Degrees of Fear: Tales from Usher College
by William II Read
(Sarob Press, £21.00 UK/Europe, $US37, $CAN52, 183 pages, limited edition hardback; illustrated by Nick Maloret; published November 2000.)
To me horror and ghost stories are a no-nonsense business. I read them to be scared or, at least, to feel shivers along my spine. I can't stand humorous ghosts, cute "critters", hilarious spookies.
Thus, you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that the book I was supposed to review was not, as I thought, a new ghost story collections from Sarob, but a bunch of tales of "funny" horror featuring the dons of an odd college called Usher. Having overcome my initial repugnance, however, I started to read the book with an open mind. Soon enough I found myself quite intrigued by the adventures of the distinguished academicians of Usher college.
The (anti)-hero is Dennistoun, who acts as a kind of catalyst for ghosts, horrific creatures and such.
Contrary to the classic occult detectives and ghost hunters, Dennistoun is unintentionally involved in the supernatural. It is the supernatural which actually haunts Dennistoun and his colleagues, either at a writers' convention or at the College Christmas party.
Each of the eight stories is very enjoyable. Read's prose is elegant, the plots amusing and the dialogues extremely entertaining.
The first collection of stories from the Usher College is already out of print. Whoever wants to forget for a while, real horror and true ghosts, and relax with a different kind of book should immediately contact Sarob Press and order a copy of this volume. It's a lot of fun.
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© Mario Guslandi 17 February 2001