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"Increasingly illiterate, disgusting and meritless."
September 8, 2010 10:06 AM   Subscribe

‘We feel that the stories in this book are such that if your nerves are not of the strongest, then it is wise to read them in daylight.' For a certain time, in every second-hand bookshop in the UK you would always be able to find a musty and dog-eared copy of one or more of the Pan Books Of Horror Stories edited by the splendidly named Herbert Van Thal. Now the first is being re-printed.

Charlie Higson tips the hat, including them in his top ten horror books
posted by fearfulsymmetry (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I was a wee lad I used to scour the various second hand and charity shops of my corner of rural Bedfordshire, looking for inaapropriate material to buy with my pocket money. This would involve searching through a lot of Mills and Boon and other detrious looking for anything war, horror or sci-fi related. Of those charity shop finds the most highly prized were the novels of Sven Hassel (Which were basically all SS death Squad Goes To Monte Casino for the Massacre) and the Pan Books of Horror. Those things were great. Looking at the line up now I can see that despite a certain trash factor they were pretty much an education in the genre - some great names and great stories there.
posted by Artw at 10:16 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Completionist collection fetish ... engaged.
posted by adipocere at 10:27 AM on September 8, 2010


I see The Shining on the list at #2. That's good, but I think you really need to put 'Salem's Lot ahead of it in terms of scariness. (In terms of psychology, perhaps not.) When inviting people into the house, I still always flash on "maybe I shouldn't do that--what if they are a vampire?"
posted by DU at 10:58 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit surprised to find no M.R. James in the pan books of horror - i could have sworn that was where I read "the casting of the runes" first.

Also after some research a bit ago I figured out that the neat poltergeist story they ran was "Minuke", by Nigel Kneale (of Quatermass fame), but it looks like they published another story of his that i was unaware of, which is cool.
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on September 8, 2010


Never heard of. Want now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:38 AM on September 8, 2010


Thanks for this! I stopped reading horror a long time ago (it just stopped being scary, and it seemed like every other writer was a -- Jesus wept -- Dean Koontz wannabe) but maybe it's time to revisit.

FWIW, I'd add both Clive Barker's Books of Blood and Peter Straub's Shadowland to the list.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:47 AM on September 8, 2010


Actually Higson gets several minus points for failing to include the other two members of the Unholy Trilogy of Secondhand Bookdom of which Pan is the third* - Shaun Hutson and James Herbert...."man-eating slugs leave me slightly unmoved" Shame on you Charlie, shame on you.

*There's an argument for including Dennis Wheatly as you always seemed to find a copy of The Haunting Of Toby Jugg in every shop...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:06 PM on September 8, 2010


Shaun Hutson was a playground favourite for us due to Assassin, which featured a zombie blowjob scene complete with maggot spooge, and that was about the neatest thing ever. Ah, to be thirteen...
posted by Artw at 12:21 PM on September 8, 2010


I'm a bit surprised to find no M.R. James in the pan books of horror - i could have sworn that was where I read "the casting of the runes" first.

I think there might have been at least one other copycat series on the go at the time and there were certainty other horror anthologies. I've still got a one-off by R. Chetwynd-Hayes of Monster Club fame, called Tales Of Terror From Outer Space, that's got some stone cold classics in it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:22 PM on September 8, 2010


There were some great Alfred Hitchcock ones.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on September 8, 2010


Shaun Hutson was a playground favourite for us due to Assassin, which featured a zombie blowjob scene complete with maggot spooge, and that was about the neatest thing ever. Ah, to be thirteen...

My god - the totally disgusting Shaun Hutson!

He lived not far from you then, in your Bedfordshire days, Artw?

I remember him vividly because I was allowed to review one of his disgusting horror-war books as a junior at my first newspaper in the 1980s- the North Herts Gazette - which covered Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock, Stevenage and some other awful places too.

Hutson was a local Letchworth celeb, and I wrote a really turgid, pompous review. (It took me about a week with heavy use of a thesaurus - and some notion that I could be the next Ken Tynan!), which was certainly much, much worse than his silly book. Then one of the older journalists said that actually, Hutson was rather a nice guy. And I felt such a guilty shit.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:29 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't know the Pan Horror Books, though they sound like the kind of thing I would have liked a great deal as a boy. I was hooked on the school and local library's Alfred Hitchcock Anthology series which weren't terribly horrifying but were sufficiently weird. I still think about some of those stories after all these years.

I must agree with DU: Salem's Lot is a better horror pick than The Shining. At least, it put a distinctive chill in my summer of '86.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:29 PM on September 8, 2010


Oh, of course if you have no interest in the supernatural you'll pick The Shining ahead of Salem's Lot. But then a list of excellent horror novels that steer clear of the supernatural is a pretty different list than excellent horror novels generally. At least for me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:32 PM on September 8, 2010


Wow, Shaun Hutson is like a real life version of Garth Merenghi.

Garth Marenghi: (sat at his desk, reading from one of his novels Slicer) "Something was pouring from his mouth. He examined his sleeve. Blood!? Blood. Crimson copper-smelling blood, his blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. (Checks line)...And bits of sick."
posted by FatherDagon at 1:46 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh. I never knew he was from Letchworth - I had an Aunt and Uncle there but didn't visit much. It's basically a garden town and about as unscary and unsupernatural a local as you could get - my main memory of it is that I saw Popeye and Superman II at the cinema there.
posted by Artw at 1:48 PM on September 8, 2010


Also this has resulted in me looking up the street I grew up on in Google Streetview, which produces a weird Lovecraftian time-lost sense of horror all of it's own.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on September 8, 2010


Wow, Shaun Hutson is like a real life version of Garth Merenghi.

Heh, I think it's pretty much a given that Garth was heavily based on the Prince of Gore himself.

I remember him turning up on Central Weekend (a local television discussion program) a lot in the 80s whenever the subject was in any way horror related and he was always good value.

I think I linked this interview last time he came up here.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:17 PM on September 8, 2010


I;ve always liked that in real life Brian Lumley looks like a cross between a shady car salesman from the midlands (probable interests: Country and Western music, swinging) and a lizard person.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember him turning up on Central Weekend (a local television discussion program) a lot in the 80s whenever the subject was in any way horror related and he was always good value.

Some day I am really going to have to do that Kim Newman post.
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on September 8, 2010


I had Pan #3 years ago: it contained a story by Ewers called "The Execution of Damiens" that caused me no end of horror at the very idea of torture. I still remember it as being one of the most affecting things I have ever read. Helped by the fact that it was about someone who read it and was deeply and horribly affected. I felt recursively horrified. Always wanted the rest of that series.
posted by umberto at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2010


Great books, and major props for including a really worthwhile sprinkling of Edwardian, Victorian and Georgian classic ghost fiction.
posted by smoke at 7:20 PM on September 8, 2010


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