Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Female of the Species

The Female of the Species and Other Tales of Terror by Richard Davis 
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi 

Mostly known as an editor of horror fiction (for instance, the celebrated Year’s Best Horror Stories anthologies) and of TV horror productions (e.g. BBC’s Late Night Horror series) Richard Davis (1935-2005) has also been the author of a handful of short stories, appeared in various renowned anthologies in the UK, but never before collected in a single volume. Praise then to Shadow Publishing for assembling Davis’ horror tales in a long overdue collection, enriched by two rare essays of the author about horror genre.

The eleven stories featured in the present book portray a writer well trained in the genre’s canons and literary tricks, providing many entertaining and pleasantly disquieting, shivering moments to the reader.

The title story, rather predictable but very enjoyable, tells how a man, after his wife’s death, discovers unpleasant secrets about her and about the she-cat he has recently accommodated in the house.

Elsie and Agnes is a delightful tale about sisterly hate, with a nice twist in the tail, whereas Day Out is an excellent, tongue-in-cheek ghost story.

In The Clump Caribbean horrors take hold of two American tourist, saving, at the same time, the life of their wife and mother, while in Nondescript we make the acquaintance of an evil and powerful creature in the shape of a repulsive, bizarre artifact.

The splendid The Lady by the Stream portrays a lonely spinster and her odd affection for a young boy, while the strong, compelling The Inmate features a woman obsessed with a gorilla belonging to his wealthy husband’s personal menagerie. In both cases the women’s passions will lead to tragic consequences.

The Sick Room, a quite horrific story, told in a restrained narrative style, revolves around a peculiarly haunted room while the long, well crafted Guy Fawkes Night puts together the pieces of a past, unsolved puzzle, the explanation of which was lost in a bonfire.

Davis’ stories are well worth reading and it was high time to pay homage to an unprolific writer whose talent was unjustly put in the shade by his editorial activities.

Published by Shadow Publishing, 2012 at £ 7.99

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