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By Moonlight Only:
Not at Night Series, Volume Two

edited by Stephen Jones

(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 cover scanthe 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 taste.

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 even today.

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 vampire pet.

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.

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