The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors volume 2
Strange Stories & Weird Tales
Edited by Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards
Strange stories and weird tales and all of the creeping horrors in between. Horrors 2 features seventeen fabulous writers, including Sarah Ash, Paul Finch, John Grant, Nancy Kilpatrick, Garry Kilworth, Samantha Lee … to lead you on a spine-tingling tour from seaside towns to grimy cities, to the lonely and secret places, from the fourteenth precinct to Namibia … and so many places in between.
- Gail-Nina Anderson Henrietta Street
- Sarah Ash I Left My Fair Homeland
- Debbie Bennett I Remember Everything
- Mike Chinn Digging in the Dirt
- Paul Finch What Did You See
- Sharon Gosling Every Bad Thing
- John Grant The Loneliest Place
- John Howard The Primordial Light
- Tim Jeffreys Black Nore
- Eyglo Karlsdottir Footprints in the Snow
- Nancy Kilpatrick Promises
- Garry Kilworth Lirpaloof Island
- Samantha Lee The Secret Place
- Pauline Morgan Beneath Namibian Sands
- Thana Niveau The Hate Whisperer
- John Llewellyn Probert Hydrophobia
- Peter Sutton We Do Like to Be Beside
Illustrated by Jim Pitts
Cover by Peter Coleborn
THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS 2: STRANGE STORIES & WEIRD TALES Edited by Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards
The short fiction market continues to be a tough sell. Few of the magazines that took submissions in the golden ages of genre fiction now exist and those that do are inundated by new authors who believe that writing a short story is easy and quicker than penning a novel. In fact, the short story is no easier to write than a novel or poem and writing a good one demands talent as well as perseverance.
Fortunately, the market for genre short fiction still thrives in the professional publishing arena with publishers such as Jo Fletcher Books, Titan and PS Publishing holding the torch aloft, but it is often in the independent/small press field through which the very life blood of the horror and fantasy genres flows. The writers who appear in small press collections may not have the PR power of Stephen King but their fiction is no less honed and polished for eager readers.
The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 2 continues this tradition. Many of the names listed in the Contents may not be well known to anyone except horror and fantasy aficionados but their work speaks for itself. This sequel to …Horrors 1, which was published in November 2018, contains seventeen brand new tales from the likes of a cohort of mainly British and American authors including the late John Grant (in whose memory this anthology is dedicated), Nancy Kilpatrick, Samantha Lee, Garry Kilworth, Peter Sutton (well known to readers of Phantasmagoria) Debbie Bennett and Mike Chinn. Each story is beautifully headed with a black and white illustration by genre legend Jim Pitts.
The anthology is headed with a short but stimulating ‘Preface’ in which editors Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards highlight the positives of diversity in the types of tale included to send a quiver of anticipation and dread down the reader’s spine. And these tales are all designed to attract a wide diversity of audience.
Amongst my favourites from this anthology: ‘Beneath Nambian Sands’, by Pauline E Dungate, in which an investigation into holes in the sand leads to a deadly terror crawling its way up to the surface. John Grant’s ‘The Loneliest Place’, in which police plan to trap the Kreep Killer using a very special little girl as bait. ‘Promises’, by Nancy Kilpatrick sees a devil-may-care biker seeking shelter from a storm in what he at first thinks is a cafe but turns out to be a strange museum and a promise made beyond death.
Samantha Lee’s ‘The Secret Place’ is one of my favourite haunting new tales in this anthology. A young girl called Poppy befriends a boy in an ancient Welsh mansion, but it soon becomes apparent to her that he is much older than he looks and could endanger both her and her mother as the Man With the Sack approaches. John Llewellyn Probert’s ‘Hydrophobia’ is a weirdly claustrophobic tale of Tamara, a woman who dreams of living in an underwater world that begins to seep into her waking reality in all sorts of startling ways. And, in ‘What Did You See?’, another of my favourites, Paul Finch spells out the dangers of using ancient love charms, no matter how innocuous they may appear.
Garry Kilworth takes an April Fool’s prank for a spin when an employee disappears after being sent to a non-existent island in ‘Lirpaloof Island’. Debbie Bennett’s ‘I Remember Everything’, examines the mythology behind invisible companions who don’t always turn out to be so friendly. Peter Sutton teaches that it is rude to stare in ‘We Do Like to Be Beside’, and, in another of my favourites, Eyglo Karlsdottier evokes a weird, unsettling world in which the dead return like zombies frozen in time in ‘Footprints in the Snow’.
The protagonist of Thana Niveau’s ‘The Hate Whisperer’, feels ‘watched, stalked and preyed upon’ when viewing a picture taken by esteemed photographer Volmer. But, what is the secret of the girl that picture with such hate and fury in her eyes? ‘Black Nore’ is the name of a brooding lighthouse, the bleak setting for a tale told through an unreliable witness by Tim Jeffreys. In ‘Henrietta Street’, by Gail-Nina Anderson, an academic staying with two colleagues at an old Whitby house begins to hear noises in the walls.
‘Every Bad Thing’, by Sharon Gosling, charts the trials and tribulations of a young woman who believes that bad things come in more than three, who as a child, was abandoned on the moors to be looked after by animals and now constantly fights her feral nature and the fury she has for the local townsfolk. Sarah Ash’s ‘I Left My Fair Homeland’ follows Bela as he laments his exile from his Hungarian homeland and attempts to come to terms with his new surroundings in the face of rejection. ‘Digging in the Dirt’, by Mike Chinn, is quality pulp fiction, featuring eternal beings, magic and alchemy. And finally, John Howard’s ‘The Primordial Light’ ponders what would happen if it was possible to open a piece of ‘star glass’ and release what lies within.
This second volume of The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors is an eclectic selection in the very best of short horror fiction, much of it subtle rather than gory, but with streaks of genuine unearthly unease, cosmic terror and inhuman angst running through each offering. The editors are acknowledged and seasoned hands at anthology publishing and anyone who loves the horror genre will find a home within this selection’s pages. The only slight regret is that you won’t find this book on the shelves of big bookstores like Waterstones and WH Smith where it would sit comfortably amongst the Kings, Hills and Gaimans. That said, horror fans should make that extra effort to support independent publishers and small press. Go online now and make that order. The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 2: Strange Stories & Weird Tales is published by The Alchemy Press and is available to purchase from Amazon and other outlets.
Reviewed by John Gilbert. Originally published in Phantasmagoria Magazine #14. © 2020.