Adolphe de Castro’s THE LAST TEST opens the volume, and it’s a slightly muddled outing. A story about an outbreak of the black death works on its own right, and the addition of Cthuloid elements doesn’t really gel. Pulp fans may get a little fun from it, however. Similarly, Zealia Bishop’s MEDUSA’S COIL left me a little cold, mainly because her other work, THE MOUND, is one of my favourite reads of all time. COIL is terribly clichéd (another ‘traveller spends the night in a haunted mansion’ outing) and dated badly in terms of racist attitudes, but it does have an incredible set-piece to recommend it.
Hazel Heald wrote THE HORROR IN THE MUSEUM which is another favourite, but once again, THE MAN OF STONE is a lesser work. There’s a little atmosphere from the obvious narrative, and the return of the old favourite ‘diary extract’ plot device, but not a lot else. Still, her second contribution, OUT OF THE AEONS, makes up for this: AEONS is superb! This is vintage pulp entertainment at its best, full of Lovecraftian references and an engaging story involving a strange mummy in a museum that is somehow still alive.
THE HORROR AT MARTIN’S BEACH by Sonia H. Greene is another strong contender, a well-described nightmare written on the page, full of creepy squid monsters and vivid action. Then there’s C. M. Eddy Jr.’s ASHES, a short, short mad scientist effort, full of the usual, fun ingredients.
Eddy also contributes THE GHOST-EATER, a very good variant on the classic werewolf story, as well as THE LOVED DEAD, his horrifically disturbing, once-banned story about a ghoul living in dank crypts and filthy hovels. But his DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND is annoyingly wishy-washy and pretty boring, despite a neat concept.
Henry S. Whitehead is one of my favourite pulp authors, but THE TRAP isn’t one of his best: the story of a haunted mirror is fairly interesting, but much of the tale is pretty boring. Duane W. Rimel’s THE TREE ON THE HILL is even worse, a too-subtle outing which needs more Lovecraft and less, well, student-style ponderings. Rimel’s THE DISINTERMENT is a little better, a genuinely macabre retelling of the old story about a guy planning to fake his own death, only everything doesn’t go according to plan.
Finally, there’s a double bill from R. H. Barlow. “TILL A’ THE SEAS” is a bleak science fiction tale, heavily written and apocalyptic, but not too distinctive. THE NIGHT OCEAN is loved by some fans, but I didn’t care for the slow-going narration and unresolved tension; I’m no big fan of abstract writing a la Charles L. Grant and this is just that.
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