Friday, October 26, 2012

recent read; American Supernatural Tales

I bought this anthology a while ago, mostly because it contains "The Events at Poroth Farm" by T. E. D. Klein.  I read The Ceremonies years ago, and it is one of my favorite horror novels.  I have always wanted to read the original novella he rewrote into the novel.  This anthology also has a skewed selection - in a good way.  The stories here aren't the typical classics that you find in any given anthology, and I appreciate that.  Though, some selections did leave me a bit mystified.

Anyone who has read around Robert E. Howard circles, or H. P. Lovecraft circles, knows that Joshi doesn't have a lot positive to say about Howard (especially over Lovecraft.)  It's clear from the introduction and some of the story notes that some other authors are also worthy of his sneer.  Frankly, Joshi should leave his editorializing for critical writings.

While I didn't feel he maligned Howard too much this time around, he certainly has no love for Dean Koontz, and almost begrudgingly includes Stephen King (without reading more Joshi, though, I must admit his introduction to the King story is ambivalent at best.)

Anyway, taking Joshi comments with a grain of salt, I can appreciate this anthology he put together on the strength of its contents.

For those curious, here are the stories with dates of original publication; (I am including the list for those curious about my October reading goal.)

"The Adventure of the German Student" (1824) by Washington Irving
"Edward Randolph's Portrait" (1838) by Nathaniel Hawthorne
"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839) by Edgar Allan Poe
"What Was It?" (1859) by Fitz-James O'Brien
"The Death of Halpin Frayser" (1891) by Ambrose Bierce
"The Yellow Sign" (1895) by Robert W. Chambers
"The Real Right Thing" (1899) by Henry James
"The Call of Cthulhu" (1928) by H. P. Lovecraft
"The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" (1932) by Clark Ashton Smith
"Old Garfield's Heart" (1933) by Robert E. Howard
"Black Bargain" (1943) by Robert Bloch
"The Lonesome Place" (1948) by August Derleth
"The Girl With the Hungry Eyes" (1949) by Fritz Leiber
"The Fog Horn" (1951) by Ray Bradbury
"A Visit" (1952) by Shirley Jackson
"Long Distance Call" (1953) by Richard Matheson
"The Vanishing American" (1955) by Charles Beaumont
"The Events at Poroth Farm" (1972) by T. E. D. Klein
"Night Surf" (1974) by Stephen King
"The Late Shift" (1980) by Dennis Etchison
"Vastarien" (1987) by Thomas Ligotti
"Endless Night" (1987) by Karl Edward Wagner
"The Hollow Man" (1991) by Norman Partridge
"Last Call for the Sons of Shock" (1994) by David J. Schow
"Demon" (1996) by Joyce Carol Oates
"In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888)" (2000) by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Rather than review them all, I'll just drop some thoughts here.

"The Events at Poroth Farm" lived up to its hype. (even if it was only my own personal hype)

"Night Surf" was a odd selection.  I disagree that there was any supernatural element at all.  This story was the germ of the novel The Stand, but there is no Flagg or anything else supernatural here - other than the nasty juveniles half-joking there might be Dark Gods protecting them from the plague.  I would have chosen some other early King story.

After 100 years I think it is safe to say that Henry James is still boring.  (sorry if you're a fan)

"The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" was another odd selection.  Good story, but set on the far future of Mars.  Though definitely a Cthulhian mythos tale, the setting made this a hard fit.  I'd have gone with "Return of the Sorcerer" - but maybe that was too famous.

"Pigeons from Hell" might have been a more obvious Howard choice, but I like that Joshi went with a lesser known tale.  The tale has the right elements of local Texas flavor with the supernatural - a side of Howard many readers don't experience.

Derleth's story is not Cthulhu mythos, for a change.  Again, a good selection for that reason.

I didn't realize just how twisted "The Adventure of the German Student" is if you read between the lines.  It must have been a real shocker in 1824.

"Last Call for the Sons of Shock"  - wow!  Where has this story been all my Halloweens?  It's a hilarious nod to the Universal classic monsters.  Laugh-out-loud moments!

I am now really in the mood for more Bloch, Matheson, Beaumont, Bradbury and Leiber supernatural tales.

This was a solid anthology.  I would recommend it to anyone wanting a good selection of weird tales.

So, if you count them up, that's 26 stories.  Which means I needed to read 5 more to make my goal of "31 horror stories in October."  I've finished, and I'll cover those extra stories in another post.


  1. TED Klein used Poroth Farm as the basis for his only novel to date, "The Ceremonies". Very well done bit of Machen inspired Cthuliana. Well worth tracking down.

  2. I'll have to keep an eye for this Paul, or at least some of these stories I haven't yet read.

  3. TED Klein did an amazing job with the Ceremonies. I wish we had more from him.

  4. It's hard to go wrong with Bloch or Beaumont.