I drove a brand-new rental car I couldn’t afford—next year’s model, so in a way it was a car from the future—from the Amherst Amtrak stop and into the Vermont countryside, which was just as picturesque as all the calendar photos had led me to expect. The green mountains flared with red and gold from the changing leaves of fall. I had to stop a couple of times in somnambulant little towns, first for gas and later to use the toilet, and while everyone was polite, talkative even, I felt a few stares. They don’t get a lot of black people around here. Some of these towns: South Shaftsbury and Shaftsbury, East Arlington, and then Arlington—as if having two stoplights or a three-block-long main drag were enough to fission a town into two—were positively nineteenth century. My cell phone didn’t work. They sold maple syrup by the gallon even in the dumpiest of gas stations.
I thought about the brittle old letters in my briefcase, which included (among genial advice on writing and cranky complaints about publishers) a few passages of deep loathing about “the niggers and immigrants who fester and shamble in the slums of our fallen cities.” Ah, Lovecraft. I always wondered how my great-grandfather’s letters back to him might have read. I doubted if old Cavanaugh Payne ever told his idol that he was a “miscegenator” himself. Three generations later, I was fresh out of white skin privilege myself, but I had enough of Cavanaugh’s legacy to clear all my debts, assuming I could ever find the isolated country house where this collector lived.
The hand-drawn map Fremgen had mailed me was crude, and obviously not to scale, so it was a little like following a treasure map made by a pirate with a spatial perception disorder. I’d tried to find better directions online, but none of the map sites even recognized the name of the street he lived on: Goodenough Road. I understood why when, as late afternoon shaded into evening, I found his signless dirt road surrounded by maple and pine trees. The only marker by the rutted track was a squat statue carved out of some black marble; the figure looked like the offspring of a toad and a jellfyish, wearing a weathered, white stone crown. The collector had drawn a little picture of the stone road marker on my map. I’d assumed it was a childish scrawl, but in truth it wasn’t a bad likeness. It wasn’t a bad likeness of a bad likeness anyway.
After bumping down the road—dotted with other even more indescribable statues—for about five minutes I found the house, a three-story wooden monstrosity with a vast front porch wrapped around at least three sides, and carriage house sagging down into itself off to one side. Whatever color these buildings had once been, the boards had faded to a sort of stoney gray, and they both looked on the verge of disintegration. Trees pressing in close, eager to take back the land. I parked the car and got out, and in the silence of dusk the slamming car door was the loudest thing I’d ever heard. I approached the house, with its windows all blinded by curtains, and went up the paint-flecked steps to the porch, where a swing hung broken from one chain. This wasn’t promising. I’d been assured that this collector was wealthy, but he didn’t look rich from here. Maybe I’d turned down the wrong road, and was about to be attacked by some backroads cannibal who wore the skin of his victims as an apron. Well, probably not.
I knocked on the solid wooden door.
WICKED TALES: THE JOURNAL OF THE NEW ENGLAND HORROR WRITERS, VOLUME 3 edited by Scott T. Goudsward, Daniel G. Keohane, and David Price (2015 NEHW Press / 248 pp. / trade paperback & eBook)
With a fun cover like something off a classic issue of EC Comics, featuring a bunch of icky-squishy eldritch horrors pickaxing their way into a cartoon Lovecraft’s grave … yeah, okay, we’re off to a good start … and the introduction by Chet Williamson, “The Old Scribe and the Mysterious Codex,” does a nice job setting up a display case for the assortment of artistic oddities to follow.
‘Somebody’s Darling,’ by Kristin Dearborn, is first up and also one of my favorites, a historical behind-the-battlefield war story where death isn’t the worst fate in store for the wounded, and a young nurse is faced with a troubling dilemma.
Among my other top picks would have to be Sam Gafford’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ – no spoilers, but, it’s a clever and refreshing take on a familiar tale, from the point of view of a usually neglected character.
‘The Hiss of Escaping Air’ by Christopher Golden, is a satisfyingly twisted revenge yarn in which a movie mogul’s trophy wife goes after the most prized item in his collection, only to realize too late that she may have gone too far.
And speaking of satisfyingly twisted revenge yarns, Holly Newstein’s ‘Live With It’ is another winner, in which a chance meeting between former childhood friends leads to a grim reunion with an abusive parent.
Many people don’t read or appreciate poetry enough … I’m trying to get better about it myself, and therefore it’s always nice when I happen across a treat like Tricia J. Woolridge’s ‘The Crocodile Below.’ A poem about mean little kids and crocodiles in the sewer? Yes please!
Of course, I’m also a sucker for some good Viking stuff, so ‘Odd Grimsson, Called Half-Troll’ by John Goodrich was quick to catch my interest. But then, a good gripping saga of visions, curses, and man-vs.-monster will do that!
There are several more stories filling out the table of contents, and I enjoyed most of them. Definitely worth a look!
First published in Paula Guran’s 2011 Lovecraft Mythos anthology, New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird*, “Pickman’s Other Model” is a masterful continuation of H. P. Lovecraft’s original story “Pickman’s Model” that was first published in Weird Tales magazine in October 1927. [Read about the original here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickman%27s_Model
Read the original Lovecraft story here: https://thesanguinewoods.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/pickmans-model-a-story-by-h-p-lovecraft-1927/]
I have never been much for movies, preferring, instead, to take my entertainment in the theater, always favoring living actors over those flickering, garish ghosts magnified and splashed across the walls of dark and smoky rooms at twenty-four frames per second. I’ve never seemed able to get past the knowledge that the apparent motion is merely an optical illusion, a clever procession of still images streaming past my eye at such a rate of speed that I only perceive motion where none actually exists. But in the months before I finally met Vera Endecott, I found myself drawn with increasing regularity to the Boston movie houses, despite this long-standing reservation.
I had been shocked to my core by Thurber’s suicide, though, with the unavailing curse of hindsight, it’s something I should certainly have had the presence of mind to have seen coming. Thurber was an infantryman during the war—La Guerre pour la Civilisation, as he so often called it. He was at the Battle of Saint Mihiel when Pershing failed in his campaign to seize Metz from the Germans, and he survived only to see the atrocities at the Battle of the Argonne Forest less than two weeks later. When he returned home from France early in 1919, Thurber was hardly more than a fading, nervous echo of the man I’d first met during our college years at the Rhode Island School of Design, and, on those increasingly rare occasions when we met and spoke, more often than not our conversations turned from painting and sculpture and matters of aesthetics to the things he’d seen in the muddy trenches and ruined cities of Europe.
And then there was his dogged fascination with that sick bastard Richard Upton Pickman, an obsession that would lead quickly to what I took to be no less than a sort of psychoneurotic fixation on the man and the blasphemies he committed to canvas. When, two years ago, Pickman vanished from the squalor of his North End “studio,” never to be seen again, this fixation only worsened, until Thurber finally came to me with an incredible, nightmarish tale which, at the time, I could only dismiss as the ravings of a mind left unhinged by the bloodshed and madness and countless wartime horrors he’d witnessed along the banks of the Meuse River and then in the wilds of the Argonne Forest.
But I am not the man I was then, that evening we sat together in a dingy tavern near Faneuil Hall (I don’t recall the name of the place, as it wasn’t one of my usual haunts). Even as William Thurber was changed by the war and by whatever it is he may have experienced in the company of Pickman, so too have I been changed, and changed utterly, first by Thurber’s sudden death at his own hands and then by a film actress named Vera Endecott. I do not believe that I have yet lost possession of my mental faculties, and if asked, I would attest before a judge of law that my mind remains sound, if quite shaken. But I cannot now see the world around me the way I once did, for having beheld certain things there can be no return to the unprofaned state of innocence or grace that prevailed before those sights. There can be no return to the sacred cradle of Eden, for the gates are guarded by the flaming swords of cherubim, and the mind may not—excepting in merciful cases of shock and hysterical amnesia—simply forget the weird and dismaying revelations visited upon men and women who choose to ask forbidden questions. And I would be lying if I were to claim that I failed to comprehend, to suspect, that the path I was setting myself upon when I began my investigations following Thurber’s inquest and funeral would lead me where they have. I knew, or I knew well enough. I am not yet so degraded that I am beyond taking responsibility for my own actions and the consequences of those actions.
Table of Contents
ix • Introduction (Black Wings) • essay by S. T. Joshi
5 • Pickman’s Other Model (1929) • (2008) • novelette by Caitlín R. Kiernan
34 • Desert Dreams • (2010) • short story by Donald R. Burleson
46 • Engravings • short story by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
56 • Copping Squid • (2009) • novelette by Michael Shea
78 • Passing Spirits • short story by Sam Gafford
97 • The Broadsword • [The Children of Old Leech] • novella by Laird Barron
142 • Usurped • novelette by William Browning Spencer
163 • Denker’s Book • short story by David J. Schow
172 • Inhabitants of Wraithwood • [Cthulhu Mythos] • novelette by W. H. Pugmire
209 • The Dome • short story by Mollie L. Burleson
218 • Rotterdam • short story by Nicholas Royle
236 • Tempting Providence • novelette by Jonathan Thomas
273 • Howling in the Dark • short story by Darrell Schweitzer
286 • The Truth About Pickman • [Cthulhu Mythos] • short story by Brian Stableford
306 • Tunnels • short story by Philip Haldeman
326 • The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash • novelette by Ramsey Campbell
355 • Violence, Child of Trust • short story by Michael Cisco
364 • Lesser Demons • novelette by Norman Partridge
392 • An Eldritch Matter • short story by Adam Niswander
400 • Substitutions • novelette by Michael Marshall Smith
421 • Susie • short story by Jason Van Hollander
Table of Contents
7 • Introduction: “Black Wings of Cthulhu 2” • (2012) • essay by S. T. Joshi
11 • When Death Wakes Me to Myself • (2012) • novelette by John Shirley
45 • View • (2012) • short story by Tom Fletcher
61 • Houndwife • (2012) • short story by Caitlín R. Kiernan
85 • King of Cat Swamp • (2012) • novelette by Jonathan Thomas
107 • Dead Media • (2012) • short story by Nick Mamatas
125 • The Abject • (2012) • short fiction by Richard Gavin
149 • Dahlias • (2012) • short story by Melanie Tem
159 • Bloom • (2012) • novelette by John Langan
195 • And the Sea Gave Up the Dead • (2012) • short story by Jason C. Eckhardt
213 • Casting Call • (2012) • short story by Don Webb
231 • The Clockwork King, the Queen of Glass, and the Man with the Hundred Knives • (2012) • short story by Darrell Schweitzer
251 • The Other Man • (2012) • short story by Nicholas Royle
263 • Waiting at the Crossroads Motel • (2012) • short story by Steve Rasnic Tem
275 • The Wilcox Remainder • (2012) • short story by Brian Evenson
291 • Correlated Discontents • (2012) • novelette by Rick Dakan
317 • The Skinless Face • (2012) • novelette by Donald Tyson
353 • The History of a Letter • (2012) • short story by Jason V Brock
369 • Appointed • (2012) • short story by Chet Williamson
Volumes 3-6 appear below following A Review of Volume 1…
A Review of Volume 1
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft all know about the Cthulhu Mythos and chances are even if you’re not that familiar with Lovecraft’s tales of terror, you’ve probably heard of “Cthulhu.” That’s because everybody loves Cthulhu (seriously, people love him/it!). So typically when a Lovecraft-inspired anthology is produced, the publisher will go right for more Cthulhu, not only to draw in the average reader, but also because contemporary authors can really make their mark with today’s readers if they offer up a great Cthulhu story.
While slapping a Cthulhu label on a book might be a good marketing strategy, Black Wings of Cthulhu, an anthology of 21 short stories inspired by Lovecraft’s original tales, instead encompasses a lot of aspects of Lovecraft’s writings. Don’t worry, Cthulhu and friends are surely represented and while it’s in the title, it’s not the main focus of this collection — although the big guy is front and center on the book’s gorgeous gold-etched cover.
If you’re like me, you love a good horror series. Hell, series are cool, period, right? I remember my 1970s collection of The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor! I treasured those 19 or 20 comics. Add the amazing artwork and illustrations that a series often comes with, and they’re great! Throw in a great editor and the really good writers, telling their most frightening stories—and series are fantastic!!
I have been collecting Stephen Jones’ The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror since around 2003 and I finally have them all in either hard copy or digital editions. But having more isn’t always easier! I’m always going: Where did I place that one book with the killer vampire story in it? Or which book was that crazy story about the “sticks” in? you know by Wagner?
Well, now-a-days it’s very easy to look things up and put a quick name to a book to a page number … and find just what you’re looking for. But back in the day? It was a treasure hunt!
But look no further—because here is the ultimate Master List (thank you ISFDB & StephenJoneseditor.com) of Tables of Contents from all 28 anthologies!—and the covers!*—almost three decades of great short horror fiction! “That’s gotta be like forty-eight hundred teeth!”
(*If an edition had more than one cover, I’ve included both below.)
xiii • Introduction: Horror in 1989 • [Horror in … Introductions] • (1990) • essay by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell
1 • Pin • (1989) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
8 • The House on Cemetery Street • (1988) • novelette by Cherry Wilder
33 • The Horn • (1989) • novelette by Stephen Gallagher
57 • Breaking Up • (1989) • short story by Alex Quiroba
66 • It Helps If You Sing • (1989) • short story by Ramsey Campbell
75 • Closed Circuit • (1989) • novelette by Laurence Staig
93 • Carnal House • (1989) • short story by Steve Rasnic Tem
104 • Twitch Technicolor • (1989) • short story by Kim Newman
115 • Lizaveta • (1988) • novelette by Gregory Frost
144 • Snow Cancellations • (1989) • short story by Donald R. Burleson
154 • Archway • (1989) • novelette by Nicholas Royle
176 • The Strange Design of Master Rignolo • (1989) • short story by Thomas Ligotti
189 • …To Feel Another’s Woe • (1989) • short story by Chet Williamson
205 • The Last Day of Miss Dorinda Molyneaux • (1989) • novelette by Robert Westall
236 • No Sharks in the Med • (1989) • novelette by Brian Lumley
275 • Mort au Monde • (1989) • short story by D. F. Lewis
279 • Blanca • (1989) • novelette by Thomas Tessier
303 • The Eye of the Ayatollah • (1990) • short story by Ian Watson
312 • At First Just Ghostly • [Kane] • (1989) • novella by Karl Edward Wagner
370 • Bad News • (1989) • short story by Richard Laymon
383 • Necrology: 1989 (Best New Horror) • [Necrology (Jones & Newman)] • (1990) • essay by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
xvii • Introduction: Horror in 1990 • [Horror in … Introductions] • essay by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell
1 • The First Time • (1990) • short story by K. W. Jeter
14 • A Short Guide to the City • (1990) • short story by Peter Straub
25 • Stephen • (1990) • novelette by Elizabeth Massie
47 • The Dead Love You • (1989) • short story by Jonathan Carroll
60 • Jane Doe #112 • (1990) • short story by Harlan Ellison
70 • Shock Radio • (1990) • short story by Ray Garton
89 • The Man Who Drew Cats • (1990) • short story by Michael Marshall Smith
105 • The Co-Op • (1990) • short story by Melanie Tem
115 • Negatives • (1990) • short story by Nicholas Royle
126 • The Last Feast of Harlequin • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1990) • novelette by Thomas Ligotti
159 • 1/72nd Scale • (1990) • novelette by Ian R. MacLeod
185 • Cedar Lane • (1990) • short story by Karl Edward Wagner
194 • At a Window Facing West • (1990) • short story by Kim Antieau
205 • Inside the Walled City • (1990) • novelette by Garry Kilworth
222 • On the Wing • (1990) • short story by Jean-Daniel Brèque
230 • Firebird • (1990) • novelette by J. L. Comeau
252 • Incident on a Rainy Night in Beverly Hills • (1990) • novelette by David J. Schow
272 • His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1990) • short story by Poppy Z. Brite