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Whispers 2 (Jove Horror) - Stuart D. Schiff Horror Book Review
Horror books Review
`Whispers’, published by Stuart David Schiff during the 70s and 80s, was a semiprofessional magazine devoted to fantasy and horror stories. Starting in 1977 Doubleday began to print selected entries from the magazine, as well as newly commissioned tales, in hardback; in the 80s these were presented in paperback under the Jove Books imprint.
`Whispers II’ appeared in 1987 and features stories that first saw print in the 70s.
Throughout the 70s the horror genre adopted the prose stylings much in vogue among the New Wave movement in SF. Accordingly, many of the tales that appeared in `Whispers’ emphasized characterization, mood, and setting at the expense of plot. There was also a decided prejudice against fiction that was overly gruesome or explicit in tone; submissions featuring the `quiet’ horror of C. L. Grant, Ramsey Campbell, and Dennis Etchison were favored. So, readers of the Whispers anthologies had best be prepared for narratives that are short on plot, and heavy on adjective-laden sentences.
`Whispers II’ leads off with a mediocre Kane story by Karl Edward Wagner; the writing is bad even by the standards of the early Kane productions.
R.A. Lafferty presents a variant on the haunted house theme with `Berryhill’. Avram Davidson provides a Doctor Eszterhazy tale with `The King’s Shadow Has No Limits’.
Obligatory entries by Etchison, Grant, and Campbell are oblique, plodding, and unremarkable. David Drake’s `The Red Leer’, about two farmers who disturb an Indian burial mound, features genuine horror action and features one of the more interesting monsters to appear in the Whispers collections. `They Will Not Hush’ by Sallis and Lunde is a metaphor- and simile-drenched exercise in how not to write a coherent short story.
`The Elcar Special’, by Carl Jacobi, is a decent enough haunted car tale. Lee Weinstein’s `The Box’ is not really a horror story, choosing instead to focus on a distraught man’s peculiar actions.
There are a suite of serviceable tales with folklore themes, or set in rural surroundings: `The Stormsong Runner’ by Jack L. Chalker, `Archie and the Scylla of Hades Hole’ by Ken Wisman, and `Trill Coster’s Burden’ by Manly Wade Wellman.
Two entries bear the same title of `Conversation Piece’. Richard Christian Matheson’s tale revolves around a man who literally sells himself to medical science, while Ward Moore’s entry lacks any horror connotations and comes across as something that would have been more at home in `The New Yorker’.
`At the Bottom of the Garden’, by David Campton, successfully mines territory ably explored by Roald Dahl. `Lex Talionis’, by Russell Kirk, is a mediocre ghost story that mainly serves as a conduit for the author’s musings on Catholic orthodoxy.
`From The Lower Deep’, by Hugh Cave, is one of the better stories in the collection and deals with Lovecraftian creatures let loose on an unsuspecting hamlet.
There are a number of short-short stories: `Marianne’ by Joseph Payne Brennan, `Ghost of a Chance’ by Ray Russell, and `The Bait’ by Fritz Leiber all are competent, if not particularly memorable, examples of the form.
To sum it up, `Whispers II’ is quite representative of the 70s horror / fantasy landscape; some will find it rewarding, but I suspect modern audiences will find it too mannered, and lacking in straightforward horror action, to very appealing.
About Whispers 2 (Jove Horror)
Author: Stuart D. Schiff