Sonntag, 22. Juli 2012

Horror Times Ten

Cover blurb:
Ten chilling Tales of Horror By such Masters as Ray Bradbury. August Derleth, Robert Bloch and H.P. Lovecraft
Edited by Alden H. Norton
Berkley Medallion Books.
9th Printing. February 1972. $0.60

                                            My copy.

  • 7 · Introduction · Alden H. Norton · in
  • 10 · The Trunk Lady · Ray Bradbury · ss Detective Tales Sep ’44
  • 30 · Cool Air · H. P. Lovecraft · ss Tales of Magic and Mystery Mar ’28; Weird Tales Sep ’39
  • 40 · The Lonesome Place · August Derleth · ss Famous Fantastic Mysteries Feb ’48
  • 49 · The Dead Remember · Robert E. Howard · ss Argosy Aug 15 ’36
  • 58 · The Captain of the “Pole-Star” · Arthur Conan Doyle · nv Temple Bar Jan, 1883
  • 82 · That Receding Brow · Max Brand · nv All-Story Weekly Feb 15 ’19
  • 124 · His Unconquerable Enemy [“The Rajah’s Nemesis”] · W. C. Morrow · ss The Argonaut Mar 11, 1889; Weird Tales Aug ’29
  • 135 · The Dead Valley · Ralph Adams Cram · ss Black Spirits and White, Stone & Kimball: Chicago, 1895
  • 145 · The Gorgon’s Head · Gertrude Bacon · ss The Strand Dec, 1899; as by Dorothy Baker in toc.
  • 157 · The Skeleton in the Closet · Robert Bloch · ss Fantastic Adventures Jun ’43

Hi Folks,
This week’s book is “Horrors Times Ten” edited by “Alden H. Norton” with stories introductions by “SamMoskowitz”.  Mr. Norton was editor of over 30 pulp magazines over the years. He edited “Argosy”, “Famous FantasticMysteries, Fantastic Novels, Super Science Stories, Astounding Science Fiction and many others. Mr. Moskowitz was one of the original founders of organized SF fandom, SF-Fantasy& Horror expert/historian, critic and writer. You would hope that with the combined talents of both men that you would be holding a first class anthology in your hands. Don’t worry; it is a first class anthology! “Horror Times Ten” went through 9 printings between June 1968 and February 1972. This must have been a pretty popular book. This was one of four horror anthologies that Mr. Norton edited. The others are “Masters of Horror”, “Hauntings and Horrors” and “Horrors in Hiding”. I never ever saw a single on of these books in the paperback racks. I was only aware of them through the ads in the back of “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. Happily (for me) I own all of them now and eventualy I'll cover the others too. I posted scans of these FM ads a few weeks ago. So scroll down if you want to take a gander at them.
I find “Horror x10” to be an exceptional anthology. Mr. Norton says in his introduction that he wanted to include stories that haven’t been included in other anthologies. I’ll admit that there were quite a few stories that were new to me. The “H. P. Lovecraft” and “August Derleth” Stories weren’t new to me, but then again how many later collections reprinted them to death?
“Horror Times Ten” also sports one of those wonderfully creepy, Halloween kinds of covers that I love. The sloppily buried reminds me of “Basil Rathbone”. And come to think about it, I think that he quite making films at about the time this anthology was originally published.

Now let’s take a look at the stories!

This is more of a mystery than a horror story. It’s also a Ray Bradbury story that I’ve never had the pleasure of reading! It’s only been anthologized twice. That was a very nice surprise! What makes “The Trunk Lady” even more special is that is such an early story from Mr. Bradbury that it is totally lacking in any of the whimsy or sentimental nostalgia that was to become Mr. Bradbury’s trade mark later on. This is a nice little “vanishing corpse” mystery. A little boy discovers, while playing in the attic” the body of a recently strangled young woman. He tries to tell his parents, but sadly, the corpse doesn’t play along and vanishes. No one seems to want to believe him. And even stranger, they seem to want to shut him up about the matter completely. Several generations of the boy’s family all live together in the mansion and all are eccentric enough to be possible suspects. One of them is even sneaking into the boy’s darkened bedroom at night while they think he is asleep. So it’s quite natural when little Johnny Menlo starts becoming quite worried and paranoid. I liked the story a lot. It’s not your typical Ray Bradbury story. It would have made a great episode on the old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.

Cool Air 
I’m surprised that this was considered a “rare” story. Okay, maybe Mr. Norton meant that it hadn’t been reprinted outside of Lovecraft collections. I like “Cool Air”. It’s an enjoyable little non-“Mythos” story from Mr. Lovecraft. All I say is that if you have any truly odd neighbours, then maybe you should just leave them alone. And think about ehat happens to all that meat in your freezer when the electricity fails.

The Lonesome Place 
Mr. Derleth’s “The Lonesome Place” is one of the all time great stories about the horrors of childhood. I could write an entire post just about how much I love this story. I first read it in the very early 1970s in “Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural” (edited by Henry Mazzeo and illustrated by “Edward Gorey”.). This was one of the best books we had in the library at Johnny Clem Elementary School in Newark Ohio. I still have a copy. To bad it was never released in paperback. It is truly a classic anthology.
“The Lonesome Place” deals mainly with a child’s fear not so much of the dark, but of what can be hiding in the darkness. The narrator (Derleth?) recalls how during his childhood he would have to walk home after dark down long un-lit tree lined streets. The worst part of his walk home is past a darkened and tree lined lumber yard. He becomes convinced that something is hiding among the piles of lumber waiting to get him. His best friend is also convinced that something is hiding there at night. By the end of the story this fear of a monster is confirmed when something terrible happens on the exact same spot a few years later. Wonderful, wonderful story! It works on every level and is in my opinion the very best story Mr. Derleth ever wrote.
One of the reasons I love this story is that even thought it takes place in a small town in Wisconsin, it reminded me so much of my own hometown of Newark Ohio which only had a population of about 35,000 people back then. The neighbourhood that I grew up in was almost at the edge of town. Rugg Avenue was also one the last street built before WWII. The neighbourhood between us and the edge of town was built in the 1950s. So I lived on a street built around 1900 with old style houses. That basically means we had front porches and side walks. Rugg Avenue was also one the very few streets still paved with brick. It was long and narrow with one street light at each side street. There only three of these along the entire street. What made it worse was that every single house in this part of town had two huge old maple trees that not only touched side by side, but arched across the street to touch each other. This made for some very long and very dark walks home. And don’t forget that 40+ years ago most people were home for the day by 6PM. The concept of 24/7 didn’t exist back then. My friend Rod lived on the parallel street a block over and at the opposite end. He had a huge collection of pre-code comics that were passed down from his dad and uncle. So walking home early evenings down very long dark streets with a head full of gory horror comics wasn’t very induceful to a peaceful state of mind. Most of the times no one even had a porch light on. So being the over imaginative little dork that I was, I ended up running home quite a few times after becoming convinced that something was out there with me.
That’s why I love this story so much.

The Dead Remember
This is a nifty story by REH that is told entirely in flashback through letters and sworn court affidavits. A drunken racist cowboy murders a black couple who he stopped by visit while on his way to town. The cowboy looses at playing dice and accuses his host of cheating him. A heated argument ensues and the innocent pair gets murdered by the cowboy. The woman curses the cowboy with here dying breath. What follows is a short,  but suspenseful “revenge from the grave” story. I liked it. It’s a shame thought that Mr. Howard didn’t break into to Argosy until after his death!

The Captain of the “Pole-Star” 
I have this in a collection of Conan Doyle horror stories, but had never gotten around to reading it. That was a mistake since this is one genuinely creepy story. Doyle himself had been a Doctor on a whaling ship above the Artic circle and those experiences add a weight of authenticity to this sad and scary story. With out giving too much away the story is about a whaling ship that is threatened to be cut off by shifting ice flows near the North Pole. To make matters worse, the Captain himself appears to be haunted or at least going insane. And this haunting/insanity seems to be spreading through the ship. This is a genuinely creepy story that you won’t quickly forget.

That Receding Brow  
„Max Brand“is remembered today for being one of the greatest western writers who ever lived. He was also one of the greatest pulp writers of his day. He wrote over 500 novels under 19 pseudonyms. His real name was Frederick Schiller Faust. He was killed during WWII in Italy while working as a front line correspondent.
“That Receding Brow” is an interesting, but fairly odd kind of story. It starts out as “lost world science fiction” and turns into supernatural horror revenge story.  I won’t say too much about it. I just want to point out though that if you are going to befriend a missing link Sasquatch creature then don’t go and murder his mate. You shouldn’t do this especially if he turns out to be some kind of nature Elemental. I enjoyed this genre mash-up myself, but I couldn’t really recommend to most other readers.

 His Unconquerable Enemy (“The Rajah’s Nemesis”)
This is one mondo bizzarro revenge tale taking place in India back in the 19th century. It reads almost like proto torture porn.  A servant angers a Rajah and keeps getting limbs lopped of. In the end he’s just a torso in a bag when he finally gets his revenge on the Rajah. What is so weird is the matter of fact narration by a visiting British M.D. Who not only witnesses the entire events, but even completes the amputations of the disgruntled servant’s arms and legs after each attempted at severing a limb is botched by the royal executioner. Our disinterested narrator even watches the “human caterpillar” carry off his final revenge against the Rajah without even batting an eye or lifting a finger to intercede in the unfolding tragedy. This story is so bizarre that it has to be read to be believed. It even has a dismembered child in it to spice things up. As if the dismemberment and torture of servants isn’t enough to make this story a full fledged creep out.

The Dead Valley 
This one was pretty good. A couple of Swedish kids discover a lost valley full of deadly fog with a bone surrounded dead giant dead Oak tree in the middle of it. This is aA short and weird, but not very memorable story. It makes for a nice filler story. And  it might be mostly  of interest to completists.

The Skeleton in the Closet 
This one is a short piece of humorous horror that Mr. Bloch loved so well to write.
Mr. Bloch was a wonderful author. He liked to try to write funny stories at times. Some of these of stories even had their own kind of charm since he liked to end them with some of the most groan inducing puns that the world has ever seen. It’s sad to say though that this isn’t one of them.
A young man inherits his late Uncle’s mansion only to discover a living talking skeleton hanging in the closet. It turns out that his uncle was a magician, that he was murdered and this is his skeleton. So the two of them go on a zany search to find out who killed the uncle and placed him in this state.
In his introduction to the story, Sam Moskowitz, says that they wanted to end the collection on a lighter note. As much as I love and admire Mr. Bloch, I think that this story ends the anthology on a weak note. I found the story to be lame and terribly dated.

All in all, I think that “Horror Times Ten” is a very good anthology with several rarely seen stories. It’s  a book that’s well worth seeking out.

That’s it for this week.
Thanks for stopping by.


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