Monday, November 26, 2012

The Big Book of Ghost Stories, ed. Otto Penzler

Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2012
833 pp

There is nothing I like better than a good, old-fashioned ghost story, and here in The Big Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Otto Penzler, I am completely in my element.  Ghosts are everywhere, roaming in the old English abbeys, conjured up in the eerie atmosphere of the Victorian seance room, moaning in old castles, sailing the seas, you name it, and a ghost will be found there.  This is an incredible collection, one I couldn't wait to get to every time I had a moment to pick it up.  

The stories in this book are divided into thirteen (of course!) sections and cover a broad spectrum of authors, many of whom are known for their supernatural writings as well as others whose work is not as famous.  As Penzler notes in his introduction, many of the stories that appear in this volume have not previously been anthologized, nor have they appeared in book form anywhere else. And as he states, the stories that are found between the covers cover the range from the Late Victorian era through the heyday of the pulp mags, and he's also included some of the works of modern tellers of ghostly tales. I found perhaps two out of the entire collection that just didn't do it for me; the rest more than surpassed the creep factor I always hope to feel when reading a good anthology of scary stories.    

There's just nothing more to say really, except that if you're a huge fan of ghost stories, if you can move beyond the vampire/zombie/werewolf genres that top the horror charts today,  and if you are not bound to the gory, hack/slash horror to get your chills, this book just might do it.  It's incredibly rare to find a near-perfect anthology of stories; this one definitely fits that bill.  There's an added bonus as well:  when introducing each story, there is a short blurb about each author and his or her other works.  I've used this feature to full advantage for future ghost-story reading.  

Super book, best read at night when everyone's asleep and it's eerily quiet, The Big Book of Ghost Stories will likely most please readers of more cerebral weird/horror tales rather than what's popular on the shelves today.  I highly recommend it!

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