A Book Of Horrors

Hardcover:400 pages

Publisher:Jo Fletcher Books



ISBN-13: 978-0857388087

I’ll admit that I’m not a lover of anthologies. I own several, including Robert Aickman‘s Cold Hand in Mine and Ramsey Campbell‘s Superhorror. I’ve had those some years and still haven’t read all the stories in them. I always prefer to read a novel by a writer I like or have just discovered. A Book of Horrors is, I must say, a hefty slab in hardback and has a splendidly creepy cover, but I have been skirting around it for longer than I should. Not for the first time in my life, I’ve been a fool.

This collection of short stories, edited by Stephen James and published by Jo Fletcher Books http://www.jofletcherbooks.com/ assembles original works from no fewer than fourteen accomplished horrorists. The list includes Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Robert Shearman and John Ajvide Linqvist.

Now, it’s no secret chez moi that I’m a Lindqvist fan. I have loved everything he’s ever written. So it was his contribution that I went to first. The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer is a splendidly chilling tale, and one of which Lindqvist himself says “It might be the one story I have written that has scared me the most……I wrote on in a state of mild but constant horror…It was a relief when it was over.”

For me, quite unashamedly, A Book of Horrors is well worth having just for the Lindqvist contribution, but I’d be doubly foolish to overlook all of the others that sit so well with it between these superbly crafted covers. To have so many of the best horror writers of our day to dip in and out of makes for a must-have book.

The big surprise is the introduction from editor Stephen Jones, to my mind, a work of genius in itself. To quote from it:

“What the Hell happened to the horror genre?…These days our bloodsuckers are more likely to show their romantic nature, werewolves work for government organisations, phantoms are private investigators and the walking dead can be found sipping tea amongst the polite society of a Jane Austen novel…..Today we are living in a world that is ‘horror-lite’…This appalling appellation was coined by publishers to describe the type of fiction that is currently enjoying massive success under such genres as ‘paranormal romance’, ‘urban fantasy’, ‘literary mash-up’ or even ‘steampunk’…these books are not aimed at readers of traditional horror stories.”

Thank heavens – or maybe Hell – that someone knows what we really want.

A Book of Horrors. 5 stars from me. Buy it – if only for the introduction!

Let The Right One In


Title: Let The Right One In

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Publisher: Quercus http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/

ISBN: 978-1847241696



Oskar and Eli. In very different ways, they were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends. And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself. Oskar is a 12 year old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city’s edge. He dreams about his absentee father, gets bullied at school, and wets himself when he’s frightened. Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She doesn’t go to school and never leaves the flat by day. She is a 200 year old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood. John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, a huge bestseller in his native Sweden, is a unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend. And a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.


I should have read Let The Right One In before I read Little Star (see my review) but only because this was Lindqvist’s first novel. Fortunately, the two are stand alone and in terms of the stories can be read in any order, but I think writers who read them chronologically will appreciate the evident development of Linqvist’s style and technique. There is much to be learned.

I have to confess I am now a firm fan of this Scandinavian author, albeit late to the party. I saw the film of this book and enjoyed it, and even if it’s a cliche I have to say that the book is better – far, far better – than the film. I wish someone would make a film and keep the whole story, sod the running time – it would be the best horror flick in history.

Yes, it’s a vampire story – but if you think you’ve had it up to the neck with vampires I urge you to think again. Let The Right One In is as much about the woes of social exclusion, loneliness, dejection, family dysfunction, bullying, alcoholism and coming of age as it is about blood sucking. As a divorced father there were times it pulled me up short and made me review my life. At the same time, Linqvist creates wonderfully round and weird characters but all of them totally believable. The pages are filled with pure horror of the multi-layered kind not seen since the early works of Clive Barker. And after all of this, I defy you not to feel sorry for the vampire.

It is a bloody good read and deserves 5 stakes.

This Little Star Shines Brightly – Review

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Pages (Hardback): 480

Published by: Quercus (15 September 2011)

One autumn day in 1992, former pop singer Lennart Cederström finds something unexpected in the forest: a baby girl in a plastic bag, partially buried. He gives her the kiss of life, and her first cry astounds him; it is a clear, pure musical note. He takes her to his wife and persuades her that they should keep this remarkable child. But the baby becomes a strange girl, made more unusual by their decision to hide her in their basement to keep her from the prying eyes of government departments. When she reaches puberty, a terrifying scene sees her kill both her parents. When her scheming adopted brother returns to find her over their bodies, he seizes the opportunity and enters her into an X Factor-style talent competition. She quickly becomes famous. In spite of this, she remains very lonely, until she befriends another damaged girl on the internet. They form a powerful bond and soon create a growing gang of other disgruntled girls and, calling themselves the Wolves, they set out to take revenge for all they’ve ever suffered.

I read the book before I read the above blurb and I’m glad I did. If I had read the blurb first, I may never have bothered to read the book and I would have missed something truly great. Don’t get me wrong, that little synopsis is accurate, but what Lindqvist delivers is something far more chilling, far deeper, far more disturbing than those few lines would ever have you believe. After the first couple of chapters the reader knows something terrible and shocking is going to happen – but I defy anyone to guess what it is. I’ve said often enough when talking about my own writing that I am a slow writer; I’m a slow reader, too. So take as a sign of the brilliance of Little Star that I read it in little more than two days. The pacing is faultless. The prose (and this is, I guess, praise also for the translation by Marlaine DeLargy – so many translated works fail to lift the reader’s spirits) is sharp, edgy and produces some memorable phrases (if this doesn’t touch you, you’re not human):

If anyone who didn’t know her had seen her getting on the train, that person would have seen a girl getting on the train. If anyone who knew her had seen her taking her seat, that person would have seen Teresa taking her seat. After all, nothing had really happened from the world’s point of view, except that a girl had given up all hope. Hardly even worth mentioning.

Rarely do female characters stay with me after I’ve finished a book. Theres and Teresa are looking over my shoulder as I write, making me nervous.

With Little Star, Lindqvist earns his place as a master of horror, perhaps the best so far of the 21st century.

Quercus Books can be found at www.quercusbooks.co.uk

And the Quercus horror/SF/fantasy imprint is Jo Fletcher Books at www.jofletcherbooks.com