The Eighth Black Book of Horror
The Eighth Black Book of Horror is a collection of 13 short horror stories edited by Charles Black and published by Mortbury Press.
The Eighth Black Book of Horror starts with a classic, Victorian-style ghost story about the grave of a man buried standing upright. I thought this may set the scene for the rest of the collection but the styles and settings vary from story to story. I found this refreshing as short stories that are too similar can leave me feeling a bit bored and with a tendency to skim read. This collection jumps straight from the Victoriana era to traditional working men’s clubs; so no confusion there!
The Eighth Black Book of Horror review
There were three stories in The Eighth Black Book of Horror that really stood out to me. The first was called Tok, written by Paul Finch. The tale begins with Don and Bernadette travelling to visit Don’s mother Miriam, at a housing estate where a murderer is on the loose. Bernadette agrees to stay with Miriam when Don cannot get time off from his security work, not realising what a vulnerable position she is putting herself in until it is too late. Bernadette’s shocking and unnerving discovery of a mutant looking creature Miriam keeps is just the beginning.
The second was The Coal-Man by Thana Niveau. I think this was my favourite tale after just the first paragraph:
“The long black arm snaked out of the pillow and a hand with chalky fingers closed over Jen’s mouth. The fingers prised her lips open and slipped inside, crumbling to charcoal dust as they clawed their way down her throat.”
This is a deliciously dark tale of Jen, a young lady haunted by the death of her sister and the eerie ‘Coal-Man’ that took her… or did he? Committed as a child for blaming her sister’s death on a monster she admits started as a figment of her own imagination, she struggles to figure out if she is being haunted by a monster or is losing her mind. When her parents die in a drink driving accident, coal at the crime scene is brushed under the carpet as mere coincidence but Jen knows better.
When Jen is released from the asylum as an adult, she returns to the family home. Here, she lies in her bed at night and listens to lumps of coal fall down the inside of the walls, out of holes in the skirting boards and onto the carpet around her bed. One day she cracks and decides she needs to know for certain one way or another if these lumps of coal are real, or if she really is suffering from delusions.
The last story in the collection, Mea Culpa by Kate Farrell also resonated with me. Not so much for the horror aspect but for the twist in the ending that really left me thinking. I don’t want to include any spoilers so I will leave it at that but Farrell’s story was perfect to wrap up this collection.
It may or may not be a coincidence that my favourite stories from this collection were generally the longest. I think horror is a very difficult genre to create in such a short period, with the atmosphere being such a huge part of the style.
If you are a fan of short stories in general, I think you will love this collection as there are some great ideas and brilliant writing. But, if you are a fan of being completely absorbed by a book, this may not be quite for you. Many of the stories just do not have the time to fully grab the reader.
If you like The Eighth Black Book of Horror you’ll love The Troop by Nick Cutter.