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BOOK REVIEWS: December 2000
By Paula Guran

BLACK LIGHT
Elizabeth Hand
Harper/ $5.99/ 320 pages
ISBN: 0061057320

book cover This is one that should have been pointed out when first released in hardback in April 1999 and again last spring when the mass market paperback appeared. But better late than never. Elizabeth Hand is, quite simply, one of the best prose stylists ever to lift a quill or tap a keyboard. BLACK LIGHT is particularly notable because the author further expands her rich myth-based fictional universe. The book is a sequel of sorts to her novel WAKING THE MOON (readers will again encounter the secret order of the Benandanti and University of Archangels and St. John the Divine's Prof. Balthazar Warnick) as well as a return to the author's often-visited theme of adolescents-turning-into-adults. Set in the late sixties/early seventies, the featured teen this time is Charlotte "Lit" Moylan, Daughter of two actors, she's also the goddaughter of Axel Kern -- a film auteur of the type Andy Warhol wanted to be. The Moylans live in the picturesque, but decidedly strange town of Kamensic. Kern's mansion, Bolerium, dominates Kamensic and become the setting for a Solstice/ Halloween gathering and struggle between opposing powers. Lit's loyalties are desired by both factions. The definitions of "good" and "evil" are not, however, simpistically drawn and this adds further to the drama. Beautifully written, completely developed, and fully slam-bang-grab-you plotted, the book ends on what appears to be a transitional note. One hopes this means an eventual continuation of Lit's story in a future novel.

MY FAVORITE HORROR STORY
Edited by Mike Baker and Martin H. Greenberg
DAW/ $6.99/ 320 pages
ISBN: 0886779146

book cover Want an idea of just how dormant mass market horror got in the last few years? Mike Baker, the co-editor of this new (October 2000) anthology has, tragically, been dead since 1997. It's hard not to reach the conclusion that this project has been waiting around for a bit to be published. DAW has already issued similar Greenberg-edited anthologies -- MY FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION STORY and MY FAVORITE FANTASY STORY -- that basically ask current writers to choose the "one piece of fiction that left an indelible imprint on them, and explain why they chose this particular story." Simple and effective. Stephen King chose "Sweets to the Sweet," by Robert Bloch. Another Bloch story, "The Animal Fair," was chosen by Joe R. Lansdale. Joyce Carol Oates went for Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," Ed Gorman selected "The Father Thing" by Philip K. Dick, Peter Straub picked Robert Aickman's"The Inner Room." Ramsey Campbell writes he might have chosen Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" or Machen's "The White People," but Peter Atkins had already taken Arthur Machen's "Opening the Door," Richard Laymon had selected "The Colour Out of Space," and the pseudonymous Michel Slade had chosen HPL's "The Rats in the Walls." Campbell happily went with M. R. James's "A Warning to the Curious." Of the writers making selections, only Campbell ("The Pattern" chosen by Poppy Z. Brite) and Dennis Etchison ("The Dog Park," Richard Christian Matheson's pick) were themselves chosen by others. Etchison's choice was the Ambrose Bierce classic, "The Occurence at Owl Creek Ridge." New Englander Rick Hautala goes for fellow New Englander Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Browne," the oldest story in the volume. Harlan Ellison broadens our knowledge in a couple of ways with "The Human Chair" by Japanese writer Taro Hirai writing under the name of Edigawa Rampo. It all makes for not only great reading, but considerable insight into both the writers and history of horror. Far more than just a pastiche of old stories, this paperback "reprint anthology" is well worth a read. Quibbles: (1) No bio data on the selecting authors. (2) No acknowledgement as to who wrote the introduction.

TO BURY THE DEAD
Craig Spector
Harper/ $5.99/ 352 pages
ISBN: 0380793059 book cover The name Craig Spector is familiar to many horror readers as half of the infamous "splatterpunk" writing duo of john Skipp and Craig Spector (THE LIGHT AT THE END, ANIMALS, etc.). Out of novel-writing scene for a number of years, Spector here returns with a mass market solo effort that preserves the best of the Skipp & Spector style while jettisoning its excesses. Protag Paul Kelly is a firefighter on the rescue squad. He's used to dealing with the horror of modern day metro New Jersey, but wife Julie and teen daughter Kyra are the good that balances out the bad. The balance is irrevocably lost when Kyra is murdered. The prime suspect turns out to be another teen and Kelly becomes obsessed with the need to know why his daughter was killed and is willing to do anything to answer the question. The story and characters are ruthlessly authentic and the reader is immediately drawn into a blaze of a novel that never runs out of fuel. Is it horror? It will scare you.


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