A Darker Shade of Noir (Akashic Books, August 22, 2023)
Among the plethora of new anthologies of horror stories continuously produced by little-known editors, minor authors and obscure publishers, where very few tales are worth reading, here’s finally an above average anthology. Devoted to so called “body horror” and including only women authors, the volume is edited by Joyce Carol Oates, a well respected, famous writer herself, who certainly demonstrates her good taste in her selection of the stories.
Her insightful and detailed Introduction is a sort of commentary on the material, but for the purposes of this review I’ll focus on the tales that especially impressed me.
In “Malena” by Joanna Margaret, body horror is represented by a tween growing inside the abdomen of a young woman, which only surgery will be able to (definitively?) remove.
“Concealed Carry” by Lisa Tuttle, the most unsettling and original tale in the anthology, features a British woman relocated in Texas and her ambivalent relationship with guns.
“Gross Anatomy” by Aimee LaBrie is a medical horror story depicting the dangerous sexual experiences of a student who loves female anatomy too much, while “ The Chair of Tranquility” penned by Oates herself is the disquieting diary of an unlucky woman placed in custody in a psychiatric facility.
Elizabeth Hand contributes “The Seventh Bride, or Female Curiosity,” a truly excellent tale set in a theatre where strange things happen on and behind the stage while “Bluebeard” is being performed, and Valerie Martin provides “Nemesis,” a vivid story where a young man of questionable morality becomes the victim of an obnoxious infectious disease.
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 Addison Hodges Hart’s collection, The Collected Macabre Stories by L.P. Hartley.