Tuesday Terror! Horrorology edited by Stephen Jones

horrorology coverA patchy collection…

🙂 🙂 🙂

This collection of short horror stories has contributions from some of the best-known names in contemporary horror writing, many of whom also showed up in a previous Stephen Jones anthology, Fearie Tales, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed with this one. A few of the stories are good, but most are middling and one or two are frankly poor.

The blurb is a rehash of Stephen Jones’ introduction, which is written in the form of a Lovecraft pastiche, telling of how the stories to come were stolen from a book called The Lexicon of Fear in the Library of the Damned. This led me to think that the stories were going to be weird tales in the Lovecraftian tradition, but in fact they’re not. There’s no over-arching theme to the collection – each one is straight horror and unconnected to the rest. That’s not a problem – in fact, personally I prefer horror to weird – but I feel the blurb could be misleading.

Tuesday Terror

The stories range from a few pages to near novella length. Some contain huge amounts of foul language – the lazy author’s friend – and one, by Clive Barker, is little more than an excuse to be so sexually explicit it comes close to being porn. And there are a couple of gore-fests, although oddly these are two of the better stories despite the blood and guts elements. Many of the stories have good, imaginative premises, though some are followed through better than others.

* * * * * * *

Here’s an idea of some of the ones I enjoyed most:

Guignol by Kim Newman – Set in Paris at the tail-end of the 19th century, this is one of the major gore-fests. A series of gruesome murders have been committed in the Pigalle area, but because the victims seem to be poor and are often unidentified the police are making little effort to solve the case. So an unlikely group of three women, working for a mysterious man as a kind of dark version of Charlie’s Angels, are hired by an unknown client to investigate. It seems there may be a link to the Théâtre des Horreurs, where nightly performances set out to shock the audiences with displays of graphic blood-soaked horror. But are these performances, or could some of the actors be appearing for one night only? And are there powerful people protecting the show from investigation in the murder case? Graphic and gruesome, but also well written and gives a good feel for the period and the whole Grand Guignol atmosphere.

Horrorology Banner

Nightmare by Ramsay Campbell – a retired couple are on a trip to revisit some of the places the man remembers from his youth. They turn off the road in search of a great viewpoint he has fond memories of, but find that a village has been built there in the meantime. The villagers are unwelcoming, in a Wicker Man kind of way, but the man is determined to find his viewpoint…whatever the cost. The writing of this builds up a great atmosphere of tension leading to a satisfyingly scary climax. I must say this was pretty much the only story in the book that I found truly spine-tingling – a very traditional horror story but written with enough skill to stop it from feeling stale.

Ripper by Angela Slatter – The story of the Jack the Ripper investigation but with a couple of twists. The protagonist is Kit, a young police constable, but unknown to anyone she is actually a woman in disguise, who has taken the job to earn extra money to look after her mother and invalid brother. And the Ripper has a reason for taking trophies from his victims – he believes that they will give him access to supernatural powers. I always enjoy Slatter’s writing, and in this one she has created an interesting character in Kit. Women and witchery is a theme she returns to often and this is no exception. Plenty of gore again here, but it would be hard to do a Ripper story without it!

* * * * * * *

So some good stuff here, but overall the quality is too patchy for me to give a wholehearted recommendation to the collection as a whole. My 3-star rating is an average of the ratings I gave to each individual story, which included a couple of 5s, a couple of 1s, and the bulk of the rest coming in as 3s.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Quercus.

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41 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Horrorology edited by Stephen Jones

    • Me too! Angela Slatter’s stories are always good, and although she added the supernatural/witchcraft theme, she got the atmosphere of the Ripper investigation well, I thought.

      • It might be worth a read just for that. The Ripper ‘legend’ is such a great basis for all kinds of stories and I love it when writers put their own twist on it. I have read quite a lot about the actual investigation (and modern attempts at it) but I enjoy the fictional stuff just as much.

        • Yes, it’s the lack of a solution, I think, and of course the wonderful setting. It’s fortunate he didn’t do the murders in lovely countryside, really – just wouldn’t have had the same impact! You might enjoy some of the stories I didn’t, too. I think I’ve been reading so many great classic horror stories recently that the bar is set pretty high. But I did enjoy the Fearie Stories collection much more than this one.

          • London is the perfect place for such nefarious deeds! If he had come around murdering in my village I wouldn’t have been too happy. Mind you, I think we’ve only got one prostitute so there’s probably not enough interest here. On the upside, she doesn’t have much competition. I don’t know why I am telling you this. Horror stories! They are great 😉

  1. *laughs* You liked the gore-fests? You would too. But then again, so would I. And Hector. But anyways…

    It seems like a good collection, overall. Ripper sounds excellent. But now I must know: How did Kit disguise herself? I’m assuming it was a wonder.

    • I just shut my eyes at the worst bits! I admit I’d have been happier not to be reading about the Ripper’s victims while I was eating supper…

      As a policeman! And then later she was disguised as a policeman in disguise as a woman… *laughs*

        • Don’t you? Aha! See, if you mastered that skill just think how many more books you could read!

          No, she seemed mainly to rely on her colleagues not to notice – clearly their detective skills weren’t too great…

    • It is odd, isn’t it? Maybe just the fact that he was never caught? Yes, it was a mixed bag this one, and I’m not sure the good stories really made up for the less good ones.

  2. Sorry to hear that this one wasn’t up to your expectations, FictionFan. Nightmare appealed to me as a good ‘un,’ but I have to say that the rest…well, less so. And I think that collections of stories really are best when there’s a theme – something that binds it all together. Otherwise, I think it’s possible to lose the focus, even if the individual stories aren’t bad.

    • Yes, his previous collection, Fearie Stories had a theme of twists on old fairy stories, and that worked better for me. This felt a bit disjointed in comparison, and the overall quality wasn’t so high. But Nightmare was well done – I may have to try to read more of Ramsay Campbell’s stuff.

    • Ha! Yes! There was one story that was so poorly written I spent half of it trying to work out if it was supposed to be a humorous pastiche, but concluded sadly not… 😉

    • Funnily enough, I felt that the collection could have been better if the menu had been arranged in a different order! I really didn’t enjoy most of the first half dozen or so stories and then it improved towards the end. But by then I’d already been put off a bit,,,

  3. I’m surprised you didn’t include the savagely edited Wind In The Willows as a Tuesday Terror Horrorology!

    I’m finished a well written scaredy-cat read which has had me NOT reading at night (you’ll have to wait!) which is always good. I’m thinking of getting the old Wordsworth Classics WITW with illustrations by Rackham as a moderately safe antidote to books I’m too scared to read when the nights draw in, the owls get ghostly and the spiders’ webs gleam and reflected of the shiny snail and slug trails. Eek

    • Ha! It crossed my mind! It may appear yet…

      Ooh! I shall look forward to that! Frankly I find modern authors have almost entirely lost the art of ‘proper’ horror stories. They seem to confuse ‘disgusting’ for ‘scary’ and swearing for adjectives. But more than that, they’ve lost the ability to know what to explain and what to leave vague. There may be a rant about that at some point too! However I have one lined up for Hallowe’en that hopefully is guaranteed to chill – but I think you’ve already read it…

      • We are in accord here. I think there has been an over-reaction from when there were things which could not be said and could only be implied (I think of the Hays Code, as an example) and however frustrating the tight laced censorship was, it’s hidden gift was to find a way to make the audience do the work by building atmosphere. Then it didn’t matter so much if the monsters or whatever clearly had wires etc, because we experienced the horror. But now, nothing is left to imagination, everything is spelled out in mile high letters in words of single syllables. It’s all just loud noise. I can’t read a lot of it, not because I find it too scary, it’s the reverse, its just like grubbing around down a blocked U bend – repellent and boring all in one (yes, I did do that for a neighbour once) But where you have writing that sort of seeps things into your imagination and doesn’t describe every fang and gobbet of blood, fabulous.

        I shall be interested to see what your Halloween outing is. My scarer is a before Halloween one. I then have a book club one, and I may be wrong, but don’t see it getting on the blog. Didn’t like the writing on the look inside, and the one I’ve finished will be a hard horror to follow. I’ve had a little run of excellent reads, and its maybe time to finish a couple of non fictions

        • They also go on so long, giving every character a backstory, and filling it up with unnecessary detail. And then as often as not the story ends without ever reaching a conclusion or climax. Several of these I found myself saying uh? or is that it? as I finished, even if I’d been enjoying the build-up up till then. I think there used to be more self-censorship too in all sorts of aspects of life. Since the human race survived, I’m confident people must have been having sex for centuries, but authors used to manage to hint at that too rather than describing every contortion! Not to mention the prevalence of people so terrified they lose control of their bladder, a thing that only started happening around 1990 as far as I can tell – must be something in the diet!!

          I have about a million crime novels all overdue for review, so that’ll mainly be what I’m reading in October… and November… and December…

  4. I think this might be my favorite line of your review, FF — “foul language – the lazy author’s friend.” Stellar, I’m telling you, and it’s my opinion, as well. If that makes me an old fogey, so be it. This doesn’t sound like something I need to read, thanks to your outstanding review. Thanks for saving my precious time!

    • Ha! I think there’s lots of us old fogeys out there, Debbie! I’ve never ever read a story and thought – yeah, the swearing in that really made it special. But sadly, it’s everywhere now, and even more sadly lots of people justify it with the old ‘but everybody else does it’ excuse – sheep, as well as being lazy!. That’s my rant over for today! 😉

    • Yes, they’re always variable but I was a bit disappointed that there were so few real standouts in this one. Angela Slatter is a really good writer, though (the Ripper one) and her new book has just turned up on NG – Of Sorrow and Such. I’ll be most peeved if I don’t get approved…

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