I’ve been following Valancourt Books almost since they started publishing books back in 2005 (and of course I’ve written a number of book intros for them). It has been really exciting to see them expand from their origins in reprinting very rare Victorian (and earlier) novels, to reprinting 20th century classics, to printing original anthologies. This past October, they released a wonderful new anthology, The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories (VBHS).
This is not the first anthology released by Valancourt, but it seems like a new direction, as it is, I believe, the first that is inspired by and drawn from the list of authors that they have contracted with. The result is an incredibly diverse collection with stories by classic authors that stretch over 200 years.
While I was reading the VBHS, it occurred to me that it felt very different from other anthologies that I’ve read. It occurred to me that many such collections published these days are often organized around a theme (Cthulhu in Space!) or around a particular period in time (Victorian ghost stories). Here, the unifying theme is simply that the authors featured are already published by Valancourt. This means that the stories are all of very good quality, but also that they are diverse in both theme and time.
You will find tales ranging from classic Victorian-style ghost stories, to psychological horror, to body horror, to surrealism, to interesting twists on vampire and werewolf legends. As somewhat of a departure of my usual blog habit, I don’t want to describe the stories in any detail — part of the fun is reading and trying to figure out where the plot is heading! One story is, however, particularly noteworthy. The oldest story, “The Grim White Woman” (1808), by M.G. Lewis, is a dark fantasy written in verse about a man, his jilted lover, and a particularly nasty witch.
The list of authors is impressive, and includes such notable names as John Blackburn, Richard Marsh, Michael McDowell, Christopher Priest, Hugh Walpole, and Gerald Kersh. There are seventeen stories in all, two of which are original for this collection; many others are exceedingly rare and can only be found in old obscure collections. I know of what I speak on this last point: while researching John Blackburn to write introductions, I spent some time tracking down his short stories, and the story “Aunty Green” published in VBHS has only appeared one time before.
Each of the stories is preceded by an editors’ introduction to both the author and the story, giving some interesting context. I should also note the very lovely cover art by regular Valancourt contributor M.S. Corley.
By the way, I have to admit that this collection is not only good, but a nice marketing coup for Valancourt! Every story here also serves as a great advertisement for Valancourt-published authors, in addition to being worth reading on its own.
This is labeled as “Volume One,” which implies that there will be more to come. (Again: I know there are plenty of other stories out there, at least as far as Blackburn is concerned.) I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next! In the meantime, let me recommend the Valancourt Book of Horror Stories as a great anthology with a really good variety of tales.