Poe’s Shadow

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914
Leslie S. Klinger, ed.
Pegasus Books
Hardcover $24.95, Paperback $15.95, Digital $15.95

Here’s a little something for the horror aficionado, although I suspect most horror fans will have read many of the stories in this volume.

While Poe himself has no story in the volume (and why not, I want to know), his influence is seen in most of the selections, if for no other reason than Poe’s reputation has eclipsed most other writers of the supernatural from the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries in the minds of the general public.  The horror fan will recognize most of the names, if not all.  The tales Mr. Klinger has chosen are not always the best known works by the better known authors such as M. R. James, E. T. A. Hoffman, or Arthur Conan Doyle.  I do wonder why W. W. Jacobs was not included in this volume; probably because his career extended to far past the period the anthology covers.

The subtitle of the book is Classic Tales of Horror, even though on the dust jacket it says Classic Tales of Terror.  There is a difference between horror and terror, and these are definitely horror stories.  An example is Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” (1893), a tale of racial tensions that contains absolutely no supernatural elements and is one of the most horrifying in the book.

The subtitle of the anthology also includes the word “classic”.  I’m not sure every story qualifies for that distinction, but there are some that do, such as “The Upper Berth” by F. Marion Crawford and “The Yellow Sign” by Robert W. Chambers.  Bram Stoker’s “The Squaw” (a personal favorite of mine) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” are also well known.

There are twenty stories in the book.  I’m going to focus on just a few.  The first one I originally read in high school in an old anthology edited by Alden H. Norton. I haven’t read “His Unconquerable Enemy” by W. C. Morrow since then, but it’s stayed with me for decades.  I can even remember where I was when I read it.  (The middle of a gravel road out in the boondocks, waiting for the crop duster to come back.  But that’s another story.)  This is a grizzly tale of a man who has had his arms and legs amputated by a local rajah as punishment for his crimes.  The amputee is bent on revenge and manages to get it.  You’ll have to read the story to find out how.

Hanns Heinz Ewers was a German writer whose work fell out of favor due to his association with the Nazis.  (He wasn’t a member of the party, but he was sympathetic to them.)  The plot of “The Spider” will probably be familiar to many readers, but it was well done.  The story concerns a medical student who rents a hotel room in which someone has hung themselves every Friday evening for the last three weeks.  Ewers work is available in electronic form.

The author whose work isn’t as easily available, at least the collection containing the story under consideration here, is T. L. T. Meade.  Meade wrote a number of stories and books for girls, and these are readily available (uh, no thanks).  Her mysteries seem interesting, though.  In “The Woman With the Hood”, a doctor taking over a colleague’s practice in the country has to cure a patient of a haunting.  This one was good and scary because only the patient, a young woman in her late teens, can see the apparition in a hooded grave cloak who visits her in the night.

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe is a solid anthology.  I liked all the stories and loved many of them.  The writing style is a bit different from contemporary fiction, being a bit more lush and descriptive.  Even with the stylistic differences, these are solid well-told stories, worth a read.  Don’t let the prices scare put you off.  I put the publisher’s prices at the top of the post, but as I’m writing this, Amazon has discounted all of them by quite a bit.  I don’t know how long those discounts will last, so if you think this anthology might be for you, you  might want to act now.

I’ve got a few other anthologies focusing on the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries I’ll be reviewing over the next year.

2 thoughts on “Poe’s Shadow

  1. Matthew

    There’s a graphic novel of the same name about Poe’s life. I haven’t read it so I don’t know if it’s any good.

    Have you read anything by Jean Ray, the Belgian horror writer (not the arts and crafts woman)? He’s considered the french language equivalent of Poe or Lovecraft. His work is hard to find in the US (and expensive.) I read two of his stories in the collection The Weird: The Mainz Psalter and The Shadowy Street. They were really good.

    1. Keith West Post author

      I’ll keep my eye out for the graphic novel. I’ve not heard of Jean Ray. Thanks for mentioning him. I’ll keep my eye out for him.


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