Urban Occult edited by Colin F. Barnes. Book review

urbanURBAN OCCULT edited by Colin F. Barnes, Anachron Press,  234p, p/b, £9:98, www.anachronpress.com

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

First urban legends caught our imagination several years ago, now Colin F. Barnes has gathered together some of the most interesting short story writers from Anachron Press. Here we have fifteen stories about the occult, ghosts, spectres, magic and of course witches. A horror anthology wouldn’t be complete without witches. As with other anthologies, there are a few you will find more to your taste than others, and some may stick in the mind as a result of the clever way the stories are written.

Starting with witches, Mark West’s the Witch House reads like the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel with the children in this one stripped of their innocence, breaking into an old woman’s house, except that it’s all round town that she’s a witch. This doesn’t put them off however, and you know that nothing good will come of their invasion. It does make for riveting reading though. Gary Mc Mahon’s “Just Another Job,” is one of the creepiest in the book with its unsettling atmosphere and dark setting. Mc Mahon’s known for creating the sort of stories that make the hairs on the nape of your neck stand on end and he certainly knows how to create a memorable story. Ren Warom’s “The Ghosts of My City Walk,” is the single most sinister and soul destroying story in the book, but this is what makes you want to read further into it when you know it’s about several people who live awful lives in a block of flats. The story’s build up is a steady one as it gets darker right up to the end. James Brogden’s ,“ The Remover of Obstacles,” is one of the only ones with some dark humour in it, but when I say dark, I mean it as there is no happy ending, just a feeling of dread. It, like the others is well written and full of intense imagery which gives it an even darker feel. Jennifer Williams’s “Spider Daughter Spider,” is another short with a good deal of sinister intentions and characters that never are what they seem.

All in all, Urban Occult is a mixed bag of tricks as far as horror stories are concerned. They all concern urban areas and the people who are unfortunate enough to live in them, but these aren’t ordinary lives, these people have more than one skeleton in their closet and as you read each story, the real question you should be asking yourself is can I read these with the lights off?