cover image The Bloody Tugboat and Other Witcheries

The Bloody Tugboat and Other Witcheries

Robert H. Waugh. Hippocampus, $20 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-61498-131-2

Lovecraft scholar Waugh (A Monster of Voices: Speaking for H.P. Lovecraft) provides some genuine chills in his first horror story collection. He makes the most of his original premises, as in the memorable “The Puzzle in the Cellar Pantry,” in which the unnamed narrator’s uncle explains why he doesn’t finish jigsaw puzzles. Suspense builds through incremental revelations of the uncle’s methodology for working on jigsaws, and the occasional oddity (“As my uncle spoke his hand made odd gestures across the puzzle in front of us, gestures I can never forget”). Other highlights include “Alice by the Beautiful Sea,” a new bizarre encounter for Lewis Carroll’s Alice, and “The Black Plastic Bag,” in which the eponymous piece of garbage has a surprising effect on a person’s life. Not everything works, though. An otherwise interesting story of pirates, “The Narcissus Anchors in the Caribees,” is marred when the narrator-captain, who begins with the requisite dialect (“Belike we are not alive any longer”), goes on to use fancier, out-of-character language. Some plot elements, such as inanimate objects that come alive and turn deadly, may strike genre veterans as old hat. Still, horror aficionados will find plenty to like among the 24 selections. [em](July) [/em]