A Review of Six Scary Stories

king15large_360x540Six Scary Stories
Selected by Stephen King
Cemetery Dance
hardcover $24.95 (with custom slipcase $49.90)
paperback $14.95
ebook $4.99

I’d already bought but hadn’t had a chance to read the electronic version of this book when a review copy showed up in the mail.  Cool.  Now I can read the book in either format.  Then I did a very foolish thing.  I, um, well…I put the book on my desk.  Where it disappeared.

I found it when I was moving things from the desk to the new bookshelf.  I dove right in and finished it in two or three nights.  Which isn’t bad with all the time constraints I’ve got at the moment, but is pretty slow compared to my regular reading rate.  (To give you an idea of how tight things are at the moment, I finished the book over a week ago and am just now getting a few minutes to sit down and write.)

In case you just fell off a turnip truck awoke from a coma and don’t know the genesis of this little anthology, Stephen King was asked by his British publisher to select a story in a contest the publisher was running to promote The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.   The publisher would select the final shortlist of six (from what turned out to be over 800 entries).  King would make the final selection from those.  King writes in his introduction that he had hoped to find one good story among the finalists.  What he found were six stories of publishable quality.  Hence, the anthology we’re discussing.  Here’s a quick summary of the contents:

“Wild Swimming” by Elodie Harper.  The lead-off story is the one King would have selected if he had been restricted to one story.  It’s the epistolary tale of a woman, Chrissy, staying in a small  town in a former Soviet block country.  She’s waiting on someone who has been delayed.  Chrissy participates in a a hobby called wild swimming.   I’m not quite sure how that differs from swimming in a lake, which is a common practice where I live, but that’s what she does.  There’s a lake outside the village where she’s rooming, and it covers a town that the communist government had flooded.  Her landlady insists that Chrissy is not to swim in the lake, and of course she does.  The outcome, well, this is an anthology of horror stories.  There were some nice Lovecraftian overtones to this one.

Manuela Sargossa tells the story of how an abusive husband continues to torment his wife and drive a wedge between her and their young daughter in “Eau-de-Eric”.

In “The Spots”, Paul Bassett Davis takes us to a totalitarian world in which one of the madman running the country asks (and by “asks” I mean “commands”) one of his old friends to count a leopard’s spots.  The problem?  The leopard is very much alive.

Michael Button provides a disturbing suggestion to what the toys get up to when everyone’s asleep in “The Unpicking”.

“La Mort de L’amant” by Stuart Johnstone is a short little tale that leaves everything to your imagination, such as what’s really wrapped in the tarp in his truck.  It’s also a good example of who a clever writer can intentionally incorporate a number of cliches into his work and make them fit perfectly.

The last story in the anthology, “The Bear Trap” by Neil Hudson, is a post apocalyptic tale of a boy left alone with just his bears.  One day a man comes by and decides he wants to take over the boy’s farm.  He doesn’t realize that just because a child carries a stuffed bear doesn’t mean the child is helpless.

Six Scary Stories is a great little anthology.  All of the stories were top notch.  Each one was disturbing in its own way.  And while you might not recognize the names on the table of contents, this is an anthology that shows you how horror is supposed to be written.  It’s certainly making me want to up my game on the project I’ve got going.

This one is highly recommended.

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