Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror – Edited by Stephen Jones

This tome features horror luminaries such as Stephen King (and son), Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley. A fairly safe bet then, for some classic tales to darken the corners of the room. The introduction is worth a mention, as it appears to catalogue every single horror story penned in 2009. How anyone goes about compiling such encyclopaedic reference material is a mystery worthy of Dupin. But it’s an excellent way to discover new authors, so worth a look before reading. Equally fascinating is the brief introduction to each story by the author(s), which tells you the inspiration behind them. The title could be misleading to some, as no limbs are dismembered and there’s nothing literally ‘horrifying’ here. But if you like challenging, complex and genuinely unsettling supernatural tales, you’ll like this. Here are my personal highlights.

Throttle by Joe Hill & Stephen King – Father and son combine to re-tell the classic Richard Matheson tale ‘Duel’. This time it’s demonic trucker v Hells Angels.

Out and Back by Barbara Roden – When a couple go exploring in an old abandoned amusement park, you know it’s not going to be happy ending. Reminded me a little of Robert Aickman.

Cold to the Touch by Simon Strantzas – An Arctic setting and strange alien architecture combine to give this tale a pleasant Lovecraftian tinge.

The Game of Bear by M R James & Reggie Oliver – This one set my pulse racing before I even read it. It’s a tale which was begun by the legendary English ghost story author before his death. Reggie Oliver picks up the reins and does an admirable job of completing this archetypal Jamesian tale of a disputed inheritance.

Party Talk by John Gaskin – Classic ghost story, told in the traditional style, about a wronged young mother and her quest for vengeance.

The Axholme Toll by Mark Valentine – Another classic chiller, combining real and imagined legends surrounding a mystery tale by an unknown author.

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