Link to us!
If you would like to use the graphic above, just save the icon image to your server and link it back to feoamante.com!
DARK DELICACIES II: FEAR - 2008
Edited by Del Howison & Jeff Gelb
Carroll & Graff
HC 274 pages
If you want to know what I think of anthologies, plus and minus, you need only read my review of the first DARK DELICACIES Anthology (which I thoroughly enjoyed). But will the sequel be as good as the first?
Once again, Del Howison, famed owner and proprietor of the U.S.'s only Horror bookstore (as of this writing, of course, who knows what the future holds?) and Jeff Gelb, editor of the infamous HOT BLOOD series of Horror anthos, run their judgmental eyes over 18 short stories that have no theme except this: it must be scary. Did they succeed?
The first story out of the gate is Barbara Hambly's Sunrise On Running Water. This is a tale of a Universal Studios style Vampire trapped aboard the Titanic while being pursued by a hunter with vengeance on her mind. The tale is entertaining and action packed, even humorous as its told from the put-upon Vampire's point of view.
John Harrison's The Accompanist, is the tale of a man obsessed with music as seen through the eyes of his admirer, the tale takes place at the time of silent pictures when theaters would hire a pianist to supply the music to a movie.
Amusement, by Tananarive Due, is the tale of a man so insular that he can't bring himself to appreciate the trust others put in him, even at the expense of their friendship.
The final tale is Caitlin R. Kiernan's The Ammonite Violin, which is the story of the Collector and the things he collects, which are all perfectly tuned to his personal religion.
Altogether there are four stories, wonderfully told in varying degrees, contained in this book, that are not Horror or Thriller in any sense of the word. Barbara Hambly's vampire is a MacGuffin. She needed the vampire's strengths and weaknesses to forward her plot, but he does nothing horrific and the tale is a revenge story with action sequences. I enjoyed it, no question, but it wasn't Horror. The Accompanist and Amusement were also wonderfully written tales, but they were both tragic dramas. They weren't Horrifying or even intended to be scary. The Ammonite Violin is a beautiful, though nearly, emotionally overwrought, murder mystery or crime drama. The subtitle of Violin is (Murder Ballad No. 4). Tales of revenge, betrayal, and murder, in and of themselves, are not anyone's idea of Horror. While I'm glad to have read these stories, they didn't belong in a Horror anthology: Especially a Horror anthology where the editors specifically state, "It's time for a quiet little tale of terror..."
Even the forward, written by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, seems out of place. Ray admits that writing the forward seems odd as he has only "skirted the edge of Horror" in his films. That's true. While his movies have featured heroes escaping giant monsters or sword fighting with skeletons, these weren't moments of Horror even if the varmints were creatures of Horror. Ray kept his creations firmly in the realm of fantasy (and the occasional Science Fiction). Yet this is how Del and Jeff chose to open and close their latest.
Do NOT misunderstand. There IS Horror to be found within. True Horror gave me a hard kick with Joe Lansdale's tale of an unmercifully vicious Dog. If you are thinking CUJO when you read that, you won't be thinking SK when you finish. Seriously, this is one bad dog!
Other stand outs include Peter Atkins' supernatural Stacy and Her Idiot, Gary Brandner's ghastly Words, Words, Words, and Harry Shannon's chilling A Host Of Shadows. Steve Niles The Y Incision, is both creepy and gruesome and James Sallis Season Premier is a story of such simplicity that you may want to read it twice to get the full affect. Of course, some folks may pick up on it quicker than me.
For me, the anthology reached its peak with Glen Hirschberg's I Am Coming To Live In Your Mouth, which lingers deceptively in drama land as it slowly draws its shadows and silhouettes toward the protagonist. I'm not being poetic here, as you'll understand when you read it.
As I've mentioned in other reviews, anthologies are, by their nature, a mixed bag and your favorites will likely not be my own. Nearly every tale in DARK DELICACIES II: FEAR, just might be the best of each of these authors and stands as their own mini-masterpiece. The few exceptions for me being Greg Kihn's Queen of the Groupies. If there is one Horror plot that has been written about more than Vampires and Zombies, its the "Haunted Conveyance". Whether it's a train, ship, plane, car, motorcycle, travel-trailer, or even a stone-age wheel that rolls by itself, haunted methods of transportation is a plot that needs fresh blood. Yet Kihn takes his tale of a haunted tour bus through all the places you'd expect to go and brings us nowhere surprising and new. The other one being Max Brooks' The Great Wall: A Story From The Zombie War, which read more like the literary equivalent of a DVD extra than a feature presentation.
Yet that too is the nature of an anthology where some stories are disappointments. Considering that this book had only two of them, is filled with 18 stories in all, and I enjoyed 16 of them, and got that shivery feel that I so enjoy with eleven of them, this is money well spent in MY book. I'm giving my trade paperback review copy away and getting the hardcover for myself.
DARK DELICACIES II: FEAR, is a keeper!
This review copyright 2008 E.C.McMullen Jr.
Return to Story Time