The Other Pans People

Van Thal and Vampires

Herbert Van Thal – Pan Horror 11

Posted by demonik on September 2, 2007

Herbert Van Thal (ed.) – The 11th Pan Book Of Horror Stories

David Case – The Cell
Bryan Lewis – A Question of Fear
Harry Turner – Hell’s Bells
Bryan Lewis – The Lift
Gerald Atkins – The Midnight Lover
Barry Martin – Case of Insanity
Robert Duncan – The Market-Gardeners
James Wade – Snow in the City
Stephen Grendon – Mrs Manifold
Barbara Benzinger – Dear Jeffy
Simon Jay – Spider Woman
Charles Birkin – Au Clair De Lune
Christine Trollope – Oysters
Nigel Kneale – Minuke
Barry Martin – The Easiest Thing in the World
Dulcie Gray – The Babysitter
Brian Middleton – Hand in Hand
Norman P Kaufman – Getting Rid
David A. Riley – The Lurkers in the Abyss
Martin Waddell – Fried Man
Gerald Atkins – The Scientist

David Case – The Cell: For one night every month the narrator locks himself away in the padded cell he’s had built in the basement. He’s a werewolf or at least, that’s what he’s desperately trying to convince anybody who finds his diary and, most of all, himself. How could such an upstanding citizen inspire banner headlines of the Sex Fiend Murder or Mangled Corpse In Lovers Lane variety? It’s preposterous! He even considers suing for libel …

Helen, the long-suffering wife he half patronises to death, entertains his bizarre behaviour out of fear but when she realises that he’s most likely the man the police are after, her curiosity gets the better of her: what happens to him when he’s in the cell ….?

If you can imagine The Beast In The Cellar as told from the point of view of the pathetic “monster” with maybe a dash of Carry on Psycho thrown in, then you’ve maybe some idea of what Case’s minor masterpiece of gallows humour is like. That it works has everything to do with Case’s deadpan delivery and his economic prose really suits – it makes a sixty pager read like twenty. As with Minuke, The Lurkers At The Abyss, Mrs. Manifold and probably even Case Of Insanity, it’s deserving of better company than it’s made to keep in this collection.

Brian Middleton – Hand In Hand: A huge warehouseman, friendless because his colleagues find his girth too imposing, is picked up by a pretty “filmstar-ish” girl in a coffee shop after his usual Saturday night alone at the cinema. As they walk in silence through the park, he takes her hand and gives it a friendly squeeze … This one doesn’t really warrant a spoiler warning because you’ve guessed what will happen long before it does.

Martin Waddell – Fried Man: More slapstick horror as old Bunting has the inspired misfortune to fall in the deep fryer during a ciggie raid on the Valentia Supper Saloon. The corpses pile up as the gang try to dispose of the body. Everybody frets about exposure in The News Of The World.

Barry Martin – Case Of Insanity: The narrator’s wife, Clara, is always on at him for not providing her with a child when Margaret and Tom down the road already have two! “You bloody ponce! … If you can’t do right by me why don’t you go out and get yourself some pretty, sweet queer to have your sex with? It would suit you down to the ground”. Doesn’t she know she’s in a Barry Martin story? Narrator duly hacks her to pieces and stuffs her in a suitcase before an inopportune car accident settles his hash. Probably the best of Martin’s Psycho rip-offs.

Gerald Atkins – The Midnight Lover: First person account of an insatiable mortuary groupie. I can’t make this out: he’s obviously not doing it for sex (“I have never actually had intercourse with any of them …”) so it isn’t the necrophilia story I wrongly remembered it as and what’s this stuff about people trying to stop him using “primitive means”? A stake perhaps?

Harry Turner – Hell’s Bells: As FM mentioned, this one is festooned with pop culture references. British Rail, Tesco’s, W. H. Smiths, Readers Digest, a camp Devil who says “Ducky” etc. Quite sobering to learn that as early as 1970 Tony Blackburn was already a standing joke. Personally, I always had Hell down as attending a Christopher Lee signing in a Dracula AD 1972 shirt while a Chas N’ Dave album loops for all eternity ….

Bryan Lewis – The Lift: Leonard Norton has some kind of hallucination in which he’s visited by the ghost of his dead son, a suicide. Norton ruined the boy’s life and now he wants his pound of flesh – in short, he wants the old man to cut off his own hand at the wrist.

Charles Birkin – Au Clair De Lune: Grisly poem in which Thelma tries to blackmail Rodney over their affair and is eaten by rats for her sins. Eventually she’s reduced to a fungus-ridden compost heap which the hero henceforth utilizes whenever he wishes to be rid of a troublesome woman.

Bryan Lewis – A Question Of Fear. The indominable Major Rupert Denny accepts a stranger’s wager that he won’t be able to remain the night at a secluded house without experiencing sheer terror. Turns out that the stranger is an electronics genius, and he’s rigged the place to ensure the Major endures his full share of psychological shocks. A tape-recorded message reveals his motive.

David A. Riley – The Lurker’s In The Abyss. Lovecraftian horror that dispenses with all the usual props – obscure tomes, references to Cthulhu, Miskatonic University, etc. – in favour of pitting the hero, downtrodden Ian Redfern, versus a bunch of high street thugs who are not what they seem.

Simon Jay – Spiderwoman: Maude Roxby is laid to rest in “the sodden little churchyard on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors”. The few mourners are not for her but her saintly husband Tom who survives her. Buxom Rose Hardcastle decides that Tom is the man for her and makes a successful play for him. But Maude refuses to take this lying down and takes the form of a monstrous arachnid. The dead witch pulps her rival, then turns her attentions to Tom, who poisoned her.

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