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Van Thal and Vampires

Archive for September 16th, 2007

Herbert Van Thal – Pan Horror 9

Posted by demonik on September 16, 2007

Herbert Van Thal (ed.) – The 9th Pan Book Of Horror Stories  (Pan, 1968)

Pan Horror 9

Raymond Williams – Man-Hunt
Dulce Gray – The Fly
Dorothy K. Haynes – Though Shalt Not Suffer A Witch …
Lindsay Stewart – Strictly For The Birds
Martin Waddell – Bloodthirsty
Adobe James – An Apparition At Noon
Rene Morris – The Baby Machine
Colin Graham – The Best Teacher
Walter Winward – Stick With Me Kid, And You’ll Wear Diamonds
Dulcie Gray – The Happy Return
Raymond Harvey – Father Forgive Me
John Burke – A Comedy Of Terrors
Tim Stout – The Boy Who Neglected His Grass Snake
Lindsay Stewart – Jolly Uncle
W. H. Carr – Mr. Anstey’s Scarecrow
Alex Hamilton – Not Enough Poison
Martin Waddell – Old Feet
Peter Richey – Don’t Avoid The Rush Hour
Eddy C. Bertin – The Whispering Horror
Raymond Williams – Smile Please
A. G. J. Rough – Compulsion
Mary R. Sullivan – Crocodile Way
James McArdwell – The Green Umbilical Chord
Tanith Lee – Eustace

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Herbert Van Thal – Pan Horror 1

Posted by demonik on September 16, 2007

Herbert Van Thal (ed.) – The 1st Pan Book Of Horror Stories (Pan, 1959)

Pan Horror 1

Joan Aiken – Jugged Hare
A L Barker – Submerged
Oscar Cook – His Beautiful Hands
George Fielding Eliot – The Copper Bowl
Jack Finney – Contents Of The Dead Man’s Pocket
Peter Fleming – The Kill
C S Forester – The Physiology Of Fear
L P Hartley – W.S.
Hazel Heald – The Horror In The Museum
Hester Holland – The Library
Fielden Hughes – The Mistake
Nigel Kneale – Oh, Mirror, Mirror
Noel Langley – Serenade For Baboons
Hamilton Macallister – The Lady Who Didn’t Waste Words
Chris Massie – A Fragment Of Fact
Seabury Quinn – The House Of Horror
Flavia Richardson – Behind The Yellow Door
Muriel Spark – The Portobello Road
Bram Stoker – The Squaw
Anthony Vercoe – Flies
Angus Wilson – Raspberry Jam
Alan Wykes – Nightmare


Flavia Richardson – Behind The Yellow Door: Mrs. Merrill, the brilliant surgeon and pathologist, advertises for a secretery. Marcia Miles is told that her main duty will be to act as a companion to her daughter, Olivette. As it transpires, Merrill only wants some of Miss Miles to act as permanent companion to the girl, who is a horror from the waist down. Together with Dorcas the ‘chambermaid’, Mrs. Merrill overpowers Marcia and straps her down on the operating table: “Assuming that the operation is successful, as it must be, you will find Olivette’s deformed legs grafted on to your body, while Olivette will at last be able to enjoy her life as a normal human being. She has waited nearly twenty years. You have had twenty years. It’s your turn.”

Anthony Vercoe – Flies: A starving tramp breaks into a vacant Elizabethan house in Holborn, and is transported back in time to the height of the Great Plague.

Seabury Quinn – The House Of Horror: Lost in a storm, De Grandin and Trowbridge chance upon Marston Hall, home to the brilliant surgeon Dr. John Beirsfield Marston who retired after his deformed son committed suicide when his bride to be, actress Dora Lee, jilted him. Not much has been heard of Marston since then, although a number of young girls have gone missing in the area …
Rarely was Quinn to pen anything quite as nasty as this (although he tried, and even rewrote The House Of Horror at least once: The House Where Time Stood Still). This is where my fascination with the De Grandin’s began.

Oscar Cook – His Beautiful Hands:The ghoulish journo, Warwick, may have had his heart broken by the heroine of this nasty tale, but he’s not one to let sentiment stand in the way of his profiting from a sensational scoop.
A manicurist extracts deliberately protracted revenge on a man who wronged her mother. Incest, rotting flesh and a deformed baby also loom large. Never let it be said that Cook did things by halves.

Hester Holland – The Library:Margaret, fresh from her break up with her fiance, applies for the position of secretery to the elderly Lady Farrell at Wincombe Court. After enquiring if Margaret has any close family or friends and receiving the all-important ‘no’ in reply, Lady F. hires her to look after the place while she’s abroad. At first, Margaret is a little disappointed that her work involves so little and the library – “the heart of the house” – is out of bounds to her. Worse, Wincombe Court is alive, and it requires a steady stream of sacrifices. Eventually, Margaret gets to see inside the library and meets the girls who had the job before her. What’s left of them.

Angus Wilson – Raspberry Jam: Wilson’s first story, written in 1946 and published three years later in The Wrong Set.

Young Johnnie befriends the Swindale sisters, Marian and Dolly, two aged local eccentrics who live alone on Potters Farm. His mother and her friends look upon this unlikely alliance with equal parts amusement and concern as both women have spent time in the Asylum. Johnnie’s mother wonders what her husband will say when he arrives home from Germany.

All goes well until the old girls argue and engage on a mutual four day bender. They only snap out of it when they realise the boy is due and they haven’t made any jam! Worse, the birds have been at the raspberries!

When Johnnie arrives they’re both back on the booze and finally show the kind of form that got them committed in the first place.

Make no mistake, despite that gormless synopsis Raspberry Jam is truly grim. It’s been cited as an influence on the slow burning, spiteful writings of Charles Birkin and, while Birkin was at it a decade earlier, I can certainly spot similar traits.

If I remember, Raspberry Jam was my least favourite story in Pan Horror #1 when I first read it back in the eighties. It isn’t now.

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Elizabeth Byrd – Rest Without Peace

Posted by demonik on September 16, 2007

Elizabeth Byrd – Rest Without Peace (Pan 1976: originally MacMillan, 1974)

Brian Sanders

Edinburgh, 1828 – after they sell their first corpse to Dr. Knox with no questions asked, death brings a new way of life to Burke and Hare. Roaming the rat-infested, stench-filled squalor of the Old Town, they and their bawdy common-law wives lure harlots, drunks and tramps into Hare’s lodging house and suffocate them, so that trainee surgeons can practice their skills.

Burke had the nightmares, Hare the melancholies, but a dram helped and the dead could not come back – if the candle burnt all night ….

“… the desecration of holy ground – thank God there’s no such sin on our souls”.

Strange that the names Burke and Hare are synonymous with body-snatching when the pair never did an honest night’s grave robbing in their lives. Burke, inclined to give himself airs, evidently deluded himself that, by smothering the low-lives he lured to Tanners Close, he and his companions were selfless martyr’s to the advancement of medical research: And as the conniving Hare reminds him: “Besides, it’s mucky, dirty work. And dangerous, with the spy towers and all, and watchers with rifles. It’s a business for fools, I’m thinking.”

Given the abundance of ghoulish melodrama in the accepted story of their antics, it’s going to be pretty difficult to improve on the ‘facts’ in a work of fiction and, but for one ghostly visitation and a sequence in which Hare rapes a corpse repeatedly until the rats have gnawed her face, Elizabeth Byrd rarely indulges poetic licence to the maximum. Rest Without Peace is a dramatisation of the Westport murders which fleshes out the lives of the more anonymous victims and makes play on the abject poverty of the Edinburgh slums where the drink has claimed just about everybody to the point where, from the moment its denizens awake, they need a dram merely to function. As Burke warns Hare, Maggie and Nelly, when, following a party on Saturday they realise they’ll be dry for several hours until the Pub opens: “Never again must we be without drink. It was terrible…. If we should become careless from not drinking, it would be the end of us.”

It’s decided that Burke and the women should snare their victims for, as Burke diplomatically points out to his partner “your face … is a little strong for some tastes.” The plan is simple: pick up some poor bastard off the street (“No children under eleven. I’m not after being sure, but I think they bring less”), bring them back to the lodging house, ply these grateful guests with drink and smother ’em. As the corpses are bought on a no-questions-asked basis, they get away with it for the best part of a year, murdering at least fourteen men, women and children. Hare even fits in a few solo ventures and bashes a dogs brains out with a shovel. If Burke hadn’t grown careless and the others too greedy, it’s difficult to see how they’d ever have been stopped as the law didn’t have an inkling what was going on.

Burke, while far from being a sympathetic character, is nowhere near as loathsome as Hare who eventually sells him out when offered a pardon if he’ll incriminate his partner. But even he has his standards: “I’m sure as hell not sitting on nobodys face in public!” he storms, when Burke tells him of his plans to expand ‘the business’. Hare’s woman, Maggie is no less disloyal, advising her husband that, being a Scot, Nelly is untrustworthy and that they should kill her too. Surprisingly, Dr. Knox is a peripheral figure, seldom seen until the trial is over and the mob take to burning effigies of ‘Auld Cyclops’ in Surgeons Row. His arrogance sees him through even if his career proves impossible to salvage.

Burke and Hare. Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde just wouldn’t have been the same without them.

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