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Author: Mario Guslandi

Datlow’s Latest Treat: The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Fifteen, edited by Ellen Datlow

Datlow’s Latest Treat: The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Fifteen, edited by Ellen Datlow

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Fifteen (Night Shade, January 16, 2024)

Once again legendary editor Ellen Datlow has released her annual anthology featuring the Best horror stories that appeared in print the previous year.

And once again the volume includes, in the front, a detailed, invaluable overview of the year in horror (this time 2022). Being a short story lover I am particularly interested in anthologies and collections and, as it happens, once again I discovered how many interesting books I missed…

I always enjoy Datlow’s selections but, naturally enough, some I found particularly accomplished. Here they are.

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More Tales of Twilight and Borderlands : Time of Passing by John Gaskin

More Tales of Twilight and Borderlands : Time of Passing by John Gaskin

Time of Passing by John Gaskin (Tartarus Press, August 20, 2023)

This is the fifth and apparently the last collection of short stories by John Gaskin, an excellent author of ghostly tales who has been entertaining and fascinating his readers for more than twenty years. Most of his books have been published by the independent British press Tartarus Press. An elegant, classy imprint for an elegant classy writer.

In the present volume Gaskin reproposes a few of his previous stories in a revised version.

“The Gathering “ is the masterful report of the dramatic last reunion of a group of friends during a frightening storm, while “Avernus” is a dark, unsettling story revolving around a mysterious and dangerous amulet.

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Family Secrets, Ancient Curses, and Haunted Rooms: Fantasmagoriana Deluxe, edited by EJ Guignard & LS Klinger

Family Secrets, Ancient Curses, and Haunted Rooms: Fantasmagoriana Deluxe, edited by EJ Guignard & LS Klinger


Fantasmagoriana Deluxe (Dark Moon Books, November 28, 2023). Cover art by Hellduriel

The history of Fantasmagoriana is rather complicated.

Originally the book was published in German as a ghost story collection, then translated into French in 1812. The first English translation under the title Tales of the Dead by Sarah Elizabeth Utterson appeared in 1813, but Utterson omitted three stories and added one written by herself, “The Storm,” which frankly is an unremarkable, weak imitation of some of the original tales included in the anthology.

The current volume, Fantasmagoriana Deluxe, includes all the stories featured in the two books Fantasmagoriana and Tales of the Dead, some of which were read aloud by Mary Shelley and her friends during the famous party at Villa Diodati (Switzerland) where Lord Byron suggested that the guests try their hand creating some new ghostly fiction. The more famous results of that challenge were Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Vampyre by JW Polidori.

But so much for history. Let’s move to the stories, which are all outstanding.

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Feminine Horror Works Better: A Darker Shade of Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates

Feminine Horror Works Better: A Darker Shade of Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates

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.

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Ancient Castles and All-Night Parties: The Collected Macabre Stories by L.P. Hartley

Ancient Castles and All-Night Parties: The Collected Macabre Stories by L.P. Hartley

The Collected Macabre Stories
By L.P. Hartley
Tartarus Press (Two volumes in slipcase, £80, 2023)

LP Hartley (1895-1972) was a British novelist (author of The Go-Between just to mention one title) and a prolific author of short stories, some of which have a distinctive dark vein.

Tartarus Press has collected his macabre stories in a new edition consisting of two hardcover volumes sold together in a slipcase, featuring thirty-seven stories.

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Grisly Ponds and Ghostly Ex-Wives: Potapsco Spirits by Addison Hodges Hart

Grisly Ponds and Ghostly Ex-Wives: Potapsco Spirits by Addison Hodges Hart

Patapsco Spirits (Angelico Press, June 5, 2023)

Addison Hodges Hart, an American relocated in Norway, is a versatile author who has now successfully tried his hand at creating ghost stories. 

The present volume collects eleven ghostly tales, most of which are impressively good, skillfully avoiding the always common risk of repeating old clichés.

The title evokes the Patapsco River Valley and Ellicott City, Maryland, where Hart grew up.

Among the included stories here are my favorite.

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Tales of Unease: Riding the Nightmare by Lisa Tuttle

Tales of Unease: Riding the Nightmare by Lisa Tuttle


Riding the Nightmare (Valancourt Books, August 22, 2023). Cover by Vince Haig

Lisa Tuttle was born in USA, but relocated to the UK many years ago. She is a successful novelist, but especially a great short story writer, the author of numerous collections of dark fiction.

Her latest collection, forthcoming from the small but excellent imprint Valancourt Books, collects twelve previously published stories and is introduced by Neil Gaiman who, very aptly, emphasizes the Aickmanesque nature (meaning it somehow recalls the atmosphere of Robert Aickman) of some tales.

As a short fiction lover, a Lisa Tuttle fan, and a long time admirer of Aickman, my expectations for this book were high. And I was not disappointed.

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The Queen of Quiet Horror: NOW IT’S DARK by Lynda E. Rucker

The Queen of Quiet Horror: NOW IT’S DARK by Lynda E. Rucker

Now It’s Dark by Lynda E Rucker (Swan River Press, 2023)

There was a time, years ago, when the term “quiet horror” (as opposed to splatter or graphic horror) was used to describe a type of dark fiction where monsters are not lurking behind the street corner, inside an empty house or in a deserted wood, but deep inside our soul.

It’s a pity that the expression “quiet horror” sounds a bit out of fashion, because it applies perfectly to the present collection (her third) Now It’s Dark, by the talented and insightful Lynda E. Rucker.

Rucker is a wonderful writer that I’ve occasionally met and enjoyed before, e.g. in the outstanding anthology Aickman’s Heirs, to which she contributed with the very atmospheric “The Dying Season” (included also in this book), describing the crisis of a couple staying at a resort off season, when everything is empty, slightly depressing and a bit weird.

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Noir, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Bang!, edited by Andrew Hook

Noir, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Bang!, edited by Andrew Hook

Bang!: An Anthology of Modern Noir Fiction (Head Shot Press, March 1, 2023)

For reasons I don’t quite understand I love horror fiction but I hate horror movies.

By contrast, I love noir films but I don’t particularly like noir fiction. 

Yet, this anthology of noir stories has made me change my mind.

I’m not saying that I liked all the stories (that would be statistically impossible, even with horror anthologies) but certainly I was pleasantly surprised by my own response to several of the dark tales featured here.

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Horror Pervades the UK: Terror Tales Of The West Country, Edited by Paul Finch

Horror Pervades the UK: Terror Tales Of The West Country, Edited by Paul Finch

Terror Tales Of The West Country (Telos Publishing, October 31, 2022). Cover by Neil Williams

This is volume 14 in the successful ongoing series Terror Tales, a bunch of anthologies collecting horror short stories set every time in a different area of the United Kingdom. Which, all in all, appears to be a really spooky place where dark and supernatural events occur all the time.

For the present  book editor Paul Finch (an excellent horror writer himself) has chosen the West Country as a setting for fifteen tales of terror penned by as many dark fiction authors. Each story is preceded by an historical recalling of disturbing and sometimes violent horrific events which took place in the past in the various parts of the West Country. 

Truth be told the long, vivid introductions by Finch are sometimes even more interesting and engrossing than the subsequent pieces of fiction.

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