There are a number of quality stories in the horror genre but few
vehicles in which to showcase them. I keep hoping for a
breakthrough, and we just might have it with DARK DELICACIES, a new
horror anthology edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb. Howison is
the owner of Dark Delicacies, a bookstore that caters to horror
fans. Gelb has made his own contributions to the horror field, most
notably with the critically acclaimed HOT BLOOD anthology series
that he edits with Michael Garrett. Howison and Gelb have assembled
a stellar cast of authors to contribute to the inaugural voyage of
DARK DELICACIES, providing a collection of stories that for the
most part live up to even the grandest expectations.
It would be difficult to top a volume that opens with an original
Ray Bradbury story. The inclusion of "The Reincarnate" sets the
tone of quality that permeates this collection. It is reminiscent
of Bradbury's work in the 1960s --- a fine, bittersweet tale of
loss and yearning with a classic supernatural tone, one that relies
on mood and emotion rather than shock and splatter (not that
there's anything wrong with that!) to carry it along.
There are so many great stories here that it is difficult to pick a
consistent favorite. "The Pyre and Others" by David Schow will
resonate with bibliophiles, while giving a whole new meaning to the
term "dream book." A previously unpublished Richard Laymon story,
"The Drowning Girl," plays on a male fantasy dealing with voyeurism
(as, indeed, much of his work did), yet it is as haunting a work as
one is likely to encounter. William F. Nolan is also
well-represented here with "Depompa." Nolan was writing
well-crafted, understated short stories before I could even hold a
pencil properly (and I'm old enough to remember black-and-white
television). Yet "Depompa" may well be his best work, wherein he
puts a new spin on Hollywood and hero worship with a James
Dean-like actor and a fan with a death wish.
However, I would have to narrow my favorite stories down to three.
"Art of the Game" by F. Paul Wilson is an understated, old-school
story wherein a corrupt cop gets his comeuppance in San Francisco's
Chinatown; "Bloody Mary Morning" by the criminally
under-appreciated John Farris concerns a family of businessmen who
carry the method of their ultimate destiny as a genetic trait; and
"Haeckel's Tale," Clive Barker's best work in years, puts a whole
new twist on grave robbing.
There is only one story in DARK DELICACIES that suffers by its
inclusion, and that is "Kaddish" by Whitley Strieber; it doesn't
seem to belong here at all, either qualitatively or thematically.
Certainly, however, the collective embarrassment of riches
contained here makes one quickly forget about this addition.
The inaugural volume of DARK DELICACIES easily could have been
subtitled "The State of the Horror Genre, 2005." I'll be looking
forward (hopefully) to similar summations in 2006, 2007 and beyond.