More Deadly Than the Male: Masterpieces from the Queens of Horror

Edited by Graeme Davis. Pegasus, $25.95 (496p) ISBN 978-1-64313-011-8

The 26 stories in this connoisseur’s compilation, all published between 1830 and 1908, are a testament to the role that women writers played in shaping early fantasy and horror fiction. Some selections are long-established classics, among them Mary Shelley’s tale of a personality swap, “The Transformation,” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s landmark psychological horror story, “The Yellow Wall-paper.” Others are more obscure works from well-known writers, including Louisa May Alcott’s “Lost in a Pyramid, or the Mummy’s Curse” and Edith Wharton’s stunning “The Duchess at Prayer.” These are buttressed by “At Chrighton Abbey,” a story about a death portent haunting an English manor house, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, one of several of the book’s authors who can claim a full résumé of renowned weird tales, and “The Beckside Boggle” by Alice Rea, whose name and work will be largely unfamiliar to most readers. Davis (Colonial Horrors) has done thoughtful literary excavation, and the stories he has selected are a trove of fantastic gems. Agent: Philip Turner, Philip Turner Book Productions. (Feb.)