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American Supernatural Tales    edited by S. T. Joshi order for
American Supernatural Tales
by S. T. Joshi
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Just in time for Halloween, here is a superb sampling of supernatural tales from America's most accomplished practitioners of the fearsome genre. From Washington Irving's The Adventure of the German Student, written in 1824, to Irish-born Caitlin R. Kiernan's In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888), written in 2000, this hair-raising anthology of twenty-six short stories has something for every fan of weird and frightening fiction.

The authors included by the editor S. T. Joshi represent the entire history of American horror writing. In addition to Irving's and Kiernan's stories, Joshi has included works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Henry James, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and many others.

A tantalizing sampling of the stories includes the following: a melancholy student in Paris makes a startling discovery about his peculiar capacity for love and commitment; a tormented soul hidden in the form of an antique portrait intervenes to prevent a governor's terrible mistake; one man's opium dream becomes a singularly substantial terror to other residents of a boarding house; an artist and his beautiful model discover that dreams - especially the bad ones - really do come true; a frontier combat veteran, although mortally injured, clings to life as if by magic through a primitive cosmic power; a pharmacist who is bored with his job meets a shadowy entrepreneur with unique abilities and finds himself poised on the brink of phenomenal success or failure; attendants at an isolated lighthouse have a strange encounter with an affectionate admirer from beneath the ocean's surface; and seemingly long-distance telephone calls from an unimaginable caller terrorize an invalid woman.

Notably fortified by a generous serving of superb stories from the golden age of American gothic - especially those by H. P. Lovecraft and his many disciples, stories that appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, which began in 1923 and continued until 1954 - and further enhanced by a frighteningly good assortment of the most phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic short stories ever published in this country, the highly recommended American Supernatural Tales is a fiendishly wonderful collection. There is a thoroughly entertaining and disturbing celebration awaiting readers in the many tricks-and-treats in this ghoulish anthology. Happy Halloween!

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