cover image Dark Love

Dark Love

. Roc, $22.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-451-45472-0

Love and death have been twinned in the horror genre ever since Poe imagined bedding his young bride in her sepulcher by the sea. Recently, several anthologies, spearheaded by Hot Blood (1989) and its sequels, have capitalized on horror fans' taste for the eros in thanatos. Dark Love may be the strongest such book yet. The first of its 22 original tales is a raucous Stephen King entry, ``Lunch at the Golden Cafe,'' which takes a blood-smeared butcher blade to the notion of romantic love. Similarly subversive are Richard Laymon's ``The Maiden,'' a gleefully nasty riff on adolescent lust, and Ed Gorman's ``The End of It All,'' in which a man's reunion with his teenage crush inspires enough plot twists to fill a novel. Not all of the stories here work well. Some, like those by David J. Schow and Ramsey Campbell, are accomplished tales but seem to have only a tangential relation to the book's theme; then there's ``Locked Away,'' by Karl Edward Wagner, which isn't much more than a parade of pornographic images. By contrast, two of the three best stories here--Kathe Koja's ``Pas de Deux'' and John Peyton Cooke's daring ``The Penitent'' (which explores the netherland of pain and domination)--use graphic detail for provocation rather than titillation. The book's final story, Douglas Winter's ``Loop,'' about one man's obsession with a porno star, does the same, offering an insidiously seductive conclusion to one of the finest horror collections of the year. (Nov.)