The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories

The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories edited by Stephen Jones. Skyhorse $14.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

As with all anthologies, the contents reflect the ideals and tastes of the editor. It is inevitable that you, the reader, will discover a range of stories some of which may not be to your own preferences. I am glad to report that this reader discovered a book that met my appetite for fine fiction all round. And I’m sure it will meet yours, too. This is an anthology that will grace any bookshelf.

Initially, I was a little concerned that a book consisting of 25 Halloween stories (and a poem) would tend towards a similarity in its content. Luckily, this is not the case. It is a testament to the editor, Stephen Jones, that the anthology is brimming with so much variety. Horror is not the main theme but rather it’s about the strange things that may happen on that particular night.

Perhaps the weirdest story goes to Robert Shearman’s “Pumpkin Kids”. As I read this I kept second-guessing the ending and was pleasantly surprised by my not guessing right. Other standout stories – for me; we’ll all have our own favourites – include those by Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Littlewood, Marie O’Regan, Joe Lansdale, Cate Gardner, Michael Marshall Smith, Stephen Gallagher and Helen Marshall (whose story runs a close second to Shearman’s for its weird factor: “…the year the coroner cut open the body of the girl who [had drowned] … and discovered the body of a bullfrog living in her lung”; see what I mean?). But to be honest, highlighting a handful does injustice to the book and its other contributors (Ramsey Campbell, Robert Silverberg, Storm Constantine, Neil Gaiman, et al). Overall, top marks for a top anthology.