Seventeen atmospheric and entertaining horror stories, though boasting few deaths and little blood, by British novelist Fowler (Red Bride, 1993, etc.). Fowler kicks off the collection with ""Spanky's Back in Town,"" about a mysterious small FabergÆ’ casket, once owned by Rasputin and now about to be opened in the basement of the British Museum by swanky curator Amy Dale. And what's in it? Well, that goes back to Genesis, or even earlier. The Stokeresque ""Dracula's Library"" tells of Jonathan Harker, who's lured and then held fast in the Count's Carpathian castle while cataloguing a fabulous hoard of books, some so old that human warmth turns each poisonous page to smut. (And he's visited by a few vampirellas whose nudity seems borrowed from Coppola's glorious film version.) In the revenge tale ""Five Star,"" a crooked British MP and his wife escape from his recent bad--veddy bad--press by holing up on a resort island and finishing off a bottle of five-star cognac that is a more potent digestif than they'd ever suspected. In ""Scratch,"" a man playing a scratch card wins . . . something very unpleasant. And in ""Learning to Let Go,"" Fowler's latest invention, a professor of oral history is certain that everyone has some story to tell--yet finds his life as a""fictional"" character decaying all around him. This masterpiece draws on all the earlier tales here and then discards them as their creator declares his farewell to genre writing. Does this mean that Fowler will turn to really personal writing? His rich descriptive ability in ""Learning to Let Go"" shows a sensitive touch like that in James Agee's evocation of his Knoxville summer nights: all the description emerges from character, like a warm evening mist. It's not merely beautiful writing. A hint of Promethean promise.