In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe edited by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus-Oct. 15th, 2015)-It’s been a long time since I’ve read any true classics, so In the Shadow was a nice little reminder of stories that are the backbone of today’s horror and suspense. If you like the classics, you’ll enjoy these 20 unsettling, sometimes horrifying stories. “The Sandman” by E.T.A. Hoffman (1816) is an effective little chiller about a mythical man that steals the eyes of naughty children that won’t go to bed. The narrator is convinced that he’s very real, and in a series of letters, he reveals his suspicions, and the tension is delicious. W.C. Morrow’s fantastic “His Unconquerable Enemy”(1889) tells the story of a male servant to a rajah in India who takes the concept of “vengeance” to a whole, new, awesome (in the classic sense of the word) level. It’s told from the point of a surgeon that was called to the palace to perform a difficult surgery, and he watches in horror as the slighted, and murderous, servant, Neranya, goes to get his revenge on the rajah, even after most of his limbs have been removed as punishment. It’s gruesome, inventive, and absolutely impossible to look away from.
“The Upper Berth” by F. Marion Crawford (1886) is ghost story set on a ship called the Kamtschatka, and is told from the point of view of a man that is convinced something nefarious is happening in his room. This story leaves plenty to the imagination, while still conjuring up convincing chills. Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Leather Funnel”(1902) about an object used in the torture death of a murderess is based on a real case, that of Madame de Brinvilliers in the 1600s, who supposedly committed heinous crimes, and was put to death for it in a most heinous way. It’s a short read, but very effective. Other particular highlights include the concluding story “The Squaw” by Bram Stoker (1914), about a particularly unpleasant honeymoon and “Lost Hearts” by M.R. James (1904), about an alchemist determined to solve the mystery of immortality. Each story is preceded by a foreword about the author, and the editor’s introduction is superb, particularly if you’re just now getting familiar with the classics. There are also footnotes in each story that help with certain terms or events during the time that the stories were set or written. This is a perfect read for a cold, dark, rainy night, preferably by candlelight.