master of horror and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twenty-five writers representing today’s most talented voices in the genre.

Horror writing is usually associated with formulaic gore, but New Wave horror writers have more in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe than with the sometimes-predictable hallmarks of their peers. Showcasing this cutting-edge talent, Poe’s Children now brings the best of the genre’s stories to a wider audience. (via Goodreads)

I find it funny that a this anthology of “new” fiction is over 10 years old at this point… It’s my habit when I go to the library to pluck a couple books from shelves, give some a 10-page test, and maybe read a short story from a random anthology. A few weeks back I picked up Poe’s Children and started reading “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” by Thomas Ligotti, since I hadn’t read any Ligotti before. Unfortunately, it was a too long to finish at the library. So, I took it home. I meant to read a few more of the stories, but I only fit in one more. “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” was clever with an excellently twisted ending. The other story I read was “The Bees” by Dan Chaon. The setting was great but I thought the ending was a little flat.

{Book} The Other

picture of a book, The Other
My copy of The Other along with a nice bookmark from the library.

The Other by Thomas Tryon

Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
The Other is on a lot of classic horror best-of lists. It’s considered pretty scary and very influential in the genre of horror.

What Did I Think?
There is a problem sometimes with influential genre books…they’re *influential*. Meaning their tropes and twists get used in other stories (when they’re not being entirely ripped off). I can’t think of any story that specifically like The Other, but nothing about this novel’s twist surprised me. I figured it out really early on despite some obfuscation in the narrative. Or maybe it’s a matter of my “learning” horror in a post-M. Night Shyamalan world. I kind of meta-analyzed this book as I read it and that perhaps that robbed it of some enjoyment for me. I will admit, an event near the end of the book did surprise me.

Original Publishing info: Knopf, May 1971
My Copy: mass market paperback, Fawcett Crest, acquired via Book Mooch
Genre: horror, psychological thriller.

Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

{Book} The Two Sams

The paperback The Two Sams and a bookmark.
My copy of The Two Sams along with a bookmark made from a birthday card sent to me by my friend Tania.

The Two Sams: Ghost Stories by Glen Hirshberg

With this unique collection, acclaimed author Glen Hirshberg breathes new life into an age-old literary tradition. In the title story a husband struggles with the grief and confusion of losing two children, and forms an odd bond with the infant spectrals that visit him in the night. “Dancing Men” depicts one of the creepiest rites of passage in recent memory when a boy visits his deranged grandfather in the New Mexico desert. “Struwwelpeter” introduces us to a brilliant, treacherous adolescent whose violent tendencies and reckless mischief reach a sinister pinnacle as Halloween descends on a rundown Pacific Northwest fishing village. Tormented by his guilty conscience, a young man plumbs the depths of atonement as he and his favorite cousin commune with the almighty Hawaiian surf in “Shipwreck Beach.” In “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” a college professor confronts his own dark places in the form of a mysterious haunted house steeped in the folklore of grisly badlands justice. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
‘Tis the season, but as I was reading some of the other books on my #RIPXIV and #SomethingWickedFall pile, I kept thinking about these stories. The Two Sams is a reread for me. I first read it in 2015, but I believe I’ve read “Struwwelpeter” separately since then.

What Did I Think?
These stories are so good.

I had forgotten the endings of “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” and “The Two Sams.” They are shocking and discomfiting by turns. I had more appreciation for the two stories I considered weaker during my the first read-through (“Shipwreak Beach” and “Dancing Men”), but I haven’t put my finger on exactly why. Maybe I’m a little more accepting of these “warm weather” horror stories, one set in Hawaii and the other in New Mexico. Each story is set in a different place and Hirshberg goes out of his way to make the settings distinct. Plus, there is such wonderfully creepy subtlety to character motivations.

Hirshberg has become one of my favorite writers and The Two Sams is probably in my top 10 books of all time.

Original Publishing info: Carroll & Graf, 2003
My Copy: paperback, acquired via PaperbackSwap
Genre: horror


Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

Review ~ Fevre Dream

Cover via Goodreads

Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

When struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh receives an offer of partnership from a wealthy aristocrat, he suspects something’s amiss. But when he meets the hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York, he is certain. For York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York has his own reasons for wanting to traverse the powerful Mississippi. And they are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious his actions may prove.

Marsh meant to turn down York’s offer. It was too full of secrets that spelled danger. But the promise of both gold and a grand new boat that could make history crushed his resolve—coupled with the terrible force of York’s mesmerizing gaze. Not until the maiden voyage of his new sidewheeler Fevre Dream would Marsh realize he had joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare…and mankind’s most impossible dream.

Here is the spellbinding tale of a vampire’s quest to unite his race with humanity, of a garrulous riverman’s dream of immortality, and of the undying legends of the steamboat era and a majestic, ancient river. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I had heard several times that George R. R. Martin’s vampire novel was quite good. The back cover blurb of my edition is a quote by Harlan Ellison.

In 1990 or so, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire showed up on my mom’s bookshelf via the Science Fiction Book of the Month Club. I have a feeling that it was a “forgot to turn it down” book because my mom didn’t (until then) read horror. We both read it and we both went a bit nuts for it and vampires. We read all of Anne Rice’s books, Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula books (and of course Dracula), just about everything Chelsea Quinn Yarbro wrote, Barbara Hambly’s Those Who Hunt the Night, John Steakley’s Vampire$, and so many others. But George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream was no where to be found at our mall’s Walden Books or our public library.

What Worked
Martin does a good job putting a spin on vampire mythology and presenting a vampire who is trying to have a choice in his destiny without being utterly emo about it. Abner Marsh is our outsider-looking-in on this culture/species. He’s crusty and jaded and doesn’t ask too many questions, at least at first. It is his inevitable curiosity that causes him to ultimately care about Julian as well as Fevre Dream.

I really enjoyed the setting. Setting is one of those factors that can make or break a book for me. Reading this in 2019 means I’m experiencing it in the shadow of Interview of the Vampire with its wisteria-clad New Orleans. Fevre Dream is set somewhat in New Orleans, but more up and down the Mississippi River and especially on the riverboat itself. There is also a lot of talk about food. Abner March likes to eat. I can relate and I not-surprisingly appreciated all the food details.

I read part of this book in mass market paperback, but listened to most of it in audio book form. It was read Ron Donachie, who I wasn’t very familiar with, but has been in everything. He does a great job.

What Didn’t Work
There were a couple of really talky parts. I don’t believe that showing is always better than telling, but oof. Past the mid-point of the novel there is section where a good deal of time goes by. Between what Abner did during this time period and his subsequent catch-up with Joshua, there is a very large passage of summing up. I get that it’s necessary, but it’s kind of dry.

While I didn’t have a problem with this, readers might want to be aware that race is a bit of an issue and these are the 1850s. The N-word is used quite liberally, as certain characters would use it. Also, if you have any qualms about child-endangerment, one of the most graphic scenes includes a baby. I don’t dink Martin for this, but I understand that it’s a delicate point for many readers.

Overall
It had been a while since I’d read any vampire fiction. I’m glad Fevre Dream lived up to its reputation, and I should probably loan my mom the book.

Original Publishing info: Poseidon Press, 1982
My Copy: Mass market paperback (Pocket Books 1983), Book Mooch & Audio (Penguin Random House Audio 2012), Greater Phoenix Digital Library
Genre: horror

Spring into Horror Wrap-Up & Mini Reviews

April was a little…off for me. Or maybe, rather, I was a little off in April. I didn’t get going on Camp NaNoWriMo and my reading was kind of here and there. Even Dewey’s Readathon was sort of flat.

On the horror front, I only read one thing on my initial TBR: Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart and *that* I started on the 28th! Looking back over what qualifies for Spring into Horror, though, I didn’t do too badly.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark cover I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

If “scary” is really the only qualification for Spring into Horror, this nonfiction work should certainly count. I gave it a full review a couple weeks back.

Hammers on Bone cover Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

This is the first in Khaw’s Persons Non Grata series. I read the second one, A Song for Quiet, as my first book of the year. I really enjoyed it, but I think I liked Hammers on Bone even more.

Generally, I don’t care for Lovecraft or the Lovecraft mythos. Also, I  have never been fond on noir mysteries/thrillers. But Khaw writes with so much easy flair that I really want more of this combination. At the heart of the story is our private investigator, John Persons. He’s a monster. No really, he’s an eldritch horror in a human skin, but one with more wit and warmth than any other hardboiled dick.

Hellbound Heart cover The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Like Stephen King, I like Clive Barker in smaller doses. His novels get a little too… baroque. But in short story and novella form, I think his world building works much better, allowing for our own imaginations to happily do work.

The Hellbound Heart was the basis for the movie, Hellraiser. The movie is pretty close to the book. This isn’t surprising since Barker wrote and directed it. It has spawned nine (!) sequels, but it’s interesting to note that Pinhead, the films’ signature villain, is only one of the Engineer’s retinue. I think what really stands out for me is how grounded in a place the story is, even though it could take place anywhere. The house, Frank’s room, these are all given the weight that would be part of a haunted house story.

Unabridged Poe cover Poe & Short Stories

I started my Edgar Allan Poe read-through in April. Mostly I’ve read through some of his early poetry. While that includes the classic “Alone,” it’s also some not-so-great poems.

I’ve also been reading through an anthology of mystery stories by Baroness Orczy (the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel). They feature Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, an early female detective.

Deal Me In, Week 12 ~ “White Goddess”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“White Goddess” by Margaret St. Clair

Card picked: 4
Found at: More Stories Not for the Nervous

It was somehow less nerve-wracking to think of her as a young woman in disguise than an old woman who moved and spoke like somebody in her twenties.

Carson is a small-time con man and thief. His modus operandi is flattering little old ladies into getting them to take him home for tea-and-cakes and then stealing their silverware. But Miss Smith is not quite what she seems. And the baubles, that Carson wouldn’t even be able to pawn, might eventually be his prison.

I haven’t quite gotten my thumb on what these stories-not-for-the-nervous are supposed to be. Mysteries? Horror? Hard-boiled crime? So far, they’ve been all of the above. I’m not familiar with Margaret  St. Clair. Apparently, she is a pioneer of science fiction, which would explain why this little dark fantasy story was originally published under the pseudonym, Idris Seabright.

The Black Cat, No. 5, February 1896

Welcome to the fifth issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Happily, no. 5 was not missing pages, though some of the scanning was iffy.

Stories

“The Mysterious Card” by Cleveland Moffett

While in Paris, Richard Burwell is given a card written in purple ink by a beautiful woman. Burwell doesn’t read French and everyone he shows the card to has a very bad reaction to it. He’s driven from his hotel and ultimately from France. When he shows it to his wife and his best childhood friend, they both disown him. And alas, the beautiful woman dies before she can tell him the meaning of it. It’s all very melodramatic. Cleveland Moffett was a journalist and writer of some note. “The Mysterious Card” was his first story and brought him some note mainly due to the unresolved aspect of the mystery. Alas, the literary shenanigans don’t work for me.

“Tang-u” by Lawrence E. Adams

Tang-u is a Chinese boy who ends up on a Japanese naval ship (during, I assume, the First Sino-Japanese War). He is of rat-catcher “heritage” which means his eyes are very keen even in the dark. And this is the brief story of how he becomes an honorary admiral in the Japanese navy due to those attributes.

“The Little Brown Mole” by Clarice Irene Clinghan

A friend finds Mr. Paul Fancourt in a state. What’s wrong? Fancourt tells of his marriage to the lovely and tempestuous Leila. His wife’s temper drove him away for five years and, when he returned, Leila was a different woman. Possibly quite literally.  This is Clarice Clinghan’s second story for The Black Cat. Her first, “The Wedding Tombstone,” was my favorite of issue no. 2.

This was my favorite of the month.

“The Telepathic Wooing” by James Buckham

Another tale of love for this February issue of The Black Cat. Dr. Amsden is hopelessly in love with Miriam Foote. Despite being quite good-looking, Amsden is terribly shy around women and can’t approach Miriam. Instead, he chooses an unconventional manner of “wooing” her: lucid dreaming. This is Buckham’s second story for the Cat. His first was the photographic evidence story “The Missing Link.”

“The Prince Ward” by Claude M. Girardeau

“The Prince Ward” was the longest story of the issue, a spine-tingling tale about a haunted hospital ward. Often hospital hauntings is due to, not surprisingly, the suffering and death of sick people, but here Girardeau gives us a spurned wife who is surprisingly sick and suddenly dies. There are maybe shades of Charlotte Perkins’ “The Yellow Wallpaper” and a few chilling moments, but the writing is very clunky.

 “A Meeting of Royalty” by Margaret Dodge

The Great Man, a young train baron, is visited by a little girl who is wandering around the train while they are delayed at the station. The little girl is dressed as a princess (which I thought was a much more modern thing). She tells the Great Man about the Queen she knows who is very sad. Of course, the Queen isn’t a queen, she’s an actress. But she is sad—the train delay will cause them to miss an important performance and she’s has a lost love who looked down on her career because he’s a business man, but she misses him. The Great Man realizes that he knows who the Queen is and what he can do to make her happy.

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No ads in this issue, but at least the issue was complete!

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 5, February 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project