THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES Edited by James D Jenkins & Ryan Cagle. Book review

THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES Edited by James D Jenkins & Ryan Cagle, Valancourt Books 2016
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Valancourt Books is a brilliant American small imprint devoted to unearthing out of print neglected classics ( Gothic novels, Victorian dark fiction,horror material from the last century etc).
In the present volume they have assembled seventeen hard-to-find tales penned by authors included in their large catalogue, aimed to disquiet, engross or scare their followers. Although, as everyone knows, any anthology is a mixed bag, most of the selected material is enticing and extremely entertaining.
“Auntie Green” by John Blackburn is a nasty tale where a man close to death finally takes his revenge on his childhood living nightmare, while “California Burning” by Michael Blumlein, a piece on the SF side, addresses the unusual phenomenon of a corpse that refuses to be cremated, behind which lies a deeper mystery.
In the excellent but unsettling “Miss Mack” by Michael McDowell, witchcraft from a vindictive mother engulfs a woman,trapped in a space/time dimension with no way out. “Let Loose” by Mary Cholmondeley , a conventional but rather enjoyable piece, constitutes a cross between a vampire story and a Victorian ghostly tale à la MR James.
Bernard Taylor’s “Out of Sort” is a deliciously dark story with a touch of black humour, where a wife gets even with her husband’s lover, while Christopher Priest’s grandguignolesque” The Head and the Hand” features a man whose job is to perform mutilations of his body parts.
“The Ghost of Charlotte Cray” , a traditional ghost story by Florence Marryat, depicts the return from the grave of a jealous woman, and “The Tarn” by Hugh Walpole is a vivid tale of revenge where water plays a pivotal role.
The sulfureous Charles Birkin and the prolific Gerald Kersh are included in the anthology respectively with “The Terror on Toby” and ” The Gentleman All In Black”, two fairly good stories, but in my opinion, somehow inferior to the rest of their remarkable production.
The volume also features as an extra bonus, a previously unpublished tale by Forrest Reid ,”Furnished Apartments”,a darkly atmospheric little gem featuring a young man taking lodgings in a rather disreputable house full of mysteries. Other contributors to the volume are Francis King,Richard Marsh, Stephen Gregory, John Trevena, MG Lewis and Hugh Fleetwood.