cover image Fear Itself

Fear Itself

. Warner Books, $5.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-446-36539-0

To write a story about what truly scares them--this was the task given to the 21 contributors to this horror anthology, including Graham Masteron, Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Hautala, and other familiar names. Gelb (co-editor of the Hot Blood series) has succeeded in creating an unusual collection, in that some traditional horror elements--vampires, haunted houses and similar staple evils--are foregone in favor of the more tangible terrors of this world, from snakes to plane crashes to homicidal maniacs and sexual abuse. But too few of the authors seem to have imbued their tales with heartfelt emotion, despite their claims of having done so in the individual story backgrounds supplied at the end of the book. It seems doubtful that Michael Garrett is actually kept awake nights by fear of violence in the workplace. Max Allan Collins's evocation of the fear that one's parents can inspire is too exaggerated to arouse any empathy, let alone fear, in readers. In contrast, Graham Watkins's chillingly detailed tale of a spelunker forced to confront his fear of spiders has a splendid, shocking ending, and Stephen Gresham's story offers an intriguing comment on the impetus behind and impact of horror writing. But these are exceptions. Readers looking for a fright as well as those looking for personal revelation from favorite authors are likely to be disappointed. (Feb.)