Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Martin's Fevre Dream and van Thal's Second Pan Book of Horror

It’s a week after Hallowe’en but Mark and I have two reviews that keep the dark mood going.

George R.R. Martin needs no introduction, though some of his early work may. Thanks to the success of A Song of Ice and Fire his back list is being reissued, including the CLASSIC Vampire novel, Fevre Dream, here’s part of what I thought:

Abner Marsh is a man down on his luck; while considered a good steamboat captain, his most recent ship was destroyed in icy water. Joshua York, enigmatic man to say the least, sees something in Marsh that he thinks will be a key to his mysterious goals. The two men met and despite Marsh’s warnings to the contrary, enter a business arrangement to build and operate the greatest steamship to chart the waters of the Mississippi River – the Fevre Dream. The novel is set against the back-drop of the American South shortly before the Civil War, Martin’s novel features a great mix of characters many of whom are black men, both free and slaves.

In a parallel narrative, Martin introduces Damon Julian, also a vampire and whose actions more closely reflect to the evil vampire that has come to be the accepted model of the blood sucker. Julian lives a decadent life in the dark, the plantation which he took over is fraying at the edges and Julian’s reputation in the slave community and the region in general is becoming unsavory. What’s even more unsavory is Sour Billy, the human who keeps Julian’s world in order during the day. Few characters I’ve encountered are as slimy and disgusting as Sour Billy Tipton, in other words, he’d probably be pals with some of Martin’s more lurid characters from A Song of Ice and Fire like Roose Bolton and there’s a part of Sour Billy that reminded me of Ike Clanton as portrayed by Stephen Lang in the film Tombstone.

Mark continues his look back at some classics of genre in Herbert van Thal’sThe Second Pan Book of Horror Stories:

At the time of writing this we approach Halloween (again) and my thoughts turn to Horror stories for this time of year. Two years ago I reviewed the re-release of the first of these collections. This year I had to raid the vaults of Hobbit Towers for this 52-year-old classic.

There are fifteen stories in the collection, ranging from the classic (from Edgar Allen Poe, HG Wells and Bram Stoker, for example) to the rather unknown these days (Guy Preston, Oscar Cook, Stanley Ellin). There’s also the odd surprise: Agatha Christie and Carl Stephenson.

In summary, there are more hits than misses here. Personal favourites would be The Fly, The Black Cat, and The Judge’s House, all of which are recognised as classics. Almost as good, and much more unknown was By One, By Two and By Three and The Specialty of the House.

No comments: