Strange Choices

DAW Year’s Best Horror Stories Series V (1976), edited by Gerald W. Page (1977), containing:
The Service by Jerry Sohl; Long Hollow Swamp by Joseph Payne Brennan; Sing a Last Song of Valdese by Karl Edward Wagner; Harold’s Blues by Glen Singer; The Well by H. Warner Munn; A Most Unusual Murder by Robert Bloch; Huzdra by Tanith Lee; Shatterday by Harlan Ellison; Children of the Forest by David Drake; The Day It Rained Lizards by Arthur Byron Cover; Followers of the Dark Star by Robert Edmond Alter; When All the Children Call My Name by Charles L. Grant; Belsen Express by Fritz Leiber and Where the Woodbine Twineth by Manly Wade Wellman.

An odd entry in DAW’s long-running horror annual with a lot of previously unpublished stories and several stories that aren’t really horror at all, the latter most notably those by Munn, Bloch, and Cover. The best stories here are by Wagner, Drake, Lee, and Leiber, the last of which is one of the oddest and most affecting Holocaust stories I can think of. Manly Wade Wellman contributes a fairly representative tale of backwoods supernatural goings-on, more tall tale told around the cracker barrel than actual horror.

The Cover story is something of an unpleasant mess, while Brennan’s story starts strong with weird occurences in shunned places before veering into what almost seems like self-parody with the revelation of the hidden menace. Munn’s novella — the longest piece in the anthology — is a somewhat overripe bit of Westernized Orientalism. Lee and Wagner offer us intriguingly offbeat riffs on fairy tales and legend. Not a great volume in the series, but fairly solid. Recommended.

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