Twenty not-very-scary horror stories.
The writers Howison (owner of the Los Angeles bookstore that gives this collection its name) and Gelb (veteran anthologist) have assembled are a mixture of the established (Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Whitley Streiber) and the striving, but none of them are able here to do the Poe thing, the Pit and the Pendulum thing, that ought to jumpstart the hackles. It’s not that the collection is void of quality—there are two really good stories, one exceptional; the other well above average—yet, for differing reasons, both fail to scare. Nancy Holder’s “Out Twelve-Steppin’, Summer of AA” is full of wit and shine and wacky surprises. It’s about a pair of rock stars who are also epicures of a particular bent—they’re addicted to the joy of cooking human flesh. They realize that this at some juncture will run them afoul of the law, and so they decide to seek help. Posing as alcoholics—a more socially acceptable disease—they join a 12-step program. In spite of itself, it’s a funny tale of cannibalism, and because it’s hard to shudder while grinning, the creepiness factor is undermined. In David J. Schow’s “The Pyre and Others,” the theme is obsession. While it’s too predictable to horrify, it does manage to haunt a bit. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, necromancers all get their due, though in an uninspired way.
Sadly, nothing here goes bump in the night.