A “major influence” to Graham Greene and described as a “superb writer” by the New Yorker, Marjorie Bowen (1885-1952) might be one of the most popular authors you’ve never heard of. Her extensive bibliography is an endless list of novels and short stories, mostly within the romance and horror genres, but also includes history and biography.
In 1949, near the end of her life, she gathered a humble collection of her favorite eerie tales and had them published as The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories. Now newly reprinted under the “Monster She Wrote” banner, celebrating women writers of the macabre, Bowen’s words find a new generation of enthralled readers. Here’s my review of each story:
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Poe is known for short stories and poetry, but fans who haven’t read his only novel are missing out. These two-hundred pages encapsulate all there is to love about Poe. That includes chapters with alive burials, unforgettable gore, relentless anxiety and all manner of physical torture. The body count is high and the deaths are brutal. Yes, please!
The premise is that Arthur Pym and his companion are young daydreamers with fantasies of going on adventures in the open ocean. Unfortunately, Pym’s family forbids such folly. So the friend helps him stow away on a voyage. Once sufficiently out at sea, and thus too far to turn back, Pym expects to reveal his presence and enjoy the ride. This plan soon goes awry, however, with one ghastly event leading to the next until it seems unimaginable anything worse can happen. That’s exactly when things get doubly and triply worse.
Read more “Edgar Allan Poe – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym & Related Tales (1838)”
A collection of 26 eerie vignettes. They were written by Michael Avallone specifically for Boris Karloff to narrate. However, only 13 stories were chosen for Karloff’s “Tales of the Frightened” LP (between volumes 1 and 2). Karloff, along with Vincent Price and Thurl Ravenscroft, is one of the most iconic horror voices in history and his vocal talents add generous depth to what otherwise might be ho-hum flash fiction.
Read more “Michael Avallone – Tales of the Frightened (1963)”
Listening to his narration along with the book, my mind frequently drifted away from plot and became more focused on Karloff’s vocal mastery. He increases speed when tension is high, slows down to brood over mystery, and generally makes everything creepier. The text is meant to have a by-the-fire chatty feel, but he finds numerous opportunity to increase the casual tone through vocal inflection when I might not have read it that way.
Like most ’80s short story collections, this one is a mixed bag. Less mixed than most, however. The majority of stories are quite good, some borderline exceptional. “Miss Mack” by Michael McDowell is the most alluring entry, and this is the only publication where you can find it. Here’s a mini review of each story:
Introduction / “Halloween Night” by Alan Ryan
In lieu of a dull prosaic introduction, Ryan wisely opens this anthology with a short poem that celebrates the mischief and merriment of Halloween—specifically Halloween night when all the heavy hitters come out. Cute!
Read more “Alan Ryan (ed.) – Halloween Horrors (1986)”