cover image Flights of Fear -Op/034

Flights of Fear -Op/034

Graham Masterton / Author Severn House Publishers $22 (0p) ISB

Although best known as a novelist, Masterton (Burial) has also earned distinction for the competently crafted short stories he's published in myriad horror anthologies during the past decade. His second collection, however, proves more of a mixed bag than his first, last year's Fortnight of Fear. When Masterton withholds the graphic grue that is his trademark, he produces superior ghostly chillers like ""Absence of Beast,"" about ""the shape which is formed by where you're not, rather than where you are,"" and ""The Gray Madonna,"" in which the pursuit of an animated statue through the alleys of Bruges builds to an eerie climax. Erotic horror tales like ""The Bridal Suite,"" ""The Jajouka Scarab"" and the truly tasteless ""Sex Object,"" however, revel in explicitness. Two stories are concerned with the high price of fame, but while ""Voodoo Child"" credibly suspends reader disbelief in a satanic bargain Jimi Hendrix may have struck for his guitar wizardry, ""Will"" flounders with its unpersuasive argument that Shakespeare owed his theatrical success to Lovecraftian monsters. Some stories rely on detailed explanations to set up or make sense of their horrors, but they are balanced by selections like ""Rug,"" a subtle tale of lycanthropy. Masterton introduces each story as a stop on a travel itinerary. Given its more garish destinations, this book offers a trip that only the more adventurous horror seeker should take. (June)