Friday, 3 December 2010
The Power of Three - 3rd Installment
Cathy and I sadly couldn't make it down to the BFS Christmas bash in London today - owing to the weather and various other things. That means I wasn't able to launch SPARROWHAWK as I wanted to (that will now happen at the Manchester BFS Open Night this coming Sunday). So it's business as usual, which means back to the slog but also, this being a Friday and all, it means that I owe you three more of my personal 'best horror stories ever'. So here they are ...
The Doll Named Silvio by Michael Kernan
The new governess at a southern plantation house finds her angelic charge in thrall to the myriad dolls she keeps in a secret room upstairs, in particular a demonic, Renaissance-era figurine named Silvio.
A must-read for all those enamoured by ‘doll horror’, but retaining at its heart that essential question for this particular sub-genre: what are we dealing with here, supernatural evil or human insanity? Ultra creepy all the way through, and rising to some spectacularly hair-raising moments on the way, though the ending is the most horrific jolt of all. An unexpected gem from the Washington Post’s famously gentle and graceful feature writer.
First published in THE TIMES ANTHOLOGY OF GHOST STORIES, 1975.
The Marble Boy by Gahan Wilson
A kid takes a dare and steals a bone from a child’s grave. As you can imagine, it isn’t long before he’s wishing that he hadn’t.
A deceptively simple but ultra-creepy little tale, and very typical of the author, whose ‘cartoonish’ style is noticeable throughout but who piles on the terror at all the appropriate moments. The graveyard is just about the eeriest you’ve ever visited in any story anywhere, while the elaborate tomb which our anti-hero pilfers from is a masterwork of literary Grand Guignol. The final moments when the kid is tucked up in bed, just knowing that his debt is about to paid in full – maybe with a little bit extra – are among the scariest ever.
First published in AFTER THE DARKNESS, 1993.
The Gray Madonna by Graham Masterton
A widower visits wintry Bruges, to try and discover how his wife ended up dead in one of its canals. When he learns that a nun in a gray habit was responsible, he embarks on an investigation that will cost him both his sanity and his life.
A high quality ghost story, which, like so much of Masterton’s work, captures the atmosphere of a unique but real place and then turns it on its head in a welter of weirdness. But it’s the mystery that is the real strength of this superior horror tale. Like its main protagonist, you as the reader really need to know what happened here, and yet, as you get closer to the truth, it becomes steadily more obvious that this is the very last thing you should be doing.
First published in FEAR ITSELF, 1995.
Posted by Paul at 05:33