Opening an anthology of horror stories is like opening your candy bag after a long night of trick-or-treating: you hope the chocolate treats and peanut butter cups outweigh the licorice and Circus Peanuts.
With Close to Midnight, out this month from Flame Tree Press, editor Mark Morris fills up readers’ bags with king-sized candy bars, proving his is the house to go to on Halloween night.
The fun is in the discovery, so I won’t go story by story here. As with any anthology, what works for me may not work for you. The following were some of the sweetest treats for me:
“The Operated” by Ramsey Campbell: The old “miracle salve” or “snake oil” approach to medicine is paired with modern technology to offer a patients a cure for…everything. All it takes is a short procedure. You’ll barely feel a thing. Are there side effects? Well, maybe. But if you’ll just sign here, we can take your….current….pain away. Riveting stuff from one of the masters of horror.
“Autumn Sugar” by Philip Fracassi: Simple, elegant, tragic. Fracassi’s reputation has been growing in the horror field, and this — my personal first experience with his work — absolutely validates the attention he’s getting. Beautiful and devastating.
“Going Home” by Evelyn Teng: A mother deals with the ongoing, unthinkable consequences of an agreement with the Hungry Ladies of the Woods. Atmospheric, gruesome, and unforgettable.
I could go on and on. Morris has assembled an especially strong group of stories with dazzling, diverse approaches to horror. Highly recommended.