Horror is Served…
Nowadays horror anthologies from mass-market publishers are infrequent events, so praise to Carroll & Graf for bringing us Dark Delicacies, a volume featuring nineteen "tales of terror and the macabre." The book is named after the famous American horror bookstore, whose founder is actually one of the two editors. Bar a few comparatively newcomers, the impressive line-up of authors includes many big names such as Richard Matheson, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Gahan Wilson, and Nancy Holder.
Of course inviting a bunch of horror icons (some spent, others just uninspired), as contributors may not be a guarantee that the result will be up to the expectations. Unfortunately, in the case of the above writers, this is indeed true. But let’s forget what’s disappointing and move on to the good stories.
Ray Bradbury's "The Reincarnate" is an emotional tale about a dead man’s burning desire to live again, while Whitley Strieber’s "Kaddish" is a SF piece depicting a grim, future America dominated by Christian fundamentalism.
In F. Paul Wilson's "Part Of The Game", paying homage to old-time pulp fiction, a wicked Mandarin and a corrupted cop play a deadly game; and in David Schow’s cute "The Pyre And Others" the time-honoured theme of the accursed book is convincingly revisited.
Veteran William Nolan provides an effective portrait of an actor obsessed with death and of his equally restless ex-wife ("De Pompa") while Lisa Morton contributes "Black Mill Cove", a tense tale of terror set in the wilderness with a load of poison in its tail.
Richard Laymon’s "The Diving Girl" is a predictable but fully enjoyable story where any man’s erotic dream comes true… for a little while. With "Bloody Mary Morning", set in the luxurious world of Manhattan’s magnates, John Farris demonstrates that it is possible to successfully blend true horror and humour. Steve Niles’ "All My Bloody Things", a delightfully horrific story of cannibalism, represents my first personal encounter with horror detective Cal McDonald. I hope to meet him again.
The only, real standout of the book, however, is Clive Barker's "Haeckel’s Tale", a superb piece that marks the glorious return of this gifted writer to the short horror story after so many digressions into the field of fantasy novels. The story, a ghoulish feast of horror and sex not for the squeamish, could have easily found room in one of Barker's legendary collections Books of Blood.
All in all, a reasonably good anthology with too many misfires by the genre’s big names. I understand that a Dark Delicacies Vol. 2 is already in the pipeline. That’s good news, provided that the editors are more careful when choosing their contributions…