Friday, February 15, 2019

FFB: 14 VICIOUS VALENTINES edited by Rosalind M. Greenberg, Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh (Avon 1988): Susan Casper, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Edward Hoch, Barry Malzberg, William F. Nolan et al.

14 Vicious Valentines ed. Rosalind M. & Martin H. Greenberg & Charles G. Waugh (Avon 0-380-75353-7, Feb ’88 [Jan ’88], $3.50, 192pp, pb) Original anthology of horror, fantasy, and mystery stories.
As too often, still reading this one as the Friday morning arrives...various distractions and other tasks intruded, as we remember the folks we've lost since this Greenberg group anthology was published in 1988...the first anthology credited to Rosalind Greenberg, who has since become Martin Greenberg's widow. 

It also didn't help that the lead-off novelet by Talmage Powell is atrocious (which didn't stop Martin Greenberg from including it in several more anthologies afterward). Clearly paid by the word, Powell lards everything with unnecessary description, characters restating what has just been described, either by Powell as author or through another character's speech, infodumps about Louisiana history (real and story-specific), and has characters grow enraged at each other in the middle of dialog for no reason. The title is essentially meaningless, as well. Thirty pages of discouragement to continue. Powell was never the most precise writer, in what I've read over the decades, and he was usually at his best in writing about obsessed characters just when they've lost all self-control...his rationale for this as horror story and its villain of sorts is less utterly clumsy than most of the rest of the tale, but that's a very low bar.

Isaac Asimov's introduction is a pleasant-enough, if slightly perfunctory, rundown of the origins of the name Valentine (and its predecessors) and, very quickly, the emergence of modern Valentine's Day observation. The loving care with which the book was put together is indicated by no copyright notice for the Asimov introduction anywhere in the text, and a poor choice of typeface and even worse page layout, with "gutters" for the binding of the paperback original way too narrow and almost requiring breaking the spine to being able to read the stories.

However, things pick up immediately with a Sam McBride story by Ed Gorman, signing himself as he often would early on in horror contexts as "Daniel Ransom". The Rick Hautala entry is apparently his first published short story; as with Jane Gaskell and Samuel Delany and relatively few others, he was publishing novels for several years before his first shorter work. And I look forward to better things from such old pros as Bill Crider (the anniversary of whose passing was only days ago), Edward Wellen, Edward Hoch, Barry Malzberg, Steve Rasnic Tem, William Nolan, Nedra Tyre (whose story is the only other one reprinted here along with the Hautala...though sloppy traffic control lists the Hautala as an original here, as opposed to in another Greenberg anthology published the year before) and others. And Susan Casper, the briefly prolific short story writer Jeannette Hopper, Tyre and co-editor Greenberg help qualify this for the Women in Horror Month consideration, along with its obvious seasonal relevance.

More review to come.

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