A Celebration of Halloween edited by Richard Chizmar & Robert Morrish is a collection of new and previously published short stories, novellas and true-life memories taking place on Halloween, also included is a brief (and interesting) history of Halloween and guides to Halloween film and fiction all written by some of my favorite horror and dark fantasy writers. And if you think that's a mouthful you should see the size of this book . . .
I've been working at this one for over a month and not due to disinterest either (for a change). This sucker is HUGE and its anthology format makes it the perfect book to pick up and put down whenever the mood strikes. I feared I'd overdose on Halloween stories if I read a big chunk of it in one sitting so I've been savoring it. Fortunately, the stories were, for the most part, strikingly different. Since the list of stories alone is three pages long a blow by blow synopsis of them by me simply isn't going to happen. Instead I'll do my best to highlight the stories that lingered in my memory for one reason or another. Most of the stories range from good to excellent but there were a small handful that bored me enough to give up halfway through (a rare thing considering the size of this tome). The tone of the stories runs the gamut from mournfully sad to laugh out loud funny but the thing that the majority of these stories have in common is the lack of gore and sex and the reliance on atmosphere and good old fashioned storytelling to chill the bones. Here goes:
Dean Koontz story âThe Black Pumpkinâ begins this tome and is a creepy little tale about a decent and good little boy and his Eeeevil big bully of a brother. The two come across a spooky old man who has a talent for carving pumpkins into malevolent creations. Big brother picks out the ugliest scariest pumpkin in the bunch (naturally) and brings home much more than a spooky pumpkin. This story is a spooky-ooky but not terribly original tale about bad folks getting their comeuppance.
âMask Gameâ by John Shirley is about people and their nasty little secrets and it had me reading way past the point of exhaustion the other night. Unfortunately it got a bit cluttered and more than a bit confusing towards the end and, well, I fell asleep.
âGoneâ by Jack Ketchum takes a look inside the life of the weird woman who lives down the road, the lady all of the neighbors whisper about. It's an affecting and sad tale about a woman's attempt to celebrate Halloween after a long stint of hiding away from the world and anything involving children.
Two other standouts for me were Richard Laymon's âBooâ and Douglas E. Winter's âMasksâ. âBooâ tells the tale of a young group of trick or treaters in the mood for a little fright. They end up getting much more than they bargained for when a stranger joins their merry little group. It's the stuff nightmares are made of and reminded me a bit of a warped Twilight Zone episode. Delightfully dark ~ I loved it. âMasksâ is both an emotionally gripping and terrifying glimpse into the life of a young boy struggling with personal loss and a step-mother from hell. Written with a relentless sense of impending dread this story shook me up.
Sandwiched between the works of fiction are true life stories of the author's Halloween memories. Most of these I enjoyed even more than the fictional tales. Might it be because I'm nosey and enjoy indulging in a bit of literary rubbernecking? Probably. But knowing that all of this creepy, odd and sometimes very funny (or very sad) stuff really happened made these pages fly. Growing up shy and traipsing from house to house in my cheesy store bought costume with my dad and (also shy) younger sister made my Halloween outings a relatively boring affair. These true life walks back in time about tricks gone awry or funky handmade costumes fascinated me and have inspired me to be a bit more creative this year.
Also included is an informative short history of Halloween and its origins, a handy list of must see Halloween movies with interesting synopsis for each that had me rushing to Blockbuster to find the gems I've missed (few of which they carried I might add) and then there's a guide to Halloween reading for those who feel the need for more after gobbling up this book.
Overall this is one of the best collections I've come across and it comes highly recommended to those looking for the ultimate in Halloween reading.
Very enjoyable read that includes both short fiction stories and authors real-life memories of Halloween. The authors are some of the best horror writers around, including Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Richard Laymon, and Poppy Z. Brite.