Every Halloween the bookstores get flooded with horror anthologies. While some focus on a particular creature or author, some take a broader theme. My Favorite Horror Story, edited by Mike Baker and Martin H. Greenberg, goes to the experts: The stories are chosen by contemporary horror authors, who also write introductions to each tale.

The book's introduction serves as abrief-but-effective history of horror, then explains the the authors were asked to "choose the story that impacted them, the one piece of fiction that left an indelible imprint on them, and explain why they chose this particular story." The list of authors choosing their faves is impressive -- it includes Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Peter Straub, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joe R. Lansdale -- and reading a collection of their stories would be welcome. Their selections are truly impressive.

The fifteen stories in My Favorite Horror Story represent a truly wide spectrum of the horror genre. Stories come from all times, from classics from Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce to contemporaries such as Philip K. Dick and Richard Matheson. The stories demonstrate the potential of horror: There are religious tales ("Young Goodman Brown"), aliens ("The Father-Thing," "The Colour Out of Space"), supernatural ("A Warning to the Curious," "Sweets to the Sweet") and straight psychological horror ("The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pattern"). Some stories have an abundance of gore -- notably the gruesome description at the end of "The Pattern" -- while others lack any sort of violence. There's a weird fetish element in "The Human Chair," while "The Inner Room" defies any sort of categorization. A full list of the stories is below; but the stories are all effective, usually chilling, and frequently unforgettable.

My Favorite Horror Story is, simply, wonderful. Defying most chiches of horror, these stories show just how disturbingly effective horror can be -- and the introductions provide very good guides to how these horror favorites achieve their effectiveness. My Favorite Horror Story is a great collection, perfect for Halloween or any time you want a good scare.

"Sweets to the Sweet" by Robert Bloch; "The Father-Thing" by Philip K. Dick; "The Distributor" by Richard Matheson; "A Warning to the Curious" by M.R. James; "Opening the Door" by Arthur Machen; "The Colour Out of Space" by H,P. Lovecraft; "The Inner Room" by Robert Aickman; "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne; "The Rats in the Walls" by H.P. Lovecraft; "The Dog Park" by Dennis Etchison; "The Animal Fair" by Robert Bloch; "The Pattern" by Ramsey Campbell; "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe; "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Abrose Bierce; "The Human Chair" by Edogawa Rampo

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

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