First published back in October of 1968, Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology ‘The Graveyard Man’ formed book number 2281 from the ferociously expanding catalogue of publications by the New English Library.

C. B. Gilford - The Cemetery Man – 10 pages
It all started on a balmy summer’s night in 1949 when Ed Jesson had gotten into a drunken fight with a stranger in town over his wife’s whereabouts that particular evening.  However, a lucky punch on the chin saw Jesson’s opponent, Wade, scrawled out dead on the gravel floor.  Acting out of blind instinct, Jesson lumbers Wade’s dead body into the boot of his car and drives off.  However, it’s not until the next morning that he realises that he has access to the perfect place to dispose of said corpse.  Ed Jesson is a bulldozer driver at a sanitary landfill.  He could quite easily dump the body in amongst the rubbish, cover it with dirt, and no one would be the wiser.  And with the sheer simplicity of how he covered his crime – Ed Jesson quickly realises the potential of his predicament.  The potential to make some serious money...

US author Charles Bernard Gilford’s short begins with a devilishly entertaining idea which quickly gathers momentum, mixing in a thick helping of black comedy alongside the decidedly morbid plot.  And from this absolute corker of an idea, the story escalates to a pivotal point, whereupon Gilford sadly seems to run out of steam and draws the story to a particularly disappointing conclusion.

Spook House – Clark Howard – 11 pages
Sam had gone the whole season without any trouble.  But on the last night before the amusement park packed up, that fortunate streak was to come to an end.  At a little after ten at night, three youths come up to Sam’s little stall and start playing the big roulette wheel.  Frankie has his eye on the radio, but when he runs out of money without the wheel landing on the prize, the situation quickly turns ugly.  Luckily, with the arrival of two police officers, the thuggish youths quickly move on.  But they’re not gone for long, and an hour later, whilst Sam is packing up, the three youths return.  A knife is pulled and a fight breaks out.  Luckily, Sam is able to get away, and hides in the carnival Spook House where he pulls down the metal storm doors.  But inside the Spook House the danger is far from over...

Howard’s short utilises a well-used premise for a suspenseful tale that zips along at a fair old lick.  Once the thugs have returned and the action is cranked-up a good few notches, the pace just keep son snowballing – with adrenaline pumping and Sam’s desperate plight into the Spook House full of energy and tension.  From here the short wraps itself up reasonably quickly – with a good honest stab of horror that thumps in just before the short crashes to a shuddering halt.

Poltergeist – W. Sherwood Hartman
– 5 pages
The Trotting Inn appeared to be exactly what they had been looking for.  The bar did a good business and there was plenty of restaurant trade to keep the money coming in.  However, with old buildings often come unwanted extras.  And with the beginning signs of a haunted presence, the new landlord soon found that t the Trotting Inn was no exception to this.   As one of the regulars named Cy Rouser duly informs the landlord, the poltergeist had been with the inn for donkey’s years.  However, it’s a  mischievous entity that would soon come in helpful when two strangers try to rob the inn at gunpoint...

Hartman’s witty little short about that age-old classic – a poltergeist – is as light-hearted and twee as it is enjoyable.  Okay, so there’s not a huge amount that actually goes on in the five-page-tale, other than a bit of mischievous poltergeist activity and then the delightful twist with the attempted robbery.  Nonetheless, it’s a feel good ghost story that’s just some good honest ghostly fun from start to end.

A Killing In The Market – Robert Bloch – 18 pages
Albert Kessler had been a clerk in a brokerage house on Wall Street up until three months ago.  And, like everyone else on Wall Street, he dreamed of finally getting that big break.  So he found himself spending more time watching the investors rather than the market.  And that’s how he found Lon Mariner.  And with Mariner on his radar, Kessler knows that this might be his opportunity to finally get in on the action.  And so he tracks the investor down to his hotel room in Chicago and duly starts to follow him – keeping a very close eye on the man’s actions.  Until he finally confronts the investor in a bar – wanting to know about his methods.  But Mariner isn’t the man that Kessler thought he was.  He’s just the working face of a powerful syndicate.  And suddenly Kessler is in way over his head...

Bloch’s short is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read; penned with the skill of an undoubted master storyteller.  Even within the limited space of just eighteen pages, Bloch has created an entirely convincing character in Kessler, played-out an interesting line in suspense, exploded the storyline with a tension-generating-revelation, and thrown in a couple of extra mysterious characters to murky the water somewhat.  All in all, an utterly enthralling and enjoyable read.

Never Marry A Witch - C. B. Gilford – 8 pages
Tom Partain was the very definition of a ladies’ man. As the storekeeper of the Partain Emporium, Partain spent six days a week dealing with the opposite sex.   A service that didn’t necessarily end with mere sales.  However, this was a side to Tom and his business which his wife, Meg, had come to terms with.  That is until Audrey Mance decided that she wanted Tom for herself.  And that’s when the trouble first started, at the same time as the arrival of a red-furred rat in the Emporium...

For his second contribution to the anthology, Gilford’s short is one of those wonderfully entertaining tales that utilises a moral dilemma for the premise, and then purposefully warps it out of normal shape, until it’s a strangely-compelling horror.  Okay, so the twist is a tad on the predictable side – especially when held up against most modern horror fiction – but it still maintains plenty of storytelling charm which manages to keep the reader’s interest up until the darkly-witty end.

A Shot From The Dark Night – Avram Davidson – 10 pages
It would be fair to say that James Calvin ‘Jasey’ Williams had been somewhat successful in life.  He was the proud owner of a number of businesses in the town of Calhoun, including a cash and carry, hotel, automobile agency, two cotton gins and quite a number of other commercial enterprises.  But when James ‘Jenny’ Buxton turns up in town, fresh out of prison, Jasey’s far from happy about the newcomer.  For there is history between the two of them.  After all, Jasey was the one who collected the reward for Jenny’s capture after the payroll robbery back in Crookshank County.  And now, after thirty years spent behind bars, he’s here in Calhourn.  And Jasey is scared stiff about what he has planned for him or his family...

Davidson’s homegrown American tale plays deeply on the idea of a typical American community and one man’s fears which lend themselves to the potential for paranoia.  Written from the primary perspective of Jasey, the short quickly gets swallowed up by the man’s nervous worries about the arrival of Jenny.  From here, the story is rich with potential for an exciting ‘The Executioners’ aka ‘Cape Fear’ (1958)-esque plot.  Alas, no doubt constrained by the limitations of a short story, the tale wraps up somewhat sharply, with quite a predictable and unsatisfying twist-ending.

Murder Delayed – Henry Slesar – 4 pages
It had been some time since Nally had been locked-up for the robbery of Mr Pachman’s small diamond trading business.  A robbery which saw Joe Harper shot in the chest.  And now, Harper was sitting with another reporter, giving his side of the story again.  A story that relished in Nally’s final comeuppance...

US author Henry Slesar’s incredibly short tale is born from one of those delightfully raw ideas in which the author can get straight on with the bare bones of it; zeroing-in on the short, sharp, shock of a twist from the very outset.  And indeed, the reader doesn’t really have much time to ponder what could be coming before Harper has told his side of the story and then the delightfully-dark twist stamps the final full-stop on the end of this altogether entertaining slice of vengeful fiction.

Shoot A Friendly Bullett – Lawrence Treat – 12 pages
As Lois went about her household chores she listened to the radio report detailing a terrible murder that had taken place not far from where they lived.  A young woman who had been identified as Bertha Sessions had been shot and her body found in a lane off the turnpike.  A route that her husband, Clyde, often took on his way home from the Union Electronic plant.  A woman who Clyde said he had known from the secretarial pool at work before she was fired.  And a woman, who it was beginning to emerge, Clyde hadn’t gotten on too well with.  Lois was starting to get quite worried...

American mystery writer, Lawrence Goldstone (aka Lawrence Treat) offers up a humorously sinister short that plays around with the wonderfully suspenseful idea of whether this poor housewife’s husband is a cold-blooded killer or not.  And  Goldstone ekes out the suspense for all its worth – with plenty of guilty ‘clangers’ thrown in all over the shop, until the final punch line to a highly entertaining short brings the whole thing to a close.

The Man In The Lobby - William Link & Richard Levinson – 8 pages
When Officer Wolfson was sent over to the Golden Gate Hotel to check out a public nuisance complaint, he wasn’t really expecting to find much.  However whilst he was there he spotted a face he thought he recognised.  A man who was checking in to the hotel under the name of Charles Miller.  A man who Wolfson was becoming surer by the minute was in fact Frederick Lerner – the schoolteacher from Santa Barbara who killed two women.  A man who when Wolfson takes him away for questioning, appears far too accepting of this sudden turn of events for his liking...

Once again we have a short that plays with ‘assumption’ and ‘coincidence’ in order to bring about a suspenseful tale that throws up the question of ‘is he or isn’t he’?  And like with Goldstone’s short, this carefully calculated situation utilises the readers’ suspicions to full effect – until the smugly dark conclusion comes crashing down on the reader in all its miserable glory.

The Shunned House - Robert Edmon Alter – 9 pages
The abandoned Yost house had stood in shunned isolation for nearly two-hundred years. Deep in the tanglewoods not far from Oneida Lake, the old mansion was thought to be haunted by many of the locals.  A reputation that excited the young minds of Phil, Joe Turpin and his sister Gert.  And it was whilst they were fishing in the creek along Yost woods that they decided to go over to the decrepit house to take a look.  And whilst there, Phil is dared to go down into the damp cellar.  However, as the boy darts out from the dark confines underneath the house following a scare, the three youngsters are confronted with the local trapper, Hon Schuyler.  A man who has quite a story to tell about the Yost house.  And quite a part to play with its haunting past...

For the final contribution to the collection, US author Robert Edmon Alter delivers a creepy little haunted house tale with a wonderfully ingrained dark-thriller twist.  Rich with characters and a somewhat elaborate murder plot, the short follows on with the overall theme of the collection perfectly; ending the anthology on a wickedly dark note.

The anthology runs for a total of 95 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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