I have to hold my hands up and admit to never having heard of the Pan Horror series prior to receiving this, so where better place to start than with the reprint of the book that started it all off. First published in 1959 and edited by Herbert van Thal, the Pan Horror series came to feature many prolific writers of the horror genre and ran till 1989, six years after van Thal’s death.
The thing that struck me is how a few of the stories are classified as horror. They do not have the same effect as I imagine they had back when they were first published or perhaps years of sadistic horror movies and novels has desensitised me to the point that I don’t find stories about an insane man, Jugged Hair - Joan Aiken, scary in the slightest. However, that said, a lot of them do leave me with that same strange un-settling feeling I get after having watched early episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Personal highlights were The Horror in the Museum by Hazel Head, a story about the horrors of working in a waxwork museum after dark, and Bram Stoker’s The Squaw in which a cat (as illustrated on the front cover) takes revenge on a man for accidentally killing her kitten. Also included is a A Brief History of the Horrors by Johnny Mains to get you up to speed on exactly why these books are considered a standard in the history of British Horror anthologies.
All in all this is a great collection of stories, for both the Pan Horror novice who wants to find out how our definitions and attitudes toward what we classify as horror have changed over the years, or for the Pan Horror enthusiast to replace their dog-eared copies of the original book and revisit the early days in the series history.
Review by Helen Greenwood
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