Tuesday Terror! The Invisible Eye by Erckmann-Chatrian

A varied collection…

Erckmann-Chatrian was the name used by Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian, a French writing duo of the 19th century who were very well known at the time for their tales of supernatural horror and are apparently still well respected in their region. The lack of availability in English language publications for decades means they are rather less well known over here now, and this new anthology, edited and introduced by Hugh Lamb, intends to put that right. There are sixteen stories in the collection, some ghost stories, some of more natural horrors, and some showing the horrors of purely human evil. Overall they often have a folk tale feel to them, which perhaps isn’t too surprising since they came from the Lorraine region and set many of their stories across the border in the German Black Forest region, with its strong tradition of folk tales. They feel almost like a bridge between those older tales and the newer horror that would develop towards the later decades of the 19th and early 20th century, and Lamb tells us that many writers, such as MR James and HP Lovecraft, paid tribute to their influence.

As always with collections, I found the standard of the stories, or perhaps my reaction to them, variable, and in this one unfortunately I found the later stories weaker than the earlier ones which meant that my enthusiasm for the collection lessened towards the end. However looking back at my individual ratings, I see I gave five of the stories 5 stars, while another four got 4 stars, and the rest all came in at three, including most of the last half dozen or so. I suspect this is partly due to the stories being less good, but also partly that I had simply got a bit bored with their style. This is probably a collection that is better to dip in and out of rather than reading all at once. They also vary in length from quite short to novella-length, and with one exception I felt the longer stories worked less well – often the conclusion was fairly obvious and it seemed to take a long time to get there.

The good stories are very good, however, and make the collection well worth reading. Sometimes quite dark and chilling, there are others that are mostly done for humour and these often worked best for me. I also enjoyed the more fairy-tale ones – legends of curses, full of woodcutters, witches and wolves and all the traditional stalwarts of early horror. Here’s a flavour of a few of the ones I enjoyed most:

The Burgomaster in Bottle – done as a previous Tuesday Terror! post, part horror, part humour, and a deliciously wicked warning to consider where the grapes came from that went into the wine you’re drinking…

The Crab Spider – very well told, a tale of the horrors that nature sometimes gives us. Unfortunately this has an outdated and disparaging portrayal of a black woman which makes it less enjoyable for a modern reader, but if you can overlook that, then it’s delightfully scary, especially for arachnophobes.

The Child-Stealer – this is a very dark and disturbing story, with the clue in the title. Full of gore and no happy ending, this is human evil at its worst with no supernatural element to it. But it’s excellently told and very effective.

The Wild Huntsman – this is novella-length and perhaps a little longer than it needs to be, but it’s an excellent example of the duo at their most folk-tale-ish. It tells of a young painter who begs lodgings from an old man, gamekeeper on the local estate, who has a lovely young granddaughter. But when the young girl falls into a coma, the old man tells the tale of the curse that has haunted his family since the days when a robber baron spread terror throughout the land, helped by the old man’s ancestor, the wild huntsman of the title. Great descriptive writing of the forest and mountains, and while it has many familiar aspects from older folktales it also manages to feel fresh and original.

Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian

So plenty to enjoy and hopefully those examples will have given a hint of the variety in the content of the stories. Despite my lower rating of the later stories, I enjoyed the collection overall both for itself and for the interest of reading stories from authors outside the usual British/American bubble in which I live in terms of horror. Recommended.

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

This is the porpy’s French cousin.
Did you know that the French for porcupine
is porc-épic? So sweet…

Fretful porpentine rating:  😮 😮 😮  

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

28 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Invisible Eye by Erckmann-Chatrian

  1. I’m not particularly drawn to horror, but when you catch my attention with some stories I do check to see if they’re out there in the public domain or in a cheap Kindle collection: unfortunately couldn’t find either, so these will go unread by me. I enjoyed your review though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s odd that they haven’t brought this out in Kindle outside the UK – maybe they will some time. Yes, I couldn’t find the stories online either when I did a couple of them as Tuesday Terror posts – I guess the lack of translated versions must be the reason for that. I thought Collins Chillers might be going to give us some interesting stuff but as far as I can see they’ve stopped producing them now.

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        • Ah, I couldn’t find a US KIndle link – sometimes I think they block them off to us if they have a UK version available. Yes, I don’t think this is essential reading except for real fans of the genre. I’ve enjoyed some of the other stories and anthologies I’ve been reading this year considerably more overall.

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  2. Oh, that porc-epic is sweet! I think you’re right about dipping in and out of some book collections rather than reading the stories all in one go. The folk-tale feel of the stories is appealing. Isn’t it funny that they were often written for children, yet they are so scary?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The porpy thinks he should be called porc-epic from now on, but I don’t think it’s suitably scary for him. Haha – yes, I think adults of the past had the right idea – scare the little blighters rigid when they’re young enough not to be able to fight back… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d like to try these authors although probably not a whole volume – I’ll follow your advice and look out for an early story. I love that portrait of the pair, they look great, just how I’d want them to look!

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    • The problem is they’re not easy to find online – I tried to find links when I did a couple of the stories as Tuesday Terror post, but couldn’t. I suspect it’s the lack of availability of translated versions. Haha – I love these old photos of authors – they always looks so… old!! 😉

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    • Isn’t it sweet? The porpy wants to be called porc-epic from now on but I don’t think it’s scary enough for him… 😉 Thank you! Yes, sometimes the horrors that nature provides are more frightening than anything supernatural… 🕷

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  4. Those old folk tales can be well-done, FictionFan, and I can see how it’d be interesting to look at that crossover to more modern horror stories. That in itself is a little appealing to me, although I’m not usually one for horror stories. As to the variability, I think that’s the case with most collections; I’ve never read one where each story was a gem (nor, fortunately, one where each was a dud).

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    • It was interesting to read stories from just a few decades earlier than usual to see how the old style morphed into the new. Collections must be difficult to edit – I always feel they should save a great story for last because there’s no doubt my rating tends to reflect the later stories in the book more than the earlier ones unless I make a determined effort to remind myself of the ones I liked. Here I could feel my interesting waning as I went along unfortunately, but there were actually a lot of good ones when I looked back.

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  5. Nice to meet the French cousin! Does that cousin read epic fantasy?

    Still love the publisher’s name–Collins Chillers. Perhaps they need to release a line of drinks with their books.

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    • Hahaha – I bet he does! 😂

      I was trying to see of they’d published any this year – this one was a leftover from last year – but I can’t find any. Seems like maybe they’ve dropped the idea which is a pity.

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  6. Ooh, I love the porpy’s French cousin — he appears a bit smaller than our Porpy. I know what you mean about collections being a grab-bag. I’ve found the same with short story collections in our library. Some are quite good, but it seems the publisher always includes at least one that’s a flop. (Same with a sack of potatoes … or oranges!)

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    • He’s cute, isn’t he? But don’t tell the porpy I said so or he’ll get jealous! 😉

      Yes, it must be quite hard to edit a collection – if the stories at the end aren’t as strong as the ones at the beginning then it tends to make me rate the book lower than it maybe deserves. I’d always try to make sure the last story was the best! Haha – isn’t it annoying when you find that? The bruised plum, the brown patch on the apple, always nicely hidden from view…

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  7. I like the sound of porc-épic! You know… that’s a critter I don’t ever recall seeing around my house. I get my fair share of skunk, armadillo, and possum sitings, but no porcupines. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere!

    Glad this had enough good stories to get a positive rating overall. 🙂

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    • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a porcupine – in fact, I’m not sure if we even get them in Scotland. But we do get lots of hedgehogs and they always look sweet, though we were always told not to touch them because they’re full of fleas – whether that’s true or an old wives’ tale to stop kids getting stung by their quills I don’t know! Yes, there were a lot of good stories in it – just a pity the ones at the end were a bit disappointing…

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    • I love getting all these collections for review but it does mean I feel obliged to read them straight through to get the review done, and really I prefer to dip in and out. I do try to only read one a day though unless they’re extremely short, and I don’t read many shorts at all over the summer months – it’s strictly a dark evening hobby for me!

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  8. It seems like you’ve been doing quite a few horror collections/stories lately? I also wonder, unless a short story collection is linked short stories specifically, I don’t think reading them all the way through it ever a good idea, it seems like we’re meant to dip and out of the book (which I don’t personally do), because maybe we get a fresher start that way? I don’t know, just a theory…

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