, . . Leisure, $24 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-8439-4928-5

The Horror Writers Association here presents a major unthemed anthology, 18 tales mostly featuring ordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances. One of the best is Joyce Carol Oates's "The Museum of Dr. Moses," a Jamesian tale of a fluttery mother and her second husband, a sinister doctor. S.P. Somtow discovers a Thai bogeyman in the colorful "Bird Catcher," while Ramsey Campbell's wry, elegant cautionary tale, "Worse Than Bones," spells out the hazards of reading books of ghostly tales annotated by a prior and presumptuous owner. Voices of the dead alarm the heroine of Peter Atkins's "King of Outer Space," a hip tribute to the glorious pulps of yesteryear. Fantasy resonates poignantly in the music of Melanie Tem's "Piano Bar Blues." Editor Etchison has taken care to select contributions that avoid the crude and graphic, so that the serial killer in the late Richard Laymon's "Hammerhead" at least looks innocent—as does the historically misunderstood Judas in Robert Devereaux's unusual Bible story, "Apologia." Film and fiction master William F. Nolan's "In Real Life" changes POV and protagonists faster than a racecar driver shifts gears, in a nasty if amusing tale of movie grue. Peter Straub's "Perdido," subtitled a "A Fragment from a Work in Progress," alas, belongs in the author's personal museum of incomplete and untenable ideas. Overall, this anthology offers a rewarding if hardly harrowing journey into darkness. (Oct. 16)

FYI:This is the second title in Leisure's new hardcover horror line. See "PW Talks to Don D'Auria," Aug. 27.