“Raindrops tap against the black-curtained windows like the fingers of beggar children pleading to be let in. No one moves.”
“Tales of Terror: 58 Short Stories Chosen by the Master of Suspense” edited by Eleanor Sullivan
This collection of 58 short stories packed into a pretty big, bulky book, has taken up quite a bit of my time lately, but I’ve finally finished it and now it will take up quite a bit of space on the little bookshelf dedicated to the 100 Books Project. Tales of Terror might be a little bit of a misnomer, though, as they are more tales of mystery and sometimes suspense, in a sort of cliched murder thriller sort of way. Published in the mid 1980s, these stories were mostly written in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and they quaintly show their age, especially in the abundant portrayal of women as either the coquettish love interest or the docile (sometimes to a breaking point) housewife. And some of the stories’ treatment of marijuana as a Big Bad Drug was almost laughable.
But still, despite the age and the rather repetitiveness of most of the stories in the collection, it was a fun (if lengthy) read, with a few gems scattered through the mediocrity. I found myself, for the most part, liking one story a lot, and that story would be followed by a handful of average (or just plain bad) stories, before I came across another that really stood out to me. I’m not sure how much of this was because a lot of the stories were predictable and similar to each other, and there was a good streak of good stories in the middle. The ones that stuck out to me were usually based on exceptionally good dialogue, as in The Graveyard Shift by William P. McGovern, or with an unconventional twist that stood out aainst the more conventional ones, as in The Time Before the Crime by Charlotte Edwards. My particular favorite, though, because it stood out so much from the others, was a piece called The Blue Tambourine by Donald Olson, which really stepped away from the spy-murder-mystery theme and took things into a wonderfully creepy supernatural, biological, psychological direction. None of the other stories managed to actually chill me quite like that one did. The only other story that really came close to anything supernatural was one that involved Count Dracula come back as a prize fighter.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad collection, though a bit too lengthly, I think, for how many of the stories were so similar to each other. There’s a certain quaintness about it, as a historical artifact and the portrayal of women and their relationships to men (it’s hard to think, sometimes, that our society was really that boorish!), but there’s a few diamonds in the rough of rather hackneyed and typical mystery-horror. The title on the cover claims that the stories were chosen by Hitchcock himself, but I, quite frankly, am not buying it. Hitchcock could have done better.
Books read: 41 out of 100.
And don’t forget! I’ve got a writing prompt up for anyone to throw in a little snippet if they’d like! Right now, D.J.’s running unopposed, so now’s your chance!