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SCARED STIFF by Ramsey Campbell

SCARED STIFF

Tales of Sex and Death

By Ramsey Campbell

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 2002
ISBN: 0-765-30004-4
Publisher: Tor

Reprint of Campbell’s 1987 Scared Stiff: Tales of Seduction and Terror (1987) that keeps the Clive Barker introduction and has three new stories and an afterword by Campbell (Pact of the Fathers, 2001, etc.). The original illustrations are gone.

With plenty of meat about his start as a writer, Campbell’s afterword gives the background about the seven earlier stories here—which, back in the late ’60s and ’70s, were meant to be groundbreaking works in the horror genre. Among them, “The Doll” tells of a coven that meets for orgies and for placing curses on a devil doll that attracts the devil himself into the orgy, a huge figure with curling horns and a monstrous penis. So the curses work—but is this really the devil? Campbell’s urge for variety has him feature different pervy modes in each of the new tales as well. In the rather dreary and fogbound “The Limits of Fantasy,” a dirty-picture photographer for a men’s spanker magazine sneaks pictures through the frosted glass of her bathroom window of a beautiful blond neighbor and then finds that his spanky fantasies about the pictures have painful real-life effects. No power of fantasy can force glowing interest into that sow’s ear from Monogram Pictures. In “The Body in the Window,” a British councilman tours the Amsterdam red-light district and sex shops, looking for the worst he can find, to report to the council, and to his wife, to justify his trip. This turns out to be a bony girl his daughter’s age, manacled naked to a wheel. When he tries to free her with pliers, she seduces him on the turning wheel and he finds that—well, a surprise. The most charming of Campbell’s cryptic kisses is “Kill Me Hideously,” about horrorwriter Willy Bantam. He’s begged repeatedly by a nutcase—who loves his goriest books—to put her in his next book. So he does—but she’s a terrible mess before he’s through.

Spank you very much, Ramsey.