#3: Dark Delicacies II: Fear, edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb

There is only one important lesson to take away from the second Dark Delicacies anthology: Sequels are rarely as good as the original. It is almost impossible for me to diagnose exactly what disappointed me with the second collection of short horror from America's largest store dedicated exclusively to horror merchandise. Are the writers of a lesser caliber? Not really. Perhaps not as well known as the first collection, but no less skilled. Is it the presentation? Again, no. The book is physically presented in the same style, down to typeface and eerily suggestive cover. Then what could cause me to feel so let down by a new collection of horror stories? I think it might just be that I didn't enjoy as many as I normally do in anthologies. I really can't complain. There are so few quality horror anthologies left because there are so few horror markets left. And those horror markets are staying alive by publishing stories mostly from known names in the industry. Cemetary Dance goes so far as to dedicate four to six pages on Stephen King news whenever they actually get around to putting out another issue. In America, at least, it is a fading market, which is upsetting for new horror writers and fans alike. Dark Delicacies II: Fear made only one mistake as far as I can tell. They chose a theme. The first collection was considered an anthology of horror fiction on the outskirts of society. It was filled with the type of story that would get the 1/4 sheet form response for being too weird, or the even worse full page writers guidelines with the section about being clearly horror fiction highlighted for being too subtle or esoteric. This anthology promises nineteen tales about fear. That's a problem. Fear is such a broad subject that will not effectively hit everyone with every story. I think I enjoyed half of the collection, compared to all but two or three stories in the original. That said, there are five truly stand out stories for me that still haunt me. Barbara Hambly's "Sunrise on Running Water" is historical vampire fiction about one unfortunate Lord who attempted to cross the Atlantic as a passenger on the Titanic. It's suspenseful and hilarious, with excellent character development and a period tone that feels authentic. Max Brooks submitted a new tale of the Zombie War entitled "Great Wall." It describes one Chinese woman who permanently disfigured her hands attempting to stave off zombies with the creation of a new Great Wall made entirely of broken glass bricks. It might be better than any story actually included in World War Z. "First Born" has John Farris riffing on a cliche contract with the devil set in a posh Hollywood estate. The tone is bizarre, almost absurd, yet the execution chilled me to the bone. Speaking of bizarre, does Tanarive Due ring a bell? Her "Amusement" fulfills the "Macabre" portion of the subtitle (More Original Tales of Terror and the Macabre by the World's Greatest Horror Writers) with a strange tale about a eunuch. But not really about a eunuch. But built around a eunuch. And black lights. And indie film credibility. And sex. The last of my favorites is "I Am Coming to Live in Your Mouth" by Glen Hirshberg, about a family attempting to survive the last few day's of a man's destructive battle with cancer. I would recommend anyone who likes horror fiction try Dark Delicacies II, for I think I've realized why I was so disappointed. No one I knew surprised me. Joe R. Lansdale did a tale of wilderness survival. L.A. Banks wrote in a very formal tone filled with suggestive imagery. Steve Niles did a violent story. Even names I've already mentioned (Hambly - historical, Brooks - zombies, Due - insane) did things they are known for. The first collection seemed to have authors stepping out of their comfort zones a bit more. Is it bad to be so good at one thing you make an anthology like this? No. Might there have been other authors, emerging authors, so highly praised in the forewords and afterward that could have thrown in some much needed twists to a predictable collection? Probably, considering that afterward. Just try it. It's so broad in scope you are bound to find something you like. Currently Reading: Salem's Lot The Hunger The Dark Chamber Probably a few others I'm blanking on On Deck: Massive papers Sleep migraine

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