Sonntag, 17. Juni 2012

Gooseflesh
Edited By Vic Ghidalia
Berkley Books.  December 1974. $0.75

                                                                 My Copy.

 



"The October Game" by Ray Bradbury
 
"The Secret of Death Dome" by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
 
"Three Gentlemen in Black" by August Derleth
 
"The Seed from the Sepulchre" by Clark Ashton Smith
 
"Smith: An Episode in a Lodging House" by Algernon 
 
"The Message on the Slate" by Edward Lucas White
 
"Black Country" by Robert E. Howard


Hey Folks!

     This week’s book is “Gooseflesh!” edited by Vic Ghidalia. Mr. Ghidalia edited 18 anthologies back during the late 1960s up through to the late 1970s. 8 of these were co-edited with “Roger Elwood”.

“Gooseflesh!” is a very good anthology with a wide range of story types. Only one of which would I describe as mediocre. The cover art is nice, but not very inspired. It did its job though, since I can remember picking this one up off of the rack back then.

And now to the stories!

"The October Game" by Ray Bradbury

     Since this is a Horror Blog I have to assume that many, if not most, of you are familiar with this story.  “The October Game” shows us what we lost when Ray Bradbury, God rest his soul, quit writing out and out horror stories and instead became Ray Bradbury™.
Mr. Bradbury always came off as a kindly soul with a strong sense of whimsy and nostalgia. This is absolutely correct, but he also had a very dark side to some of his early stories, most of which appeared in “Weird Tales: the Unique Magazine”. What has always surprised me is that this story has been anthologized so many times but isn’t published in “The October Country” which reprints many of Bradbury’s stories that appeared in “Weird Tales”. “The October Game” originally appeared in the March 48 issue of “Weird Tales”.
Anyways, lots of people would be shocked to see just how down and dirty Uncle Ray could get when he set his mind to it. This is one of the first stories that I can remember that had such a vicious, mean and nasty ending that I was truly shocked. The ending is so awful that even though it is 100% clear where the story is going you still can’t believe that Uncle Ray would actually take us there. He does though, and that’s what makes it so shocking. What happens in the story is now, sadly, an everyday occurrence which I’m assuming was pretty seldom 64 years ago. I won’t give too much away. It’s Halloween, at a children’s party, Mommy and Daddy are having an extremely nasty divorce and Daddy uses an innocent children’s game to exact the most horrible revenge possible on Mommy!  This reads more like a “Charles birkin” story than one from Mr. Bradbury. It’s that nasty.


"The Secret of Death Dome" by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
 
     I’m not quite sure why Mr. Miller’s “Death dome” was included in this anthology. It’s actually a two fisted SF tale with what I think are heavy satirical overtones. Regardless, it’s a great story though. Even though Mr. Miller is most famous for writing the classic SF novel “ACanticle for Leibowitz”. He also wrote quite a few other SF short stories. The only one of these that I can remember deals with babies/foetuses being used as hardwired on-board computers for space ships. And it wasn't a very pleasant story. “Death Dome” deals with a huge Martian spaceship/outpost that lands out in the American southwest sometime in an undisclosed future. It seems that the Martians want to study humanity. They do this by testing our weapons capabilities, feeding us tons of disinformation about themselves and their purposes. and kidnapping people for vivisection. This section of desert becomes closed off to the public by the government with a heavily patrolled perimeter. Two of the perimeter guards are Barney and Jerry. They are best friends. They are such best friends that they even remain friends after Barney steals Jerry’s girl and marries her. They are such best friends that the bartender in their favourite bar chains their bar stools together as a symbol of a sort of marriage between the two men. They are even described as “side riders”, what ever that actually means. Anyways one days Barney stumbles dying into town when he should be out on patrol duty. Jerry races to his side (it’s a very small town). At first no injuries are apparent, so Jerry opens up Barney’s pants only to discover that he has been castrated by the Martians. This sets Jerry into a rage that his best friend has been emasculated. He does believe though that death is the only option in a situation such as this. Barney’s body gets taken to his young widow since there is no mortuary in town. She does the only logical thing by placing Barney’s corpse in their bed, kisses him goodnight and goes and sleeps on the sofa. Maybe it’s just me, but this whole undercurrent of damaged and frustrated sexuality is pretty bizarre. That’s why I think that it’s actually satire. I mean Jerry is almost driven insane by the thought of Barney’s castration and the fact that Barney wouldn’t have been able to “take care” of his hot young wife if he hadn’t died. Later on the same evening Barney’s widow “Betty” informs Jerry that if he was “man enough” he would do something about Barney’s mutilation and subsequent death. Jerry goes into another rage and takes off into the desert on his horse hoping to get kidnapped by the Martians so that he can learn their secret, avenge his friend and prove his own “manhood” to Betty. One of the big disinformational tid-bits that the Martians have feed the humans is that they are asexual and reproduce by dividing down the middle. They never leave their ship so we only know what they tell us by radio communications. Jerry gets captured, as does Betty when she comes searching for him so she can apologize. They end up finding out the HUGE Martian secret, defeat said Martians, save the entire world and rediscover their love for each other. All of this is done in such an over the top “two fisted” manner that I can’t believe that Mr. Miller wasn’t having a little bit of fun with us.  It “almost” reads like something Robert E. Howard would have written.  Satire or not, horror or not, it’s still a great story though and lots of fun!


"Three Gentlemen in Black" by August Derleth

     This is the only weak/mediocre story in the entire book. I’m a fan of Mr. Derleth’s writing as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with the “Cthulhu Mythos”. This story though is just plain filler.  A man buys a house in the country so he can lay low while he waits for his Uncle/Guardian to die. The guy knows his Uncle will die one of these days since he replaced one of the old guys heart pills with poisoned and it’s just a matter of time before he gets to it.
So he moves into a house in the country that seems somewhat familiar. It’s haunted by the ghosts of 2 old men. The 2 old men turn out to be his two great uncles whom his father murdered for their money and they are spirit bound to the house. After his father drowned the 2 old men and made it look like a boating accident he killed himself out of fear. The Uncle finally dies and a 3rd ghost shows up. You can guess what happens. Sorry Mr. Derleth, I do love you, but YAWN!


"The Seed from the Sepulchre" by Clark Ashton Smith

     This has been reprinted so many times that I won’t go to deeply into it since I did that in an early post a while back.  Just want to say that this is another nasty little story that pays off in a big way. It’s also one of the few CAS stories to take place in our world and during “modern” times. I believe that the guy who wrote the book “The Ruins” had to have read this story at one time. All I’ll say now it that if you ever do decide to break into some old  south American pre-Columbian jungle pyramid ruins, then for God’s sake don’t breath in any man eating plant spores or you’ll end up with a bitch of a bursting headache!


"Smith: An Episode in a Lodging House" by Algernon Blackwood

     This is a good one from Mr. Blackwood. A young medical student in London during the end of the 19th century befriends the lodger who rooms above him. It seems that Mr. Smith a practitioner of magic and some of his experiments tend to get out of hand at times. This story covers a few of those instances.  It’s a fun story, fairly scary and with a moderately happy end. Not your typical Blackwood story as far as the happy end part.


"The Message on the Slate" by Edward Lucas White

     This is only the 2nd story I’ve ever read by Mr. White. The other is “Lukundoo” which is a very good African black Magic revenge tale that been constantly reprinted over the years. “Message” deals with a young socialite who marries her childhood love after his first wife passes away. She only wins his hand by wearing him down. He marries her only with the condition that she will never have his love and that he will be morning his first wife until the end of his life. The socialite accepts these terms only to become terribly unhappy with her husbands dispassion and lack of interest in life. He is faithful to her and never mistreats her, but he’s just the shell of a man going through the motions of life. The new wife is also extremely curios about the events that took place at the first wife’s funeral. The grieving husband demanded to be left alone for one hour with the corpse of his deceased wife after having a 2nd coffin brought in and set up beside his wife’s and afterwards had the 2nd coffin buried on top of his deceased wife’s.
     The new wife approaches a clairvoyant after being told in a dream to seek one out to find the solution for her unhappiness..  The dream instructs her to find the clairvoyant by going to a specific drawer in her dressing room chest of drawers and take the seventh newspaper from a stack of them in the 7th drawer and go to the 7th column on the 7th page. She does this and discovers the clairvoyant’s advertisement. It turns out that the psychic has loved her from a far and confesses to being a charlatan and that his advice is pure common sense. He tries his best to dissuade the young women form her quest to win her husbands love. She demands that help her if he truly loves her. He tries to help by lending a sympathetic ear and giving common sense advice. This helps at first and we see the motives of the “psychic” are pure.
The young wife has another dream saying that the psychic should attempt automatic writing to find the answer to her problem. The psychic is totally against the attempt as he reminds her that he is a con-man and fraud and has no supernatural abilities. She bullies him into attempting this anyways. Much to both of their surprise and horror the experiment is successful. The psychic has no plausible explanation for this occurrence and is deeply disturbed. The advice states that if she has the 2nd mysterious coffin exhumed then her problem will die.
You probably see where this is going and all hell breaks loose at the exhumation. The story isn’t all that scary, but is very well written that keeps your attention on the story and the people. The ending is very moving, but I don’t want to give everything away.



"Black Country" by Robert E. Howard

   Black Country” is an extreme rarity. It’s a story from Robert E. Howard that I’ve never read before. Wow! I “think” that this remained unpublished during Mr. Howard’s lifetime, but I’m not quite sure. It might have been in the famous trunk of unpublished material that “Glenn Lord”, God rest his soul too, obtained from the Howard Estate.
This is the kind of over the top hysterical story from REH that I like best. It’s extremely un-politically correct. I mean borderline racist. So yes, that does dampen my enthusiasm a bit. It deals with a man working a very remote trading post in deepest darkest Africa. As far as Africa goes, that was the only kind back then. The locals are your typical lot of primitive, bloodthirsty, superstitious, homicidal savage. I love his stories dearly, but this is REH we’re talking about here. So you have the White guy from the trading post witnessing a genocidal war between two rival tribes that has been instigated by their respective medicine men. So we have murder, mutilation, torture, black rampages and black magic. The typical fare of 1930s pulp wititng. As offensive as it can be, I have to admit that I do love this stuff (i.e. REH at his worst and not his best, and his best is truly AWSOME to behold!) and it’s a guilty pleasure which I take with a HUGE grain of salt. The story is a lot of insane fun which has a beautifully bloody conclusion involving a severed head.

Here’s he opening of the story…….

“Any man who has ever spent any time on the west coast of Africa will be loath to say that anything is impossible. Even a newcomer can look into the pulsing darkness at midnight and admit to himself that anything could come out of the jungle. In that abhorrent land of swamps, black river, nauseous diseases and mysterious tribes, the Caucasian brain disintegrates swiftly, and men fall prey to strange broodings.”

As un-PC as that is, it’s by itself worth the $0.75 cover price.

So all in all this is a very rewarding anthology with only 2 stories that have been  over anthologized and only one weak story in the book. Read it if you can find it.

Thanks for stopping by.
Doug

P.S.
Here’s a little video in honour of REH’s African stories!









    



Kommentare:

  1. Ah, Vic Ghidalia. Not only did I own a bunch of his anthologies, this one included, but around '76 or so he ran an ad in an adzine Caz Cazedessus (of ERB-dom fame) was putting out offering several items from his collection for sale, & I wound up acquiring my copy of Meade & Penny Frierson's seminal "HPL" from him, as well as some other stuff I can't recall. Those are long gone, I'm sure, but "HPL" luckily surived the disappearance of most of my collection the following decade.

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  2. Hi gef,


    That's both cool and sad. Cool that you bought from him and sad that he was selling off his stuff.

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  3. Indeed. It would appear that editing anthologies wasn't exactly the way to fabulous wealth.

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  4. Editing probably pays worde than writing and just think of all the "famous/successeful" authors who died poor.

    Doug

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  5. Editors (of which I'm the online version) definitely make less than writers where I work. Or, I should say, *made* -- the staff writer retired about a year ago & wasn't replaced. Ouch!

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