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The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series I

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Spine-tinglers of the Seventies combine the traditions of the past with the new terrors of the science-fiction age of the present. This first annual selection of the year's best in fantasy-horror embodies the heritage of the classic masters with the modern techniques of Lovecraft, Bradbury, and masters of future projection. Here is a tale of an isolated laboratory and the m Spine-tinglers of the Seventies combine the traditions of the past with the new terrors of the science-fiction age of the present. This first annual selection of the year's best in fantasy-horror embodies the heritage of the classic masters with the modern techniques of Lovecraft, Bradbury, and masters of future projection. Here is a tale of an isolated laboratory and the man who miscalculated the dimensions. Here is the chill of a future parliament debating the death of coming generations. Here is the archaeological quest of a researcher who had come to wonder whether he was entirely of this world. Here are Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Kit Reed, E.C. Tubb, and ten more of today's masters in the first series of The Year's Best Horror Stories. Contents: Double Whammy by Robert Bloch. The Sister City by Brian Lumley. When Morning Comes by Elizabeth Fancett. Prey by Richard Matheson. Winter by Kit Reed. Lucifer by E.C. Tubb. I Wonder What He Wanted by Eddy C. Bertin. Problem Child by Peter Oldale. The Scar by Ramsey Campbell. Warp by Ralph Norton. The Hate by Terri E. Pinckard. A Quiet Game by Celia Fremlin. After Nightfall by David Riley. Death's Door by Robert McNear.


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Spine-tinglers of the Seventies combine the traditions of the past with the new terrors of the science-fiction age of the present. This first annual selection of the year's best in fantasy-horror embodies the heritage of the classic masters with the modern techniques of Lovecraft, Bradbury, and masters of future projection. Here is a tale of an isolated laboratory and the m Spine-tinglers of the Seventies combine the traditions of the past with the new terrors of the science-fiction age of the present. This first annual selection of the year's best in fantasy-horror embodies the heritage of the classic masters with the modern techniques of Lovecraft, Bradbury, and masters of future projection. Here is a tale of an isolated laboratory and the man who miscalculated the dimensions. Here is the chill of a future parliament debating the death of coming generations. Here is the archaeological quest of a researcher who had come to wonder whether he was entirely of this world. Here are Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Kit Reed, E.C. Tubb, and ten more of today's masters in the first series of The Year's Best Horror Stories. Contents: Double Whammy by Robert Bloch. The Sister City by Brian Lumley. When Morning Comes by Elizabeth Fancett. Prey by Richard Matheson. Winter by Kit Reed. Lucifer by E.C. Tubb. I Wonder What He Wanted by Eddy C. Bertin. Problem Child by Peter Oldale. The Scar by Ramsey Campbell. Warp by Ralph Norton. The Hate by Terri E. Pinckard. A Quiet Game by Celia Fremlin. After Nightfall by David Riley. Death's Door by Robert McNear.

30 review for The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series I

  1. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    DAW collectors #13 Cover Artist: Karel Thole Richard Davis Birthdate: 27 January 1945 Richard Davis is an Australian author who writes in two genres: * biographies of opera singers and classical musicians, and also * popular ghost stories. His full name is Richard Michael Davis. "The Year’s Best Horror Stories" was a series of annual anthologies published by DAW Books in the U.S.from 1972 to 1994 under the successive editorships of Richard Davis from 1972 to 1975. Contents: Double Whammy (1970), by Rob DAW collectors #13 Cover Artist: Karel Thole Richard Davis Birthdate: 27 January 1945 Richard Davis is an Australian author who writes in two genres: * biographies of opera singers and classical musicians, and also * popular ghost stories. His full name is Richard Michael Davis. "The Year’s Best Horror Stories" was a series of annual anthologies published by DAW Books in the U.S.from 1972 to 1994 under the successive editorships of Richard Davis from 1972 to 1975. Contents: Double Whammy (1970), by Robert Bloch The Sister City (1969), by Brian Lumley When Morning Comes (1969), by Elizabeth Fancett Prey (1969), by Richard Matheson Winter (1969), by Kit Reed Lucifer (1969), by E. C. Tubb I Wonder What He Wanted (1971), by Eddy C. Bertin Problem Child (1970), by Peter Oldale The Scar (1969), by Ramsey Campbell Warp (1968), by Ralph Norton The Hate (1971), by Terri E. Pinckard A Quiet Game (1970), by Celia Fremlin After Nightfall (1970), by David A. Riley Death's Door (1969), by Robert McNeal

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    After some recent dalliances with episodes of the old school Twilight Zone television program, I thought it would be fun to delve into the world of horror from back before I was born. Unfortunately, as I researched, I discovered that I was already well-acquainted with much of the more well-known tales and authors: William Peter Blatty, Shirley Jackson, Thomas Tryon, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and so on. Then I stumbled across just what I was looking for: an anthology series of horror-themed s After some recent dalliances with episodes of the old school Twilight Zone television program, I thought it would be fun to delve into the world of horror from back before I was born. Unfortunately, as I researched, I discovered that I was already well-acquainted with much of the more well-known tales and authors: William Peter Blatty, Shirley Jackson, Thomas Tryon, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and so on. Then I stumbled across just what I was looking for: an anthology series of horror-themed short stories collated not by subject matter but simply by year of publication: DAW's The Year's Best Horror Stories. My curiosity was piqued for several reasons, chief among them being that DAW was known for being a sci-fi publisher. Rather than put me off, this inspired me, for I saw names like Richard Matheson and Brian Lumley on the cover, which (hopefully) meant I could look forward to horror in a more cerebral or psychological sense a-la Twilight Zone as opposed to the more in-your-face, serial-killer-with-a-machete sense. I dove in, and was pleased to discover that, for the most part, I was right. * * * * * Double Whammy by Robert Bloch Bloch will forever be remembered for introducing Norman Bates to the world in Psycho, but Double Whammy introduces us to a down-on-his-luck carnival barker who entices guests to pay for a look at the sideshow freaks. While he's fine with most of the acts, the one which never fails to disturb him is the geek. The geek is an equally-down-on-his-luck alcoholic who caps off the sideshow by chewing the head off a live chicken and frolicking in the blood. Our barker can't imagine a fate worse than this to which a man could be reduced, and it's an image which haunts his dreams. The carnival is presided over by an aged woman of gypsy ancestry, who, according to some other members of the carnival, has the power to curse others using the dreaded double whammy. All it takes is for her to catch her victim's reflection, and some awful fate will soon result. After a tragedy resulting from a tryst with the carnival owner's young daughter, our protagonist finds himself constantly looking over his shoulder, always on the lookout for the old woman who he fears somehow will learn he's to blame and come after him. The story's twist ending is telegraphed well in advance, but this one plays out like a competently-executed story of revenge commonly seen in the EC Comics of the day. Three out of five stars. The Sister City by Brian Lumley This one has Lovecraft written all over it--small surprise, considering Lumley originally published it in Arkham House's "Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos" in 1969. This pastiche to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" takes the form of an epistolary story, where the tale is conveyed through the writings of others. A man realizes at a young age he is very different from his peers, and sequesters himself away from civilization after his parents are killed when the Germans bomb his childhood home. Setting out into the world to learn about his bizarre ancestry, he travels across continents, under the ocean, and into long-forgotten ruins, putting together the pieces about who his parents were, where he came from, and why he is so different from other humans. Being familiar with Innsmouth, it was fairly obvious where this was going from the start, but the execution (especially the baffled notes of the police appended to the manuscript's end) is competent and well in keeping with the Lovecraftian spirit. Four stars out of five. When Morning Comes by Elizabeth Fancett A particularly heavy-handed and axe-grinding account of a British MP haunted by the spectres of aborted fetuses who died because of laws he's thrown his support behind over the years. The reason for his haunting is divulged early on, the man's a thoroughly unsympathetic character, you can see the ending coming a mile away, and Fancett's clearly unfamiliar with the concept of subtlety. As a polemic, it works fine. As a horror story, it's an eye-rolling incompetent failure even for the late 60's/early 70's, and I'm forced to wonder what got bumped from the anthology in order to make room for it. One star out of five. Prey by Richard Matheson If you saw the 1975 anthology film Trilogy of Terror, you're familiar with this story of a woman who buys a Zuni fetish doll infused with the spirit of a hunter named "He Who Kills". An accident removes the binding chains on the doll, and it animates and attacks the woman in her apartment. The twist at the end is pure Matheson, and if you needed a palette cleanser after the last story, you couldn't ask for a better one than this. Five out of five stars if you've never read it, but four out of five stars if you have. Winter by Kit Reed Two middle-aged sisters living in a winter-ravaged area of the countryside have stocked their larders and sharpened their tongues in preparation for the long season ahead of them. One day, however, they find a sickly young man who claims to be a soldier having deserted his regiment. He asks for help hiding him for a while, and the lonely women are only too happy to have a strapping young man join their company. Unfortunately for the sisters, the young man is a master manipulator who uses their naivety and weakness for bickering against them, allowing the women to buy his affection at increasingly exorbitant prices...until the women catch on to his game and start playing the player. By the time this happens, supplies are running low in the farmhouse, and there's not enough to sustain all three until the spring thaw, but it's surprising what lengths some people will go to in order to survive. Not as Twilight Zone-ish in its execution, but still well done in its own way, Winter is a decent entry here, even if the ending is telegraphed. The sisters are delightfully catty towards one another, which makes for some humor in this otherwise-morbid tale. Three stars out of five. Lucifer by E. C. Tubb A mortician receives the corpse of a man who died under extremely bizarre circumstances, and is drawn to a particular ring worn by the deceased. He snaffles it from the corpse, and eventually figures out that it allows the wearer to travel back in time, but only in fifty-seven second increments. Naturally the mortician realizes that fifty-seven seconds allows one to get away with all sorts of mischief, but as you can expect from this type of story, there's a price to pay for meddling with forces beyond one's own comprehension. This is a fantastic story with a beautifully Twilight Zone-esque twist which sees the mortician condemned to a hell of his own making. Tubb himself was a prolific author who produced hundreds of works under dozens of pseudonyms over the course of his life, everything from short stories and novellas to full-fledged sci-fi series and books based on other properties like Space: 1999. A top-notch tale which comes in, does what it needs, and exits without overstaying its welcome. Five stars! Wonder What He Wanted by Eddy Bertin A ghost story in the Shirley Jackson sense, Wonder What He Wanted sees a young woman renting a house which was once home to a reclusive horror author. The longer she stays in the house, the more she finds herself taken with the macabre and the art of storytelling. While the payoff is obvious long before the story's end, the atmosphere Bertin manages to work up is suitably spooky and menacing despite this shortcoming. Three out of five. Problem Child by Peter Oldale This is a gruesome little story about a young mother who is positive that her infant daughter possesses psychic powers. The only problem is they never seem to manifest when other people are around to witness them, leaving her husband to wonder if she isn't imagining things. While the wrap-up here comes extremely fast, being delivered on the final page, it's definitely one you won't see coming even if you know that bad things are going to happen. Four out of five. The Scar by Ramsey Campbell I'm a huge fan of Campbell's work, but this one just didn't click with me at all. As wonderfully atmospheric as Campbell's writing is, I found the story difficult to understand, and ultimately I wasn't able to work out what he was going for. I'll probably come back and give this one another go, but it seemed to peter off into a lackluster payoff considering how well he appeared to be setting everything up. Rod Serling did doppelgangers much better, much creepier, and much earlier in the 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone called "Mirror Image". Two stars. Warp by Ralph Norton After the let-down of The Scar, Ralph Norton's tale of a scientist who opens a door into a parallel dimension is most welcome. The story follows one of the few friends of said scientist who contacts his former colleague and invites him to dinner out of the blue. Once at the scientist's house, which looks more like a fortress than a simple home, the man reveals he's figured out how to bridge the gap between parallel realities. Dubbing it "the Loop", it's a gateway that accepts physical matter in one side, and spits out a reverse duplicate of that object on the other. He demonstrates with a glove, which goes in right-handed and floats out left-handed. As the story continues, we discover how far the scientist has gone with his experiment, and the horror of what happens to once-reversed things that make the trip through the Loop again is terrible than one could possibly imagine. This is a fantastic story, one which I have brooded over for several days, and it just won't leave me alone. One of the best in the collection, and an easy five out of five. The Hate by Terri Prickard This story of a young woman harassed by a supernatural animosity she is powerless to control wants to be spooky, but comes off contrived. The answer to the question of what is causing the anger and hatred to manifest is unsatisfying, and ultimately the story just falls flat. There's a good idea in here, but it's looking for a more competent execution than what Prickard offers. More to the point, it's not scary, or even creepy, in the slightest. It's just odd. This one falls out of memory faster than any of the other pieces in the anthology. One star. A Quiet Game by Celia Fremlin Having been raised by a single mother, I'm particularly sympathetic to the protagonist of this story, who lives in a high-rise apartment building with her two young children and is surrounded by tenants who hate the noise made by the children when they play. As someone who has dealt with noisy neighbors, though, I'm also sympathetic to their desire to not be disturbed at all hours of the day by stomping feet, screaming, and pounding. The apparent solution to the problem comes when the mother purchases a large-sized plush carpet, which she places on the floor to stifle footfalls. The children instantly take to the carpet, and transform it into an imaginary transport to a make-believe land where they have all sorts of adventures between when mother calls them back to the real world for tea time or dinner. Unfortunately, even this game starts to lose its appeal after a while, and in her effort to bring back some of the magic, the hapless mother makes things worse for herself. This isn't a bad story, but it isn't frightening either. Much like "The Hate", I question why it appeared in this anthology. Two out of five stars. After Nightfall by David Riley Another Lovecraftian pastiche, this time about an anthropologist who visits a rural town which observes strange rituals after the sun goes down. After questioning the innkeeper and a few of the townsfolk about the heavy shutters and stout locks on their doors, but receiving only evasive answers, he decides his best course of action will be to stay up late and see what happens after dark. To say this is a terrible choice would be the understatement of the week. This is a very good tale up through the climax, but I'd love to read an expanded version which explained how everything came to be in the first place. This one needed to be about five pages longer. Four out of five stars. Death's Door by Robert McNear A Wisconsin-based sports reporter visits a nearby island where the local high school basketball team is playing a home game for the state championship title, something they haven't done in several decades. While on the ferry over to the island to meet the team and coach, the reporter sees a bizarre sight: an old-model car tooling across the ice, heading in the other direction, filled with a group of partying teenagers. When he asks the ferry captain about it, the man becomes brusque and abrasive, and has him removed from the bridge. The locals aren't interested in hearing about it either, with one exception: the man who captained the championship team back in the 1940's. He has a story to tell about the team and the tragedy which befell the group after their victory...but it's one the reporter will never be able to print. Damn, what a phenomenal way to cap this anthology! "Death's Door" is atmospheric, mysterious, and full of everything that makes for a spooky tale. McNeal's tale of supernatural tomfoolery and vengeance would have been right at home on The Twilight Zone, and this one got under my skin and simmered there all night. To my knowledge, I've never read anything by McNeal prior to this, and he's not even one of the writers name-dropped on the cover, but this is an absolute gem, and a must-read for anyone trying to capture that "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" vibe for an adult audience. Five well-earned stars out of five! * * * * * So, all told, we have a mixed bag when it comes to this anthology. There are a few top-notch works, a couple outright stinkers, and a heavy weight towards the middle-of-the-road. Most need to be read in consideration of the time period they were published, as I'm sure I'm a more jaded reader today than I would have been even twenty years prior, to say nothing of how contemporary audiences would have viewed this collection. What's most impressive is that, with the exception of David Riley's "After Nightfall", these stories all rely on the reader's imagination filling in the gaps with regards to violence and gore. Again, this is a collection of mostly supernatural tales as opposed to stories of the ordinary, so if your tastes run toward sex-crazed teens being fed through a wood chipper, you'll want to give this one a miss. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the likes of The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, or other programs which focus on the bizarre over the grotesque, this is a fine piece to add to your library. Three-and-a-half out of five stars total.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    The first ever collection (as far as I can find) of the "year's" "best" "horror" short stories. They're all short stories, but it's a stretch to call them all horror, they were actually published over a three year stretch (1968-1971), and they're certainly not the best of anything. "A witches' brew of S-F grue" the cover copy promises: Double Whammy • (1970) • Robert Bloch A carny barker on the early stages of a downward spiral into alcoholism finds himself unnerved by the geek he works with, a pa The first ever collection (as far as I can find) of the "year's" "best" "horror" short stories. They're all short stories, but it's a stretch to call them all horror, they were actually published over a three year stretch (1968-1971), and they're certainly not the best of anything. "A witches' brew of S-F grue" the cover copy promises: Double Whammy • (1970) • Robert Bloch A carny barker on the early stages of a downward spiral into alcoholism finds himself unnerved by the geek he works with, a pathetic drunk whose fate hits a little too close to home. He’s even more frightened of the witchy grandmother of his inappropriately-young girlfriend, particularly after the teenager gets knocked up. Rod pressures her into a back-alley abortion, it kills her, and he ends up with the titular curse from the grandmother. What could be worse than being a drunken carnival geek? Being the chicken whose head the geek bites off. Standard Bloch – relatively solid construction and prose in service of an idea that doesn’t speak to me at all, concerned more than anything else with a quick plot building toward a predictable climax. Has more than its fair share of casual racism and sexism. I rarely enjoy horror stories predicated on making the reader hate the protagonist and anticipate terrible things happening to them. The Sister City • (1969) • Brian Lumley Cthulhu Mythos pastiche – the young Robert Krug, orphaned by the Blitz, leaves London after recuperating to wander the globe in pursuit of eldritch lost cities. Krug finds his body increasingly physically strange and his social life increasingly alienated as he travels searching for lost cities both real and imagined. He figures out eventually that he belongs to a race of lizard people (not the Deep Ones, exactly, but similar) worshiped as gods in ancient Ib (of HPL’s “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”) who had relocated beneath the moors of Northeast England. Bokrug was the chief lizard god and we get a painfully explicit Robert Krug = Bokrug explanation. The story is presented as a manuscript appended to a letter sent by Krug to the “North-East Coal Board” in order to stop a proposal of theirs to “set off underground explosions in the hope of creating pockets of gas to be tapped as part of the country’s natural resources” – which would, of course, destroy the lizard people and their servitors secreted away under the Earth. The letter is followed by a police report of a “funny man” committing suicide by drowning, and then an exchange of notes between officers investigating the suicide and a mysterious baby left in a Church (Krug having mentioned earlier that his race’s children are left as foundlings to be raised by humans until “the Change” begins to overtake them). The inverse of the Bloch – absolutely ham-handed prose and a disastrous structure, but not a totally awful conceit. Lumley’s absolutely breathless enthusiasm for the Mythos and for a misfit finding a place in the world (such an un-Lovecraftian theme for an utterly Lovecraft-derived story) is infectious. Apparently originally 14k words cut down to 4k for publication, and it reads that way, more of an outline of a story than a coherent story itself. Later (re-)expanded into a short novel called Beneath the Moors, which I can’t claim to be dying to read. When Morning Comes • (1969) • Elizabeth Fancett In a day-after-tomorrow dystopia, the Right Honourable Sir William Wellborn (an MP from a very illustrious family) is pushing abortions for all. He’s also hearing voices ("Herod. Herod. Herod.") and having visions of a Grey Man haunting the “Common House of Law Makers” and, surprise, the voices are aborted fetuses, and the Grey Man is the doctor who aborted Sir William Wellborn because double surprise, there’s an utterly nonsensical backstory about him having been aborted because his mother knew he was going to be born with a deformed foot. The fetus ghosts chant “One of us! One of us! One of us!” at him and he dies and reverts back to a decades-old aborted fetus. One of the worst stories I’ve ever read; a total failure on every level, from the nonsensical plot to the laughable prose to the reprehensible ideological underpinnings of the whole thing. Prey • (1969) • Richard Matheson A woman tries and fails to cancel plans with her awful, overbearing mother to spend time with her boyfriend on his birthday. Things take a turn when the Zuni fetish doll ("He Who Kills") she got him for his birthday comes to life and tries to kill her. Not the most interesting story in the world, but Matheson does do a masterful job of continually ratcheting up the tension and using short, declarative sentences to drive the action forward. Not a lot to say about this one that hasn't already been said. Winter • (1969) • Kit Reed A beautifully stylized portrait of rural isolation and aging and womanhood, as two spinster sisters take in a young man who appears on their farm after, he claims, going AWOL from the marines. They're both fixated on him ("It was like being young, having him around") and compete for his affection by giving him valuable gifts and food they can't afford to go without. He's a parasite, of course, but also becomes a signifier for everything they've ever wanted and never had and their frustrations with each other and the world at large. Structurally it's a Bloch-ian affair that builds to a horrific final sentence, but unlike his stories that exist only to justify that last line, this was an exceptionally deep and thoughtful story. Lucifer • (1969) • E. C. Tubb Groundhog Day, but evil - opens discussing the Special People, "dilettantes of the Intergalactic Set," who have decided on a lark to spend time on Earth when one of them is killed in a freak accident. Turns out they have nothing to do with the story and that was just a goofy setup to get the mortician's assistant, a sadist with a bum foot, one of their rings, which lets him jump 57 seconds back in the past at will. What does he use this power for? Mostly assaulting women and amassing a gambling fortune. Eventually he's on a trans-Atlantic flight that crashes, trapping him in an endless loop of resetting time as he falls to the sea. Just to confuse/complicate things, he has an inexplicable vision of the crash just before it happens. A mean-spirited little story. I Wonder What He Wanted • (1971) •Eddy C. Bertin Diary fragments from a teacher who rented a summer house she shouldn't have. The listless summer heat is captured well, as are the initial intimations of an unfriendly presence (the previous tenant, who just so happened to be a horror writer), shading into possession and blurred identities. Much is made of her seemingly-endless waiting for her fiance (the titular he) to join her, but work keeps detaining him. Nothing earth-shattering, but a solid enough story (which makes it one of the stand-outs here) that could have used some fleshing out. Problem Child • (1970) • Peter Oldale A telekinetic baby causes problems for her parents, but mostly her mother, because her father spoils her and her pediatrician immediately assumes the mother is lying and/or suffering some sort of mental illness. The mother is blamed after the baby almost burns the house down and is institutionalized. As the father is carrying the baby away from the asylum, she pulls her mother through a second-story window to her, killing them both (mother and baby, that is, the father is fine). An author might not have been able to get away with that ending then, but otherwise this very much feels like a story from the 1940s or '50s. The Scar • (1969) • Ramsey Campbell A man with an obnoxious brother-in-law (in Brichester, of course) also turns out to have an even more bothersome doppelganger. Nice quickly-sketched characters, thematic checks on class anxieties and crime, and creepy elements. A clear precursor to his oft-reprinted "The Brood" (and a lot of his other post-HPL-pastiche work, although it's less oblique than he would eventually become). A standout, of course. Warp • (1968) • Ralph Norton Charges out of the gate with "I did not murder Paul Ledderman. I'm not quite sure what I did to him, but it was not murder." A man visits an old friend in his "self-designed servo-house" where he's been in total seclusion for three years. Turns out he's invented some sort of shaft that reverses anything dropped down it and returns it through the ceiling above. And if you drop the same thing down again it reverses along a different axis. "What happens the third time?" "It doesn't come back." The inventor has passed himself through once already (as you do) and now lured the protagonist here out of sheer loneliness - he's tethered to the device because he has to pass all of his food through it (some sort of mumbo jumbo about sugars being reversed, the weakest aspect of the story). Of course the protagonist, resisting being tossed into the thing, knocks the scientist in, to a horrific end. A nice updating of haunted house tropes by means of science fiction, strong foreshadowing/buildup, and a truly nightmarish ending - Norton appears to have published just a handful of stories and a single novel (as Ralph Norton Noyes), which is a shame, unless this was a real outlier. The Hate • (1971) • Terri E. Pinckard Opens reflecting Professor Guildea, which I will never stop beating the drum about: "Nadine first felt the cold touch of the thing creeping, pawing at her as a dog paws at a bone." and heads into Shirley Jackson territory, making it even more up my alley, before utterly crashing and burning. "Pawing... as a dog paws" should have been my first warning, I guess. It's Nadine and Jeff's first anniversary, they're having a party, and this increasingly-violent invisible poltergeist ("the Hate") starts harassing her as she tries to figure out who could possibly be directing such malice her way. Echoes "Prey" (and SJ) in the buildup of violence in the usual sites of banal domesticity, until finally she and her husband are sharing glasses of champagne in front of their friends and her in-laws - only, "it wasn't a love cup--it was a Hate cup" and as she chokes to death she hears mocking laughter and a voice saying "Now my son is mine again!" Please avoid. A Quiet Game • (1970) • Celia Fremlin Hilda's apartment neighbors are being driven mad by her noisy young twins. Mad, mad, mad, they say! Desperate, she convinces the twins to pretend to fly to "Inkoo Land" on a magic carpet (ie their rug), and that works and quiets them down, until it doesn't, because they're small children, and then, can you believe it, it's Hilda who goes mad, and tries to fly the magic carpet out the window herself, before being stopped by one of the neighbors. I wouldn't have called this horror, and its anti-modern, anti-urban screeds are tiresome, but at least it wasn't "The Hate." After Nightfall • (1970) • David A. Riley Before reading I was all set to rant about this one because of Riley's noxious political beliefs but this isn't a vile fascist piece, but one so nondescript it isn't even worth getting worked up over. An anthropologist visits a backwoods town, is confused by the local "degenerates" setting bowls of meat out at night before locking their strangely stout doors and then gets eaten by ghouls when he doesn't follow their example. Blah blah blah. Death's Door • (1969) • Robert McNear A WI reporter goes to an a small island town to report on a basketball game. It's located on the other side of the strait called "Porte des Morts, or Death's Door," which has a long history of drownings and nefarious goings-on. While crossing on the ferry he sees an old Model A drive by on the ice and, wouldn't you know it, it turns out the last championship team they had was in 1947 and they all drowned on their way to the game. The story muddles along repetitiously and with absolutely atrocious dialogue before revealing that actually the team was tricked into the fatal drive by their coach for all assaulting his daughter. This reveal is totally incongruous with the goofy, quippy manner of the rest of the story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    So, as I wait on inter-library loan to scratch my lit itch with Diane Williams' Excitability I figured I'd fire the first salvo in getting the YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES anthology series reviewed - sadly, I read all of these in the long-lived series (save a sparse few) before GOODREADS existed and so have no formal reviews - but, as always, I have my notes to guide me (it's worth saying I did not read these "as they came out", but scattershot - over the years - as I acquired them). And my notes t So, as I wait on inter-library loan to scratch my lit itch with Diane Williams' Excitability I figured I'd fire the first salvo in getting the YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES anthology series reviewed - sadly, I read all of these in the long-lived series (save a sparse few) before GOODREADS existed and so have no formal reviews - but, as always, I have my notes to guide me (it's worth saying I did not read these "as they came out", but scattershot - over the years - as I acquired them). And my notes tell me that I didn't like one of the stories (Elizabeth Fancett's "When The Morning Comes") and was vaguely unimpressed with a number of others (Brian Lumley's "The Sister City" - one of his Lovecraft pastiches, "Problem Child" by Peter Oldale, "The Hate" by Terri E. Pinckard and "A Quiet Game" by Celia Fremlin) so I trusted to my critical instincts and did not re-read those stories. This series went on to fame under editor Karl Edward Wagner - who remains one of my personal models for editorial approach to the horror/supernatural genre (in the sense of his being an open-minded generalist with a knowledge of the genre's history) - where it became something like the American reflection of Stephen Jones's BEST NEW HORROR series. But here, at the beginning, we have UK based Richard Davis as editor, handling the first three volumes. What's interesting in this specific case is packaging - histories of genres tend to telescope the past into easily digestible/memorable summations. So, for example, you can take a sweeping statement like "there was no market for horror fiction in the 1960s and early 1970s following the decline of newsstand publications like WEIRD TALES" and find it to be true... until you look into the cracks and discover small press magazines and still-clinging-on newsstand attempts like COVEN 13 that were keeping the flame alive. A number of the stories here also originated in men's magazines of the times like ARGOSY and PLAYBOY, which still published short fiction - but, in truth, horror and supernatural fiction was not a popular market at the time and it would take upcoming blockbuster novel successes (as well as reliable anthology series like this) to revive the short fiction market in the US. So the stories here are gathered from hither and yon - fantasy, mystery and sci-fi magazines, the still-strong ghost story anthologies of the UK, the small press and, as said, men's magazines. This makes for an interesting mix of styles and approaches, which is a hallmark of the YEAR'S BEST SERIES in general and notable for having been there right from the start. Also worth noting - the UK edition has creepy, horror-themed artwork but the American packaging has artwork (psychedelic lizard & afro-ed woman, billowing clouds) and ad copy ("a witch's brew of s.f.-grue" no less!) deliberately trying to overlap with the science-fiction audience. And a few of the stories have a bit of a sci-fi angle, it should be said. Plus, I get the nostalgic buzz of reading a paperback with a mid-way cigarette ad inserted! So, let's start with the solid but problematic stories. "Double Whammy" by Robert Bloch falls somewhere between his solid work and his weaker TALES FROM THE CRYPT-styled pastiches. It has going for it a pulp/noir terseness and focus as it sets up a flawed carnival barker as our main character, how he manipulates others and yet is driven by his own superstitions once he does bad by the show's gypsy girl. Much like the classic film noir NIGHTMARE ALLEY, the undercurrent here revolves around the sideshow milieu, the "geeks" (pathetic alcoholics paid in booze to dress as savages and bite off the heads of chickens) and the audience, who revel in the degrading sadism. But, while the main character is both flawed and human (if not totally sympathetic, given his treatment of the girl), Bloch's dedication to the compact pulp genre style also makes it all a rushed blur as it hurtles to its "ironic" ending. One of the few times where a little more prose would have balanced the story out towards the positive. While I'm intrigued by the stories I've seen from German writer Eddy C. Bertin, this installment's offering - "I Wonder What He Wanted" - felt similarly too spare and mechanical, like Bloch's piece (while recalling Bram Stoker's "The Judge's house"). An affianced young women rents an old house (that once belonged to a turn of the century weird tale writer) and records in her journal the strange happenings therein (weird sounds, dead watch-cats, a macabre fake grave in the garden). As stripped down as the Bloch story, but not as lurid in style, this works over the familiar "person subsumed by ghostly personality" plot, but does so in an unvarnished and rather abrupt manner, in the end. Ralph Norton's "Warp" is a quasi-sci-fi tale of a man being summoned by his reclusive scientist friend to a remote locale where he has built some kind of trans-dimensional machine that "reverses" everything put through it (left to right, then inside out on a second run through) - and, of course, in typical mad scientist manner he's been testing it. Eh. Not bad as these things go but too long-winded in its set-up for the expected pay-off. Finally, there's "After Nightfall" by David Riley which is, in many ways, an old styled weird tales monster story as an amateur anthropologist realizes that the remote British village he's studying (and living in) locks up tight after sundown and the locals leave out bowls of raw meat for "wild beasts from the hills". Of course, that just won't do and so he must discover why... This read like an installment in an old Amicus anthology film and has some nice atmosphere (a village composed almost entirely of 18th century buildings and rude hovels, all the shutters being closed up at sundown, etc.) and a bit of suspense (recalling the hotel siege in "Shadows Over Innsmouth" just a little) for what is a fairly standard monster story that misses the mark by failing to use the main character's folklore research to provide any hint or detail as to the context of the monsters. "Winter" by Kit Reed leads off the solidly "good" stories with a charmingly sharp little tale of two bitter old maids, snowed in for the winter and endlessly chewing over their past with bouts of blame and regret, who discover a handsome young AWOL soldier hiding on their property. He charms and connives the two women out of food and money, cannily shifting their interpersonal dynamic but perhaps not being canny enough himself. With hints of THE BEGUILED (1971), this is an enjoyable character study with a great last line. E.C. Tubb's "Lucifer" is an interesting sci-fi horror story that briefly posits the existence of alien "elites" who move among us undetected, before spinning off into a character study of a sadistic mortician who robs an accidentally killed alien of his ring - a device allowing the holder to move 57 seconds back in time - and resolves into a nasty little TWILIGHT ZONE-styled tale. "Death's Door" by Robert McNear has a sports reporter sent to a remote Wisconsin town to write up a basketball championship occurring there - the first time since 1947, a win marred by an after-game tragedy - and gradually uncovering the secrets behind the tragedy and its ghostly manifestation in current time. Not a bad little rural ghost story with an atypical focus (sports) and setting (frozen lake-shore town), some good spectral imagery (an old Model A careening across a frozen lake) and a somewhat nastier ending than I was expecting. Finally, Ramsey Campbell appears here with "The Scar", a tale of a man assaulted in an alley and his sudden change of character. It's an interesting doppelganger story that showcases Campbell's odd, stuttering, fractured writing style and dialogue - perceptive of character and social/class details - and the shift from the husband's coarsening character to the cowardly, ineffectual brother-in-law's, along with this abstract approach, serves Campbell's ultimate goal of an unbalanced, nightmarish ending wherein presumed success becomes failure. Campbell may not be for everyone but here he shows that his best stories deserve the same level of attention that Robert Aickman requires. The best story here is "Prey" (adapted as "Amelia" in TRILOGY OF TERROR) the justifiably famous tale of a woman with an overbearing mother who buys the wrong present for her boyfriend. It's a jewel in Richard Matheson's writing crown - crafted from expertly composed, muscular prose, it sets up the plot and then becomes pure, unrelenting action until the ending - short fiction as efficient delivery machine (although there are some nice, subtle psychological touches in Amelia, and a momentary coloring of telepathy that adds to the flavor, as well as a brief focus on a victim unable to conceive of the unreality of her situation - hard stuff to pull off). So, that's the first installment in this long-lived series in a nutshell. I've scheduled re-reads of further volumes into my reading list, so they'll be showing up periodically.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Graham P

    Late 60's, early 70's short stories on the murky borders of horror and science fiction. The advertising on this one tries to play it for the tuned-out crowd: "Our Annual Summer Chiller-Diller", the back cover states in bold. However, more traditional narratives wait within the pages. This first volume of the long-running series for DAW sets down a solid groove. "Double Whammy" by Robert Bloch shows why he's the master of the slam-bang ending. Yet another carnival comes into town, but the twist in Late 60's, early 70's short stories on the murky borders of horror and science fiction. The advertising on this one tries to play it for the tuned-out crowd: "Our Annual Summer Chiller-Diller", the back cover states in bold. However, more traditional narratives wait within the pages. This first volume of the long-running series for DAW sets down a solid groove. "Double Whammy" by Robert Bloch shows why he's the master of the slam-bang ending. Yet another carnival comes into town, but the twist in this one is well worth it. "Sister City" (Brian Lumley) - who doesn't want to become an Ib sea creature? Standard Lovecraftian fare, but still engaging. "When Morning Comes" by Elizabeth Fancett - the ghosts of aborted foetus' haunt a genocidal liberal politician. Heavy-handed propaganda. As subtle as a car crash. "Prey" (Richard Matheson) - this oft-anthologized tale is pure horror gold. Matheson never loses his playfulness as he ratchets the tension in this simple, savage premise of a 'gift from a stranger.' "Winter" by Kit Reed - evokes early Joyce Carol Oates, a winter apocalypse brings a handsome stranger to the farm of two middle-aged woman in rural Maine. With food so scarce, certain appetites must be restrained. "Lucifer" (E.C. Tubb) - a mortician steals a watch from a headless cadaver. Funny thing is the watch can set back time 57 seconds. One of the best tales in the bunch. Clever and cruel, with a massive ending. "Wonder What He Wanted by Eddy C. Bertin - a woman rents a home once inhabited by a lonesome horror writer. Bertin masters the obvious here, but still an engaging atmosphere makes this one work. "Problem Child" (Peter Oldale) - a child has psychic-magnetic abilities. You know where this one is going. Brilliant climax. "The Scar", Ramsey Campbell - absolutely rich and evocative tale of urban dread - 'don't go into the house' takes on a new, horrible meaning here. As always Campbell shows his dark magic - and yes, there are unformed things waiting in the half shadows. "Warp" - Ralph Norton - slick little SF tale of a machine that reverses everything. "The Hate" - Terri Prickard - an agitated spirit haunts a suburban home. The outcome is not as special as the set-up. "A Quiet Game" - Celia Fremlin - acidic tale of being a single-mother to two overactive children all the neighbors hate. When a magic carpet comes into the fold, we can only wonder how long it takes to get to fantasyland. "After Nightfall" by David Riley - solid tale of an anthropologist digging too deep in a town's dark history. What eats at night leaves little by morning. #zombies "Death's Door" - Robert McNear - a sport's reporter visits an island on the Great Lakes to cover a small town's high school basketball team, only to uncover the tragic past of the 1947 team. The image of an old Model T-Ford driving across the ice in a snowstorm is hauntingly memorable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    A collection of short stories from the late 60s-early 70s, including big names like Brian Lumley, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and Ramsey Campbell. Taking into consideration the time period in which the stories were published, this is a very satisfying collection highlighting horror and Sci-fi. The blurb on the back cover states that the tales embody "the heritage of the classic masters with the modern techniques of Lovecraft, Bradbury and masters of future projection" and that is a very accur A collection of short stories from the late 60s-early 70s, including big names like Brian Lumley, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and Ramsey Campbell. Taking into consideration the time period in which the stories were published, this is a very satisfying collection highlighting horror and Sci-fi. The blurb on the back cover states that the tales embody "the heritage of the classic masters with the modern techniques of Lovecraft, Bradbury and masters of future projection" and that is a very accurate claim, as you can definitely see those influences in many of the stories.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    Averages out to 3.35 stars, and I feel like that's probably accurate for my feelings on this anthology of horror stories. Like most short story compilations, it's a bit of a mixed bag thought mostly worthwhile. An entertaining read appropriate for Halloween-time. Double Whammy by Robert Bloch: 3/5 Don't mess with gypsies. The Sister City by Brian Lumley: 3/5 Ah, Lovecraftian horror. A pleasant surprise, but semi-disappointing ending. I think my ideal ending would be (view spoiler)[if it just turned Averages out to 3.35 stars, and I feel like that's probably accurate for my feelings on this anthology of horror stories. Like most short story compilations, it's a bit of a mixed bag thought mostly worthwhile. An entertaining read appropriate for Halloween-time. Double Whammy by Robert Bloch: 3/5 Don't mess with gypsies. The Sister City by Brian Lumley: 3/5 Ah, Lovecraftian horror. A pleasant surprise, but semi-disappointing ending. I think my ideal ending would be (view spoiler)[if it just turned out that our narrator was nuts (hide spoiler)] . When Morning Comes by Elizabeth Fancett: 3/5 This story probably would have packed more of a punch when it was first written than now. (view spoiler)[Looks like it was published before Roe v. Wade, so everybody's thoughts were probably more focused on the abortion debate than they are now. (hide spoiler)] Prey by Richard Matheson: 4/5 Couldn't help but think of the Simpsons Halloween episode with the evil Krusty doll, but I found the ending interesting. (view spoiler)[The doll's soul moves to the lady who was fighting it, to then await her mother's arrival as prey, part 2. (hide spoiler)] Winter by Kit Reed: 3/5 Creepy old ladies who live on their own deal with a visitor, and we don't realize just how creepy they are til the end of the story. Lucifer by E.C. Tubb: 5/5 Easily my favorite so far. A man of questionable integrity finds a ring that allows him to travel back in time precisely 57 seconds. This was an excellent story. (view spoiler)[He ends up in a plane crash, and wakes up from being knocked out several hundred feet below where the plane was flying. He's stuck constantly resetting the ring for a terrifying fall or not resetting it and crashing into the ocean. (hide spoiler)] I Wonder What He Wanted by Eddy C. Bertin: 3/5 A tale of possession or maybe of swapping places? Problem Child by Peter Oldale: 4/5 Excellent ending. (view spoiler)[A little girl is able to telekinetically move things when she gets really worked up, but no one but the mother has seen it happen. Mom goes to the hospital and one day after a visit, the little girl basically pulls her mom through the window at high speed, killing mother and daughter. Sounds morbid now that I've written it out... (hide spoiler)] The Scar by Ramsey Campbell: 3/5 A tale of dopplegangers. Not quite sure I understood all of what happened in it. Warp by Ralph Norton: 4/5 Cool ideas here, where a scientist develops a tunnel that inverts things that pass through it and no way to reverse the inversion. First L to R, and then inside out. The Hate by Terri E. Pinckard: 2/5 Didn't much care for this tale of (view spoiler)[a mother wanting her son back from his new wife (hide spoiler)] . A Quiet Game by Celia Fremlin: 5/5 Sad story, but excellent "real-life" horror. Loved the ending. (view spoiler)[A mother in an apartment tries to find ways to help keep her kids quiet while neighbors complain all the time. One game is to ride a "magic carpet", and eventually mom gets so frazzled that she puts the carpet in the windowsill to help it fly with herself and the kids on it. Story ends with her in a mental institution, with the neighbors horrified at what they pushed her to. (hide spoiler)] After Nightfall by David Riley: 3/5 I think it was basically about zombies. An anthropologist visits a small town and tries to figure out what's so weird about it. (view spoiler)[And then gets eaten. (hide spoiler)] Death's Door by Robert McNear: 2/5 Ok story about a tragedy that took place after a championship high school basketball team won their last game. We learn that it wasn't their own idea to ride across the ice back to the island they live on, but that it was suggested by their coach (view spoiler)[whose daughter they had all apparently slept with (hide spoiler)] .

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    First published in 1971, the stories in this anthology seem a little dated. Two stories in particular seem to typify this datedness: "When Morning Comes" by Elizabeth Fancett and "The Hate" by Terri E. Pinckard. In the former story, it is the subject matter, abortion, that dates the story, and the tone of the story comes off as a bit of axe-grinding. In "The Hate," a manifestation of hatred terrorizes a woman, but when the source of the hatred was revealed, I felt let down. The source of hatred First published in 1971, the stories in this anthology seem a little dated. Two stories in particular seem to typify this datedness: "When Morning Comes" by Elizabeth Fancett and "The Hate" by Terri E. Pinckard. In the former story, it is the subject matter, abortion, that dates the story, and the tone of the story comes off as a bit of axe-grinding. In "The Hate," a manifestation of hatred terrorizes a woman, but when the source of the hatred was revealed, I felt let down. The source of hatred and the ending of the story seemed to come out of left field and were both a little baffling. But there are gems in here that stand up well. "Problem Child' by Peter Oldale, "Lucifer" by E.C.Tubb, and "After Nightfall" by David Riley were all top notch. The first two had truly horrific endings that will stay with the reader for some time after reading, and "After Nightfall," while deliberately told in an almost Victorian style, does such a good job of using a limited third person point of view that it is worth seeking out.

  9. 4 out of 5

    James

    Excellent 1972 volume of horror! A few dated tales, but full of inventive and interesting takes. The most famous tale here was Richard Matheson’s “Prey” about a Zuni fetishized doll coming to life, made famous in a memorable 70s made-for-TV show “Trilogy of Terror.” Other excellent tales include E. C. Tubb’s misnamed “Lucifer” and David Riley’s “After Nightfall.” Included also are some standard but effective horror writers Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell, and a couple of psychological scares by Excellent 1972 volume of horror! A few dated tales, but full of inventive and interesting takes. The most famous tale here was Richard Matheson’s “Prey” about a Zuni fetishized doll coming to life, made famous in a memorable 70s made-for-TV show “Trilogy of Terror.” Other excellent tales include E. C. Tubb’s misnamed “Lucifer” and David Riley’s “After Nightfall.” Included also are some standard but effective horror writers Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell, and a couple of psychological scares by Terri Pinckard and Celia Fremlin. Highly enjoyable! Recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    Very enjoyable horror anthology from 1971. A very good year for horror, in general. This book's biggest highlight is that it collects the Richard Matheson story, "Prey" which was the basis for the Karen Black segment of the film TRILOGY OF TERROR. I've read quite a few Matheson collections and I don't recall ever coming across this one before. It's a bit darker than the film short. A short and sweet collection, one that is above par of most horror collections with only a couple of true duds in t Very enjoyable horror anthology from 1971. A very good year for horror, in general. This book's biggest highlight is that it collects the Richard Matheson story, "Prey" which was the basis for the Karen Black segment of the film TRILOGY OF TERROR. I've read quite a few Matheson collections and I don't recall ever coming across this one before. It's a bit darker than the film short. A short and sweet collection, one that is above par of most horror collections with only a couple of true duds in the bunch. Jumping right into the next book in the series! Always a good sign.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fatman

    Really 2.5 stars, but the anthology did have a couple of classics and a few great stories I'd never read before. One should also take into consideration the period in which these stories were written - they probably read as more suspenseful/dark and less cheesy/naive back in the 1970s. An okay start to what would go on to become a terrific series of anthologies. Really 2.5 stars, but the anthology did have a couple of classics and a few great stories I'd never read before. One should also take into consideration the period in which these stories were written - they probably read as more suspenseful/dark and less cheesy/naive back in the 1970s. An okay start to what would go on to become a terrific series of anthologies.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dollie

    This book contained about a dozen horror short stories that were deemed to be the best of 1970 by Editor, Richard Davis. I've always liked horror short stories and have read a lot of them. I get my fix of the macabre without having to read an entire book. This book contained about a dozen horror short stories that were deemed to be the best of 1970 by Editor, Richard Davis. I've always liked horror short stories and have read a lot of them. I get my fix of the macabre without having to read an entire book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Angela Maher

    A great collection of horror short stories, with an excellent breadth of variety.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Greg Fasolino

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Catalfamo

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Jenkins

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mavis 69 420 666

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cody Goodfellow

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anneka Ever

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shezi

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

  25. 5 out of 5

    Severino

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill Guilbault

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hans

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alejandra Grijalva

  29. 4 out of 5

    Waffles

  30. 5 out of 5

    J.F. Gonzalez

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