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Keep Out The Night: Volume One of the new 'Not At Night Series'

edited by Stephen Jones

(PS Publishing, £45, 248 pages, hardback, limited edition, signed by the editor; also available signed by all contributors priced £ 65; published October 2002.)

cover scanStephen Jones and Peter Crowther have joined forces, as editor and publisher respectively, in the gallant attempt to revive the famous Not at Night series of anthologies edited during the '20s and '30s by Christine Campbell Thomson.

While Thomson chose to reprint stories mostly from the legendary magazine Weird Tales, Jones has decided to contact a group of contemporary horror writers and ask them to select favourite stories of theirs which they felt had been overlooked for some reason either by readers or editors. The idea itself is excellent, biding well to provide reprint anthologies where there is no risk of finding once again the usual tales that by now every reader knows by heart. On the other hand the faithful horror fan (your current reviewer among them) will recognize good stories he can still remember, even though their exact location on his bookshelves remains often elusive.

The contributors are all first-rate, although their choices are sometimes questionable.

Hugh B Cave provides an obscure but effective story in the pulp fiction tradition ("Invasion from Inferno"), Brian Lumley reproposes an old, spine-chilling tale of terror ("The viaduct"), but both Sidney J Bounds ("Homecoming") and Dennis Etchison ("One of us") seem to be fond of stories of theirs which appear quite unimpressive and had rightly fallen into oblivion.

The lady writers display much better taste, by choosing a disquieting, beautifully written tale ("Spindleshanks" by Caitlin R Kiernan) and a heartbreaking love story with a tragic ending ("Nothing of him that doth fade" by Poppy Z Brite). Neil Gaiman ("Feeders and eaters") and Tim Lebbon ("The unfortunate") also hit the target convincingly, while Kim Newman's "Is there anybody there?" could have easily remained on the Internet.

The two real standouts are two stories which, even if you still remember them quite clearly (as I did), are so good to be fully enjoyed every time you read them. The first one is "Dear Alison" by the talented Michael Marshall Smith, an elegiac, offbeat story of vampirism which previously appeared in The Mammoth Book of Dracula, and the other one is Basil Copper's "The gossips", originally published in his Arkham House collection From Evil's Pillow, a standing example of great storytelling which should teach something to many contemporary writers.

Finally, a very embarrassed note about Ramsey Campbell's contribution ("Needing ghosts"). If I'm allowed to commit sacrilege against a great master of horror (and, incidentally, one of my favourite authors), I confess that I found his story frankly boring ...

All in all, Keep out the Night, despite a few weak stories, is a very good reprint anthology, including many excellent tales. I wholeheartedly advise horror fans to get a copy before it goes out of print and urge Stephen Jones and Peter Crowther to carry on with their splendid project.

Review by Mario Guslandi.

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