Horror! Under the Tombstone, selected by David A Sutton – review by Mario Guslandi

under-the-tombstoneHorror! Under the Tombstone

Selected by David A Sutton

Trade Paperback , 333 pages

Publisher: Shadow Publishing , UK 2013

The ‘70s  were mythical years for the British horror scene, as regards both books and movies, but , with a few exceptions, the names of the authors of supernatural fiction of that long gone era  are now mostly forgotten.

Reprinting a bunch of stories that previously appeared in the anthologies New Writings in Horror and the Supernatural vol 1 & 2 (1971 and 1972) is an interesting venture not only as a mere tribute to nostalgia, but also as a way to document the canons and the style of a dark fiction born and developed in a different age.

Predictably, a good amount of the stories  sound a bit outdated, even naïve, when read some forty years later. Only great literature survives the passing of times and fashions, and this is certainly not the case for the majority of the tales included in the present volume, even when the authors are the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Rosemary Timperley, David A Sutton, Robert P Holdstock and so on.

Some of the tales, however, do maintain their strength and are still able to entertain and disquiet the reader just as if written today.

Among those tales I’ll mention, first of all, “Goat” by David Campton, a solid piece of supernatural fiction portraying the uncanny, lethal powers of an old man using witchcraft to terrify and kill, and “The Hollow Where” by Michael G Coney, an odd tale where two couples of farmers keep shifting roles, due to  the paranormal influence of a haunted area on the hill nearby.

Bryn Fortney’s “Shrewhampton North-East” is a very fine example of Kafkaesque nightmare, served with a touch of black humour, about a group of passengers indefinitely stuck in an unknown train station.

“The Inglorious Rise of the Catsmeat Man” by Robyn Smyth is a very enjoyable, although not quite original story revolving around a delicious catsmeat of disreputable origin while “Infra-Man” by Roger Parkes  is a bizarre yet powerful story where a husband who shouldn’t be there appears in infrared pictures, much to the dismay of his displeased wife.

In the claustrophobic “Under the Tombstone” by Kenneth Bulmer, inhuman creatures lurk under a tombstone in an ancient, now deconsecrated church, while in the pleasurable “A Bottle of Spirits” by David A Riley a young man manages to get hired as the assistant to a stage magician and to discover the secret of his supernatural powers.

In short a pleasant and interesting  journey into the horror and supernatural fiction of a  not too distant time when the world was less sophisticated and our fears were perhaps more simple.

- Mario Guslandi

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About Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the dark urban fantasy trilogy, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series) published by HarperVoyager Australia, and the dark urban fantasy duology, RealmShift and MageSign (The Balance 1 and 2) from Gryphonwood Press. He co-authored the short horror novel, Dark Rite, with David Wood. Alan also writes short fiction with more than 50 stories published in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France. His short fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction (forthcoming), Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts, and Midnight Echo, among many others, and more than twenty anthologies, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror (2010 and 2012). Alan also writes narrative arcs and dialogue for videogames and wrote the popular writer’s resource, Write The Fight Right, a short ebook about writing convincing fight scenes. He has twice been a finalist in the Ditmar Awards.

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