After Dark: The Best Horror Fiction of Tony Richards (Weird House Press, November 17, 2021). Cover by K.L. Turner
Tony Richards is a British horror writer, author of eight collections of short stories and several novels of dark fiction. Although for some reason he may be unfairly less celebrated than some of his countrymen, he’s certainly one of the very best producing horror fiction today.
Praise to small American imprint Weird House Press for assembling twenty-five tales and a novella covering forty years of Richards’ career in After Dark: The Best Horror Fiction of Tony Richards, released in paperback and digital formats this past November.
Although I’m familiar with some of Richards’ previous (and excellent) collections, regretfully I had missed a few, and this one offered me the chance to savor some of his stories for the very first time.
Among the various tales included, I’ll just mention the ones I’ve found particularly memorable.
The title story “After Dark” is a creepy tale in which a dead saxophonist returns from beyond the grave to produce new music, and to take his revenge, while “Streets of the City” is a cruel tale of urban horror depicting dark forces from the past haunting the present.
In the quite unusual and disturbing “Siafu,” set in Tasmania, a priest has to deal with the unholy thoughts of a group of nuns, while the disquieting “The Waiters” addresses the horrors surrounding old people trapped in a nursing home awaiting death.
“Pages from a Broken Book” is a fascinating, puzzling story in which magic and technology blend to create an unsettling reality, and the offbeat “The In-Betweeners” features groups of threatening teenagers lurking behind street corners.
The chilling “Birchiam Pier” describes the apprehension of parents for their kids in a town where dark enemies hide by a dilapidated pier.
My favorite story is perhaps “The Black Lake,” an outstanding, terrifying tale portraying the horrific outcome of a fishing expedition.
The volume also includes the successful novella “Under the Ice,” which I won’t discuss in detail to avoid spoilers. It’s enough to say that the secret ability of a magic artifact to grant a wish leads to terrible, unpredictable disasters.
Richards is really a master of dark fiction (especially urban horror) and this new collection is a great opportunity to discover (or rediscover) some of his best short stories.
Mario Guslandi was born in Milan, Italy, where he currently lives. He became addicted to horror and supernatural fiction (too) many years ago, after accidentally reading a reprint anthology of stories by MR James, JS Le Fanu, Arthur Machen etc. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, he has contributed over the years to various genre websites such as Horrorworld, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, The Agony Column and many more. His last review for us was A Vanished Hand and Others by Clotilde Graves.