The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors edited by Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards. This is the first volume in a projected annual series.

Twenty-five tales of horror and the weird, stories that encapsulate the dark, the desolate and the downright creepy. Stories that will send that quiver of anticipation and dread down your spine and stay with you long after the lights have gone out.

Who is Len Binn, a comedian or…? What secrets are locked away in Le Trénébreuse? The deadline for what? Who are the little people, the garbage men, the peelers? What lies behind the masks? And what horrors are found down along the backroads?

  • Ramsey Campbell: Some Kind of a Laugh
  • Storm Constantine: La Ténébreuse
  • Samantha Lee: The Worm
  • Stan Nicholls: Deadline
  • Marie O’Regan: Pretty Things
  • Gary McMahon: Guising
  • Peter Sutton: Masks
  • Debbie Bennett: The Fairest of them All
  • Mike Chinn: Her Favourite Place
  • Phil Sloman: The Girl with Three Eyes
  • Tina Rath: Little People
  • Madhvi Ramani: Teufelsberg
  • Jenny Barber: Down Along the Backroads
  • James Brogden: The Trade-up
  • Marion Pitman: The Apple Tree
  • Tony Richards: The Garbage Men
  • Stephen Laws: Get Worse Soon
  • Ralph Robert Moore: Peelers
  • Gail-Nina Anderson: An Eye for a Plastic Eye-ball
  • Keris McDonald: Remember
  • Adrian Cole: Broken Billy
  • Cate Gardner: The Fullness of Her Belly
  • Suzanne Barbieri: In the Rough
  • Ray Cluley: Bluey
  • John Grant: Too Late
  • Interior art by Jim Pitts
  • Cover art by Peter Coleborn

The Alchemy Press book of Horrors was published on 1st November 2018 and will be available in print and eBook formats.

I love horror anthologies and FantasyCon has provided me with a delicious surfeit of them. First up is this, a truly impressive achievement by Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards. I’m not going to cite individual stories, suffice to say there’s not a bad one in here, and a few are amongst the best horror stories I’ve read in ages. Full marks for that lovely cover as well, which is reminiscent of the old 1950s Four Square horror anthologies. A terrific book, highly recommended, and I would definitely buy a volume 2. Well done, guys. — John Llewellyn Probert

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The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors […] is a very strong example of that rare thing these days: a non-themed horror anthology, though the accent is very much on the weird and the strange rather than pure horror, but that’s no bad thing. There are some gems here too, one quite literally being Suzanne Barbieri’s ‘In the Rough’, about a woman who weeps diamonds. Another one’s Phil Sloman’s tale of a disturbed youth obsessed with ‘The Girl with Three Eyes’. It starts at a cracking pace with a fantastic opening paragraph, full of manic energy, commenting on contemporary mores at the same time as it sucks you into its unreliable narrator’s world. Another very sharply insightful horror story is ‘The Garbage Men’ by Tony Richards, about creatures who prey on the poor, both the monsters of the title and the writer-protagonist. Madhvi Ramani’s ‘Teufelsberg’ is a lovely slice of Euro-folk horror, while Ramsey Campbell and Gary McMahon never disappoint, the former showing how being mistaken for a light entertainer is anything but ‘Some Kind of a Laugh’, the latter poignantly examining bereavement in ‘Guising’ and introducing an apparition that turns bubble-wrap into a source of terror. The book also features an eerie, psychedelic cover by Peter Coleborn and each tale is headed by an individual illustration by Jim Pitts. — Tom Johnstone

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Anthologies like this used to be commonplace once, back in the day when they were a regular part of the output by major publishers like Pan, New English Library, Sphere Books and Corgi, etc., often by editors like August Derleth, Peter Haining, Kurt Singer, Michel Parry and others. Today it is virtually only the small independent presses that keep the flag flying, though few come close to The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors for giving us such a bumper crop in nearly four hundred pages of twenty-five  outstanding stories. Congratulations must be offered to the editors for achieving this!

It would, I’m afraid, be too lengthy a task to discuss every single story, and some worked for this reader better than others, though I would vouch for there not being a single dud amongst them, so I will just highlight a few that I particularly liked. Ramsey Campbell reliably opens proceedings with Some Kind of a Laugh, which is different but inevitably brings to mind his brilliant novel The Grin of the Dark, where laughter becomes menacing and the make-believe world of entertainment hides a terrifying horror. Samantha Lee goes visceral with a vengeance with The Worm, which would have been a worthy entry into any of the old Pan Books of Horror (of which she was once a contributor!). Marie O’Regan’s Pretty Things very soon belies its name, where masks play a key, sometimes gut-wrenching part. I’ve always enjoyed Mike Chinn’s stories, and Her Favourite Place, which is SF horror, is one of his best, set in an undersea farm. Tony Richards’ The Garbage Men has an engrossingly claustrophobic nightmare effect and a great climax. It’s a while since I read anything new from Stephen Laws but Get Worse Soon is a cleverly plotted tale about an overly thrifty pound shop customer who literally gets more than he bargained for! It’s a very cleverly told tale. Scarecrows are often frightening creations, and Adrian Cole’s Broken Billy uses one to great and horrifying effect. John Grant’s Too Late shifts reality and perception of what is going on to great effect – and has a truly grand guignol twist at the end. These are just a few of the stories which for me stood out, though the standard throughout is consistently high. It is definitely one of the best anthologies I have come across for quite some time and I would highly recommend it.

If the stories weren’t enough, the book is also illustrated throughout with finely drawn headers for each of the stories by the talented Jim Pitts, adding that extra touch of quality to this book, which concludes with an informative set of Contributor Notes. Reviewed in Phantasmagoria Magazine

 

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The thing about anthologies is that you get a plethora of diversity, which in my humble opinion is no bad thing. The Alchemy Press book of horrors doesn’t disappoint, with contributions from well-known names such as Ramsey Campbell, Samantha Lee, Mike Chinn, and Peter Sutton, there are also a few authors there that I have never read before. Anthologies are a good way to dip your toes in the shallows of someone’s writing, giving the reader, us, an idea of what to expect.should we want to read more of their work One thing is for sure, Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards have brought together some very talented people and every story in the book 100% deserves to be included.  Unthemed this collection takes the reader to some very dark places.

There are twenty five stories in this book and having now read it twice I can honestly say that it is a book that I will dip into again and again. I can’t, unfortunately give you a run down of each and every story as that would spoil it for you because you are going to want to read this book.

Instead, I shall try to entice you with a couple of my favorites. So, here goes.

Bluey by Ray Cluley left me cold because of the subject matter. Shaun is a teacher, worn down and a little jaded. However, when he realises one of his students, Phillip Scott, is a bit of a misfit and an easy target for bullies Shaun endeavours to try to make life easier for him by introducing Bluey a child-sized blue paper cut out. Shaun hopes that the kids will be able to see that being different is not easy and that they should give Phillip a break. But with the best of intentions, he actually hasn’t allowed for how the students act and react to Bluey. Encouraging the students to comment both by writing on Bluey and verbally giving insults and opinions, Shaun is unaware that his exercise in awareness is, in fact, making a bigger impression than he counted on.  Has Shaun created a monster? What I liked about this story was its believability, I work in a school and Ray Cluley must have too because he describes it so well. I will certainly be on the lookout for more writing from this author.

Other stories that are worth a mention are -Cate Gardener’s Fullness Of Her Belly. A story about Ella, a woman so desperate for a child that she’s taken to wearing a cushion underneath her clothes and describing them as cushion babies. What Ella sees when she looks at the cushions is the hope of one day having a child. However, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Also, Too Late by John Grant a story that would not be out of place as an episode of the Twilight Zone. It tells the story of a  disconnected couple, Heidi and Griff. By going on holiday they try to rekindle their relationship. But Griff seems much more committed than Heidi and when he goes off every day he is left wondering why Heidi won’t go with him and what she’d rather do instead.

As I said before there are some real gems in this collection and along with the illustrations of Jim Pitts this is a book that you want to add to your collection. It’s not often that anthologies of this calibre are available and I would definitely recommend this one. H T Scott, The BFS 

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This collection (The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors) contains some of the best horror fiction I’ve read in ages … It’s great to read an anthology where you love every story in it. There tends to be a mixture of brilliant stores, good stories, okay ones and a couple that aren’t so good. I loved every story in this collection. The stories all fit into the ‘horror’ category, more or less. I loved how diverse and different the stories are. There are no two alike. I especially enjoyed Down Along The Backroads by Jenny Barber, Guising by Gary McMahon, Masks by Peter Sutton and The Trade-Up by James Brogden. — Pamela Scott, Goodreads