THE BEST OF THE HORROR SOCIETY 2013, edited by Carson Buckingham, is a collection of twenty eight excellent horror stories designed to sit with you long after you read the final page. What’s interesting is that unlike many recent anthologies, this one is built not around a theme but rather is a collection of simply great stories which are dark, disturbing, and in many cases, push the boundaries of horror. Ironically, I did find a common thread through many of the stories and that was that bad things often happened to bad people, although good people certainly got caught in the grip of evil as well.
Of the twenty eight stories, there were some from well-established voices along with relative newcomers to the horror genre. As is often the case in these anthologies, sometimes the most entertaining stories came from the newer voices who are just now flexing their storytelling muscle. There wasn’t a single bad story, which made my task of narrowing down to my favorites all that much more challenging. Of the stories that I listed below as my favorites, please understand that my selection is entirely subjective to the impact each of the stories had on me. While I enjoyed each story in the anthology, the following managed to hit a nerve and make the story stand out and linger long after the final word was read.
“Ceremony”, by William F. Nolan is the perfect tale to kick off the anthology in style. A story by one of the grand masters of short fiction is bound to be a treat and Nolan certainly does not disappoint. The story centers on an unnamed hitman traveling to New England to carry out a job. Of course, the bus breaks down in the creepy town of Doour’s Mill, and the man gets thrown into the middle of some very odd goings on. To tell any more would ruin the story. Of course, like any Nolan story, getting there is half the fun and Nolan pulls out all the stops in his descriptions of the town and its very strange citizens. Ceremony is a story that lingers with you long after reading it.
“Lemminaid”, by Carson Buckingham is a story of a wealthy old man, Peterson Sharpe, who spots a young boy selling lemonade by the side of the road and decides to stop. While to story starts in an almost lighthearted tone, it quickly dissolves into something a lot darker and leaves us with an ending very reminiscent of early Richard Matheson. A strong moral lesson is given here in that you will reap what you sow.
“White Hell, Wisconsin”, by Weldon Burge was another stand-out story in the anthology and clearly the case of bad things happening to good people. It follows the story of a snow plow driver who on the night of a huge blizzard comes face to face with a very familiar monster – mankind. What really stood out in this tale was not only the sense of isolation from the storm, but the manner of how cold and calculating those in the story can be given the right circumstances. A dark and unsettling read, it sends chills as it serves as an allegory for what is happening to the youth of America. Very chilling indeed.
“Normal is Relative”, by Dan Dillard starts off as a simple paint by numbers story of a young couple having dinner at home when their idyllic evening is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the man’s psychotic brother. Of course, this story quickly spirals out of control and after the blood soaked violence, the ending hits you with an twist I can guarantee you won’t see coming. It lingered long after reading and is highly recommended.
“Madeleine”, by Julianne Snow is a dark tale about a six year old girl haunted by prophetic dreams of her family’s gruesome demise. Throw into the mix a creepy aunt who gives the terrified girl an unusual doll to help with her night terrors and you have another great tale with the requisite twist ending. Another story that pays quiet homage to Richard Matheson and manages to scare us long after we’ve finished reading.
“It Has Teeth”, by Christian A. Larsen is an old-school horror story of a husband and wife who think they’ve found the home of their dreams only to see it dissolve into the stuff of nightmares. Eerily reminiscent of stories ripped from the pages of the old PAN BOOK OF HORROR STORIES anthology series, the story does indeed have teeth and will grab you and not let go.
“Black Bird”, by Rose Blackthorn starts off telling the story of Callie Velis who notices a black bird who seems to be following her as she heads to work. The story escalates and the one bird becomes many as Callie becomes terrorized by the birds. Not to give anything away, the story builds tension as it works its way to a satisfying climax. Highly entertaining and a real page turner, it will have you looking at the next crow or raven you see with a greater degree of suspicion.
“Adjoining Rooms”, by Scott M. Goriscak is a dark tale that follows a con man who has a run in at a hotel with his very large and frightening neighbor at a city hotel. The story mixes an old-school approach with a small degree of surrealistic weirdness to evoke a sense of fear and paranoia as the story propels itself along to a twisted finale, showing once again how bad things do happen to bad people. The story reminded me of the old “pre-code” EC comics and was a blast to read as I turned the pages, waiting to see what would happen next.
“Moving Day”, by Mark Onspaugh tells the story of eight-year old Clarissa Pearson as she and her family move into their new home. The story manages to take two time worn staples in horror such as the unknown of a new home and the innocence of children and blends them together to get a dark and twisted tale that hints strongly at a Lovecraftian influence. Very clever and will keep you reading until the very last word.
“Black Mary”, by Mercedes M. Yardley is a haunting tale of abuse, human monsters and the indomitable will of the human spirit wrapped around a quiet ghost story. Very well written with strong characters you can empathize with and incrediby haunting, this story shines as one of the best in the book.
“Boy in the Elevator”, by Robert S. Wilson tells the story of a man who is convinced he sees his dead son at a hotel and follows him into the elevator. The story relies not only in the build-up of tension throughout, but also with the hard hitting ending which cbeautifully closes the story. Very creepy and unsettling and makes us caution what we truly wish for.
Again, while the above eleven stories really hit a chord and resonated with me, this is an anthology that doesn’t have a weak link. Each story is well-written and highly enjoyable and well worthy to be a representative for the Horror Society. Carson Buckingham has pulled together a solid and cohesive collection and a highly and engaging read from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
Read the review here, and if you haven’t already read THE BEST OF THE HORROR SOCIETY 2013, here’s the complete table of contents:
- Foreword by Scott M. Goriscak
- Introduction by Carson Buckingham
- “Ceremony” by William F. Nolan
- “Tendrils Never Lie” by Kevin A. Ranson
- “The Mask” by Lisamarie Lamb
- “Lemminaid” by Carson Buckingham
- “The Central Coast” by Jason V. Brock
- “White Hell, Wisconsin” by Weldon Burge
- “Victimized” by Richard Thomas
- “Normal is Relative” by Dan Dillard
- “The Procedure” by Doug Lamoreux
- “The Little Church of the Safe Crossing” by Joe McKinney
- “Madeleine” by Julianne Snow
- “It Has Teeth” by Christian A. Larsen
- “Masquerade” by Dave Jeffery
- “Black Bird” by Rose Blackthorn
- “Adjoining Rooms” by Scott M. Goriscak
- “The Inspiration & Horror of George & Hugh” by Nicholas Grabowsky
- “The Clown” by Henry Snider
- “Moving Day” by Mark Onspaugh
- “Ellen” by Lee Pletzers
- “Daddy” by Aaron Warwick Dries
- “Soft Like Her” by Charles Colyott
- “Venus” by L.L. Soares
- “The Luminous Veil” by Ian Rogers
- “Beer and Worms” by T.E. Grau
- “Black Mary” by Mercedes M. Yardley
- “The Boy in the Elevator” by Robert S. Wilson
- “Weird” by Dean M. Drinkel
- “Hotties” by Mort Castle