THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS By Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards. Book review

THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS By Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards, Alchemy Press, P/b £12.99

Reviewed by HT Scott

The thing about anthologies is that you get a plethora of diversity, which in my humble opinion is no bad thing. The Alchemy Press book of horrors doesn’t disappoint, with contributions from well-known names such as Ramsey Campbell, Samantha Lee, Mike Chinn, and Peter Sutton, there are also a few authors there that I have never read before. Anthologies are a good way to dip your toes in the shallows of someone’s writing, giving the reader, us, an idea of what to expect.should we want to read more of their work One thing is for sure, Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards have brought together some very talented people and every story in the book 100% deserves to be included.  Unthemed this collection takes the reader to some very dark places.

There are twenty five stories in this book and having now read it twice I can honestly say that it is a book that I will dip into again and again. I can’t, unfortunately give you a run down of each and every story as that would spoil it for you because you are going to want to read this book.

Instead, I shall try to entice you with a couple of my favorites. So, here goes.

Bluey by Ray Cluley left me cold because of the subject matter. Shaun is a teacher, worn down and a little jaded. However, when he realises one of his students, Phillip Scott, is a bit of a misfit and an easy target for bullies Shaun endeavours to try to make life easier for him by introducing Bluey a child-sized blue paper cut out. Shaun hopes that the kids will be able to see that being different is not easy and that they should give Phillip a break. But with the best of intentions, he actually hasn’t allowed for how the students act and react to Bluey. Encouraging the students to comment both by writing on Bluey and verbally giving insults and opinions, Shaun is unaware that his exercise in awareness is, in fact, making a bigger impression than he counted on.  Has Shaun created a monster? What I liked about this story was its believability, I work in a school and Ray Cluley must have too because he describes it so well. I will certainly be on the lookout for more writing from this author.

Other stories that are worth a mention are -Cate Gardener’s Fullness Of Her Belly. A story about Ella, a woman so desperate for a child that she’s taken to wearing a cushion underneath her clothes and describing them as cushion babies. What Ella sees when she looks at the cushions is the hope of one day having a child. However, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Also, Too Late by John Grant a story that would not be out of place as an episode of the Twilight Zone. It tells the story of a  disconnected couple, Heidi and Griff. By going on holiday they try to rekindle their relationship. But Griff seems much more committed than Heidi and when he goes off every day he is left wondering why Heidi won’t go with him and what she’d rather do instead.

As I said before there are some real gems in this collection and along with the illustrations of Jim Pitts this is a book that you want to add to your collection. It’s not often that anthologies of this calibre are available and I would definitely recommend this one.

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