Two-Fisted Ghouls

More Macabre, edited by Donald A. Wollheim, contains “Mother by Protest” by Richard Matheson; “The Wheel” by H. Warner Munn; “The Yellow Wall Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; “The Cookie Lady” by Philip K. Dick; “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers; “The Curse Kiss” by Theodore Roscoe; “Fungus Isle” by Philip M. Fisher; and “The Copper Bowl” by George Fielding Eliot. (1961): Nifty little paperback anthology from the dawn of American paperback horror collections. Wollheim would go on to have an entire imprint named after him (DAW Books, natch).

The value of this, for me, is the inclusion of horror stories from the early days of Weird Tales and other American horror/fantasy pulp magazines. I loved “Fungus Isle” with its great title and icky mushroom horrors and gradual development of the uncanny. “The Spider” is a startlingly original what-was-it? story of possession or ghosts or, unh, I’m not sure. And that’s good: repeat after me, “Explanation is the death of horror.” Too much explanation, anyway.

The early Phil Dick story is also fun, a poisoned bit that echoes Ray Bradbury before Bradbury got soft and fuzzy-poetic in the 1960’s. It’s also one of a small number of Dick stories about the horrors of childhood. And overeating. Its final image echoes a similar, disturbing revelation in Dick’s horror masterpiece “The Father Thing”, one of my nominees for some mythical “100 Best Horror Stories Ever” List that I keep meaning to draw up.

The Matheson story is also a lot of fun, with a concluding line that apparently stuck in my mind ever since I read it first 30 years ago. One of the interesting things about More Macabre is its focus on”adventure-horror”, a staple of the pulps that isn’t seen that much any more, as explorers and colonial have rousing adventures while also facing some scabrous demon horror. Or in the case of the awkwardly titled “The Curse Kiss,” a character from the Old Testament. Or in the case of the Rube Goldbergian Grand Guignol of “The Wheel”, vengeance from beyond the grave of…The Spanish Inquisition!!!

Two vastly different, often reprinted classic round out the collection, the always enjoyable psychological, proto-feminist piece “The Yellow Wall Paper” and the gruesome tale of French colonialism in China, “The Copper Bowl.” For $5 or$6, this is well worth picking up. Recommended.

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