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Book Review: Mistletoe and Mayhem:Horrific Tales for the Holidays edited by Richard Dalby by Lisa Scherer
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Book Review: Mistletoe and Mayhem:Horrific Tales for the Holidays edited by Richard Dalby
If stressful shopping sprees, forced family get-togethers and obligatory office parties aren’t enough to scare you this holiday season, there’s always the Christmas horror story, a “popular and hardy perennial since the days of Charles Dickens,” according to Richard Dalby, editor of Mistletoe and Mayhem:Horrific Tales for the Holidays.
This 1992 anthology contains thirteen short stories by Victorian author W. W. Jacobs (author of the classic The Monkey’s Paw), Onward, Christian Soldiers hymn author Sabine Barin-Gould, writer/photographer F. S. Smythe, horror author Hugh Walpole (Portrait of a Man with Red Hair), supernatural “twilight tales” author Marjorie Bowen, Quatermass TV writer Nigel Kneale, travel writer F. McDermott, renowned horror author Robert Aickman (Powers of Darkness), prolific British horror author Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes (The House of Dracula), infamous Psycho author Robert Bloch, supernatural short storyteller Ron Weighell, well-known macabre writer Basil Cooper (Necropolis, From Evil’s Pillow), and psychological horror author Stephen Gallagher (Chimera).
The older stories were admittedly more difficult for me to read because of the slower pacing. There’s nothing like reading a gently-creepy, slowly-eerie, suspenseful supernatural tale written decades ago to make you realize how spoiled you've become by the in-your-face, quick-shock horror stories you read today. But good ghost stories are good ghost stories, whether they involve stuffy old British ladies on holiday at their country estates slowly uncovering something sinister (The Crown Derby Plate by Marjorie Bowen) or a big-city news reporter immediately confronted with a disturbing story on New Year’s Eve (To Dance by the Light of the Moon by Stephen Gallagher).
In addition to the two stories mentioned above – Stephen Gallagher’s story was my favorite of the entire collection, actually – I also especially enjoyed Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes’ slow-burning story Christmas Eve, which left the protagonist and the reader both with many unanswered questions; Robert Bloch’s creepy, twist-ending tale of obsession and insanity The Nightmare Before Christmas; and Nigel Kneale’s brutal, blunt, WTF-was-that? story The Stocking.
Happy holidays and happy reading.
"FANGRRL" is ©2009 by Lisa Scherer. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.