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Charles Black – The Black Book Of Horror

Posted by demonik on June 19, 2008

Charles Black (ed) – The Black Book Of Horror (Mortbury Press, 2007)

Charles Black - Black Book of Horror

Cover: Paul Mudie

Frank Nicholas – Crows
Mark Samuels – Regina vs. Zoskia
Gary Fry – The Older Man
Steve Goodwin – Power
Roger B. Pile – Cords
Sean Parker – The Sound Of Muzak
D. F. Lewis – Shaped Like A Snake
David A. Sutton – Only In Your Dreams
Paul Finch – The Wolf At Jessie’s Door
John L. Probert – Size Matters
John Kenneth Dunham – Spare Rib: A Romance
Gary McMahon – Family Fishing
David Conyers – Subtle Invasion
D. F. Lewis – A Pie With Thick Gravy
David A. Riley – Lock-In
Franklin Marsh – Last Christmas (I Gave You My Life)
Daniel McGachey – “Shalt Thou Know My Name?”
Charles Black – To Summon A Flesh Eating Demon

Includes:

David Riley – Lock-In: The Potters Wheel, Edgebottom, on the outskirts of Manchester. Sam Sowerby the landlord has recently let a room to ‘Albert Durer’ who, unknown to Sam, is a Black Magician specialising in conjuring forth Cthulthoid monstrosities. His latest ritual sees the pub plunged into a void surrounded on all sides by an impenetrable blackness. Regular Tom Atkins takes a step outside to see what’s going on, has his face torn off for his trouble. The teacher, Harold Sillitoe, is next to try his luck – he bleeds to death after his arm is picked clean as if by acid. Now Sam and his four elderly friends affectionately known as ‘The Grudgers’ after the area they hail from, are left with a desperate choice: either stay here and die of starvation or find some way of getting through the black shroud ….

John L. Probert – Size Matters: “His penis looked like the huge maroon salami sausage that he had seen on Nigella Lawson’s cookery programme last week, right down to the runny brown gravy she had poured over the end ….”

Funded by the unexpected fortune left him by his late mother, Harry Walker decides to splash out on an extension in the hope it will improve his luck with women. As we can see from the passage quoted above, the operation conducted, by the dubious plastic surgeon Dr. Lockhampton, doesn’t go as well as it might and the resultant gangrene sees poor Harry bitterly regretful that he tampered with his healthy six inches. A chance meeting with a crone along the abandoned railway line restores what he’s lost – with way too much interest. Killer last line.

As far as I’m aware, there are no plans to adapt this one as a graphic novel any time soon.

Franklin Marsh – Last Christmas (I Gave You My Life): December 24th and Kate makes a break for it, clearing off with the kids, away from that wretched husband of hers, never – NEVER – to see him again. Tragically, she opts to spend the night at the Bide-A-Wee’ Guest House, pride and joy of creepy Mr. Pottinger and his mute slab of wife, but – how can that be? The place burnt down years ago! Still, let’s not fret over technicalities – the Pottinger’s sure know how to throw a party!

Sergeant Doobie explains to WPC Stacy Dawes how the place obtained it’s justified reputation as a popular suicide spot and the mystery surrounding the identities of those who perished in the original fire. She thinks he’s a “silly sod” but wisely keeps her opinions to herself.

“Reads like a condensed version of the Amicus Tales From The Crypt” is the biggest compliment I can pay this one.

D. F. Lewis – A Pie With Thick Gravy:

George settles down to eat his dinner.

The pastry erupts.

George’s dinner settles down to eat him.

I wonder why the lurker in the gravy put me in mind so of the fanged ghoulie on the cover of Pan Horror #3 ?

Mark Samuels – Regina vs. Zoskia: Henry Dunn is to take over the interminable but lucrative case which has proved so extremely profitable to his firm since 1964. As Jackson drives him over to the Zoskia Institution, he fills the younger lawyer in on some background detail:

” … the inmates decided they no longer wished to be classified insane. They’ve been challenging the legal basis on which the definition rests for the past forty-odd years. Dr. Zoskia contends that the hospital is for the sane and that it is the outside world which is occupied by the mentally disturbed.”

Jackson also lets on that the inmates have trained themselves to go without sleep. Some have have managed to remain awake for years which, as you’d expect, has wreaked havoc on their already fragile minds and physically they’re a trip – pale, emaciated zombies. Check out those bulbous eyes!

Dr. Zoskia decides that Jackson has served their cause as best he was capable so now he can ‘voluntarily’ commit himself to the Institute while Dunn takes sole control of their case. The last Dunn sees of his colleague, he’s being manhandled into a box.

The late night sequence wherein Dunn, appalled yet fascinated, watches from his window as a group of these maniacs gleefully bury Jackson in St. Olaf’s churchyard is an early Black Book highlight for me.

Daniel McGachey – “Shalt Thou Know My Name?”: “In the courtroom they told of a great wind that gathered up in the courtyard and which stirred the leaves and branches that littered the ground. And these appeared to gather up in the air and take on a form, like that of a scarecrow but growing thicker and more solid and more like a living thing …. “

Delightful M. R. James tribute pitched somewhere between (I think!) The Ash-Tree and a nastier Casting The Runes. Seachester Museum. Dower is consulting the Hesketh papers when who should stroll in but Edgar Bright, still as loud as ever and eager to examine the self same documents. Marvellous, curses Dower who detests him. Back in their college days, Bright got Dower royally drunk and copied down his thesis, presenting it as his own. Bright’s was accepted while Dower was accused of plagiarism!

A scene is narrowly averted as Bright agrees to leave his rival to his studies. The fact that this fraud is following in the same line of research as he gives Dower an idea. When he fortuitously (or so he then thinks) chances on a file relating to a rather eventful witch trial, he has a means of finally avenging himself by way of a little ‘joke’ ….

David A. Sutton – Only In Your Dreams: Donald is overburdened with his work for the North Atlantic Whaling Research Group ( they’re lobbying for the hunting ban to be lifted) and he’s been snappy and intolerant toward his family: wife Margaret, ten year old William and little Sophie, six. When Sophie asks if she can stay up because she’s terrified of “the jellyman” he completely loses it and it’s left to Margaret – as usual – to calm her fears. Apparently, the jellyman is to visit each of them in turn tonight which is why she’s so upset.

Margaret, unable to sleep, wakes up in the early hours and is horrified to discover that Donald hasn’t even bothered to lock up. What if the Animal Rights nutters have tracked them to their new home? She couldn’t go through all that again. But it’s not a bunch of “Woolly headed, criminal terrorists” she should be concerning herself with just now ….

Gary McMahon – Family Fishing: “I’m locking you in here with her. By the time I come back for you, you’ll be a man. Don’t disappoint me, boy”

Fell, North Yorks. Narrator confides an incident from his pre-teen years when he was sent off to spend a weekend at his grandfather’s gloomy, cluttered old house a mile or so from the nearest village. Grand-pop has laid on some ‘entertainment’ – tomorrow morning they’re going fishing.

After a hearty breakfast – the boy will need all his strength – they set off in the truck. Presently they approach a filthy shanty town in the woods, populated by barely human creatures and the boy gets his first inkling that “fishing” is something of a euphemism for what he’s about to get up to. The Moreau family have always had a keen interest in genetics and the old timer is proud to have followed in his infamous ancestor’s footsteps.

David Conyers – Subtle Invasion: The world awakens to discover that it’s been invaded overnight by grey, spiky demon plants from outer space which multiply at an alarming rate and obliterate anything in their path (“It hadn’t eaten her, it had replaced the space that she had once occupied”). Truly, the Triffids were just uppity stinging nettles compared to these unrelenting bastards.

In Melbourne, Sutherland, wife Kitty, little Nikki and Norbert the teddy bear are among the first to find one of these monstrosities lurking in their back yard. If they report it to the authorities it’s a sure thing they’ll be evacuated, so maybe it’s best they leave it until tomorrow ….

SF-horror crossovers don’t always do it for me but I love this. It reads like a glorious ‘fifties b-movie played completely straight. Norbert is adorable (I confess, I was really worried for him) and a brief cameo from a nasty biker gang is an unexpected bonus.

Roger Pile – Cords: Jenny and the narrator chance upon the Contemporary Warfare: It’s Glories And Terrors exhibition at the defunct Cathedral. Whoever designed the sets is on top of their game – it even feels like a jungle – and that waxwork of the crucified girl is in very poor taste. Slowly they realise that they’re caught up in the fantasy world of a mad genius where audience participation is taken as given and pushed to horrific extremes …

Gary Fry – The Older Man: Meet Jack Preen, house painter, front-man of ropey covers band Fatal Inversion, self-styled stud, approaching forty and hating it. Recently his thoughts have turned to the ravages time will play on his body and this job at the posh couple’s place isn’t helping any.

He’s an author, scruffy git, writes books debunking the supernatural: she’s a lawyer, gorgeous, and should be well out of hubby’s league. And there’s a decrepit old girl living with them too, the wife’s mother, though he’s sure his mate said something about her having died a few weeks back …..

Any story that features hot corpse-on-corpse action is OK in my book. I found it vaguely reminiscent of Ramsey Campbell’s super-creepy Again but with additional enormous belly-laugh.

Charles Black – How To Summon A Flesh Eating Demon: “Do you really think I’m going to plunge my knife into this young girl’s heaving bosom?” Greydin snorted. Now who’s being all Hammer House Of Horror? “

Prof. Julius Greydin has located a copy of the semi-mythical Book Of Setopholes and argues that it’s an authentic grimoire. His sceptical friend, Dr. Ernest Mellman is adamant that it’s at best a compendium of the usual mumbo jumbo, at worst an elaborate hoax. Their pupil, Tony Zaniger, wonders how they stand each other’s company – they’re always trying to out-do each other. There’s only one way to settle the dispute – perform one of the rituals.

The trial run is a failure but Greydin isn’t ready yet to concede. For the second attempt some nights later, he pulls out all the stops. Skulls, human and animal, are borrowed from the laboratory. He even provides a drugged naked virgin, Michelle Chalmers – Tony’s had the hots on her for ages! This time, they’ll do everything by the letter. But Greydin has made one fatal miscalculation and his world turns all Taste The Blood Of Dracula

The book goes out kicking and screaming on a note of Grand Guignol.

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