By Moonlight Only:
Not at Night Series, Volume Two
(PS Publishing, £35.00/$55.00, 291 pages, signed, limited edition
hardback, published September 2003; ISBN 1-902880-71-4.)
The first volume of the new "Not at Night" series, Keep out the
night (see my review
elsewhere in infinity plus) won the
2003 BFS award for best anthology and the publisher, PS Publishing,
has been presented, for the third year in a row, with the BFS award
for best Small Press.
What a promising introduction for the second volume By moonlight
only, but also what a heavy commitment to maintain the same standard
as the previous book! Let me tell you right away that once again Stephen
Jones has been quite successful in assembling a remarkable collection
of classic and classy short stories. The selected contributors to the
anthology were asked to choose one story they particularly like and/or
they feel has not received the deserved recognition. In most instances
we must acknowledge that both editor and authors display an excellent
In Harlan Ellison's "In the Fourth Year of the War" a man's mind becomes
possessed by a homicidal mania forcing him to kill people who in the
past did something wrong to him or his family. It's a horrifying, chilling
tale filled with regrets for the unfair things life does to all of us,
including a touching homage to the memory of a father ("...the realisation
that all the dreams had been stolen from him, that he had lived his
life and it had come to nothing, that he was dead and had never made
his mark, had been here and was gone and no one would remember or care").
"The Crystal Doll Killings" by Hugh B. Cave is the only story I found
disappointing, an unfortunate choice among hundreds of tales produced
by this prolific monument of pulp fiction. The tale is so improbable
and "pulpy" to appear as a parody of the genre itself.
"The Art Nouveau Fireplace" is another outstanding story by Christopher
Fowler. The ingredients are an ancient house, a beautiful fireplace,
a recurring nightmare, a distant murder, all skilfully mixed up by a
very brilliant writer.
"These Beast" is a superlative choice by veteran Tanith Lee, whose
story lies somewhere between horror and fantasy. A tomb robber manages
to spoil an ancient grave, but its powerful inhabitant will take a terrible
vengeance. Great re-adaptation of a traditional theme.
"Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back" by Joe Landsdale is a
moving tale about the nuclear horror, the loneliness of the after-the-bomb
survivors and the meaning of a painful tattoo on a man's back. A nominee
for the World Fantasy Award, the story maintain its charm unblemished
Lisa Tuttle's "Replacements" is the upsetting description of the dissolution
of a marriage caused by the obsessive affection of a woman for a peculiar
I admit I was not familiar with Marc Laidlaw's fiction. His contribution,
"Cell Call", is a stunning story about a man who gets lost while trying
to drive home and whose only contact with his wife, or, better, with
the world, is his cell phone. Here's a tale that, although the plot
may seem comparatively trivial and the narrative style unassuming, is
quite unforgettable. This especially applies to the final sentence,
in italics, "It's raining where I am and I'm looking at you car",
which remains one of the more chilling statements I ever met in hundred
of dark fiction stories I've read so far.
Unknown supernatural forces are at work in Terry Lamsley's "The walls",
an unnerving, tense piece of fiction where hiking proves to be an activity
as dangerous as challenging the past. Lamsley's fictional work is sadly
missed by many (including me). We still do hope that some day he'll
return to writing.
The two final contents of the anthology are two novellas which would
win anyone to the pleasure of reading. The first one "The Buffalo Hunter"
by Peter Straub is the extraordinary portrait of a loner, a loser incapable
of telling fiction from reality, bound to descend into a downward spiral
of illusion and madness. "Jimmy" by David Case is a powerful story once
dubbed by Ramsey Campbell "The thing that raped women", reprinted here
in its original version, longer than the one which formerly appeared
in the collection "Brotherly Love". A gripping tale, so vivid that it
would be suitable to become a successful thriller for the big screen.
Needless to say, a book highly recommended!
Review by Mario Guslandi.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: