Friday, October 14, 2016

Avon Ghost Reader: Review

The Avon Ghost Reader (1946) is another collection of short stories in digest form. I'm afraid that I found this one less satisfying than the Avon Mystery Story Teller. Long ago and far away, I enjoyed H. P. Lovecraft very much--but I felt that his famous short story fell a bit flat. My favorites in this collection are "The Panelled Room," "The Fireplace," and "The Squaw"--each carry an element of horror and shock that one looks for in a "ghost" story collection that most of the others do not. A close runner-up is the "Naked Lady." The twist on the revenge is nicely done--even if the husband doesn't get to enjoy the revenge taken. Overall, a solid collection of stories. ★★

Synopses of the stories:

"The Dunwich Horror" by H. P. Lovecraft: In the backwater town of Dunwich, Wilbur Whately, a most unusual child, is born. He grows at an unnatural pace to an unsettling height and it becomes apparent that there is something alien about his parentage. But he isn't the worst that Dunwhich will see--for there will be another horror: one of the Old Ones...a strange, unseen force that rampages through the village at night and leaves destruction in its wake.

"The Panelled Room" by August Derleth: Mrs. Lydia Grant moves into the house on Main St. against all advice. And she elects to stay in the house despite earnest warnings from a neighbor Seventeen years earlier, there was a horrible murder suicide in the paneled room and everyone who lives there have reported seeing ghosts. Then Lydia sees them and her sister, Irma, is delighted--she's Lydia's heir. But--finally listening to a little advice--Lydia rewrites her will so that if anything happens to her in the paneled room, then Irma may only inherit if she spends the rest of her life in that house.

"The Fireplace" by Henry S. Whitehead: The ghost of a murdered man appears to a guest in a Southern hotel. He tells the man, an up-and-coming lawyer, his story and makes him promise to avenge his death. The man agrees, but has revenge exacted upon himself when he fails to follow through.

"The Haunted Doll's House": -which tells about a Gothic doll's house where a deadly drama is enacted each night at 1 am.  The newest owner believe he's gotten a bargain when he buys the house at a bottom dollar (bottom pound?) price.  But he soon finds out his mistake.

"The Squaw" by Bram Stoker: A honeymooning couple make the acquaintance of an American and begin to visit the sites with him. They visit a torture museum at Nuernberg where an iron maiden (the squaw of the title) is on display. The American has killed a kitten--by accident--and is stalked by the crazed mother cat--who manages to exact her revenge in the torture room.

"Wingless Victory" by H. F. Heard: Not really a horror story--a science fiction fantasy which tells of an intelligent race of giant emperor penguins who rescue a man who was part of an Antarctic expedition. They show him the wonders of their hidden realm and offer him the chance to live among them. He refuses and asks why they would let him go when he might return with hordes of men...they assure him they have nothing to fear from the race of men. Who would believe a story of giant, intelligent penguins?

"Through the Dragon Glass" by A. Merritt: A man named Herndon raids the Forbidden City and comes home with an exquisite treasure, decorated with exotic gems and embedded with dragons. He disappears from his apartment and returns just as mysteriously--with strange, deep scars on his chest. He tells his friend an odd story of entering a strange world through the glass and finding a beautiful well as a monstrous dragon. He wants to return and rescue the woman and bring her back to his world. But will he survive another trip?
"Naked Lady" by Mindret Lord: A jealous, vengeful estranged husband commissions a painting of his erring wife--ordering the artist to mix materials into the paint that will allow him to perform voo-doo rites upon his wife's image to punish her. He won't live to see his revenge...and it won't be the precise revenge that he imagined.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald: a fantasy story in which a man is born old and grows younger every year. And Benjamin Button doesn't just have the body of an eldrerly man, but the tastes and attitudes to go along with it as well. As he "ages" his body, tastes, and attitudes align with his body's appeared age rather than his actual years on earth. And interesting look at how age affects identity.

"The Bottle Party" by John Collier: A man buys a genie in a bottle and finds that having your every wish fulfilled isn't all it's cracked up to be--especially if you aren't specific in some of your requests.

"The Waters of Babylon" by Stephen Vincent Benet: A post-apocalyptic tale in which
a young man gets initiated into the priesthood of the Hill People. After becoming convinced that he should seek out knowledge, he crosses the water into the forbidden Dead Lands, where he discovers the ruins of New York City and has visions of the forces that destroyed the "gods."

"The Salamander" by William H. Seabrook: A writer wants to conjure up a salamander in fire--a creature that can appear as a lizard-like creature or as a most beautiful woman. All he really wants is a spark of inspiration...but he may get more than he bargained for.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I like Lovecraft, so I'd read it for that story alone. I have read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and liked it a lot better than the film. Sounds like a good collection.