HORROR LIBRARY Volume 6 edited by Eric J Guinard, Cutting Block Books P/b $15.95 (US) 333 pages ISBN: 9780996115988, www.cuttingblpckbooks.com
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Many volumes of horror stories tend to revolve around a theme constricting the potential contributor in the range of material. Admittedly, this sometimes produces extraordinary results but limits the writer. The Horror Library series has no restriction and authors can follow the directions in which their dark imaginations lead them. Volume 6 of the series contains twenty seven stories, the majority by male American authors though it is not exclusive.
With so many stories to choose from even picking out the highlights is difficult. There are a number that involve transport of some kind, but the most effective is ‘The H Train’ by J.G.Faherty. The narrator is the driver of the train who relates the circumstances that led to him succeeding to the job. From the start, we know that he is taking souls to their destination and that probably his role is a just punishment for the crimes he committed in life. There have been other stories about drivers on the road to hell but this one is a welcome member of the pack.
I’m sure all of us have had nightmares about household systems that have gone wrong and we’ve had to call in the expert. In Bentley Little’s ‘The Plumber’ Andy has to call in the expert when the drains become blocked. It seems reasonable that the plumber would give them advice to stop it happening again. What he doesn’t expect is the bullying way the man insinuates himself into their lifestyle demanding that they change their eating habits and setting up cameras in the waste piles to see that they obey his instructions.
One of the best stories in the volume is ’Predestination’s a Bitch; by Sean Eads. This is a modern take on the Greek oracles. In this case the Cassandra figure is Roger who works in IT. He has visions which he can only pass on in the form of a bad joke. It is only after the predicted event that the recipient realises what he was told. When Roger tries to warn his friend, Clyde, about his fate in the hope that he can avoid it, he isn’t believed.
Not everyone who seems harmless is. Many have secrets that will never be revealed – except to the reader. Edward M Erdelac’s ‘Hear The Eagle Scream’ opens with an old man watching the drive for the passing stranger who is looking for work. Jim Thiemann can’t offer much except food and shelter in exchange for hard work. Innocent enough, but gradually the ambiance darkens as Jim’s history unfolds.
As with any good horror collection, there will be a mixture of supernatural and more explicable horrors. With some monsters, like vampires it is hard to find a new way of presenting the concept. There is a zombie story in this volume. In ‘Waiting for Mrs Hemley’ Thomas P. Balázs has found a different approach. His narrator is an analyst and Mrs Hemley is one of his clients. She always arrives but she is always late even though civilisation is collapsing.
Amongst the other stories are two, very different ones of mountains in freezing conditions, stories of warped minds and the inexplicable. Some work well at the length presented but others would benefit from a greater length in order to exploit the horror of the situation characters find themselves in. This is a book to dip into and there will be something for most readers.