First published back in September of 2001 by Bulldog Books, ‘Horror Shorts - 2nd Collection’ was the second collection of horror short stories to be published by the prolific pulp horror author Guy N Smith. This second collection follows on from Smiths earlier publication imaginatively titled ‘Horror Shorts’ (1999). This collection contains twelve shorts spanning an impressive twenty years of writing (from 1977 to 1997).

The Crabs - 7 Pages
It was around midday on the crowded Welsh coast beach that the giant crabs launched their attack in their hundreds.  Ed Billington had been eyeing up a young mother when all hell had broken loose.  In the erupting chaos, Ed had managed to flee into a nearby blockhouse, bringing the young mother and her baby daughter with him along with another young lad.

The old wartime fortification they were hiding within was little more now than a concrete pillbox whose only use over the last thirty years had been as a beach toilet.  However the slitted windows and narrow entrance afforded its inhabitants cover and protection against the giant flesh-hungry crabs.

Amongst the dirt, rubbish and filth of the dark unused blockhouse Ed’s plan is to wait out the crabs’ attack.  And with this attractive young woman as company, things could actually be looking up for him.  It was just a case of holding their nerve until the coast was finally clear.  Plenty of time for the two of them to get acquainted…

One thing I love about Smith is how he crams so much pulpy goodness into his tales.  This one for example has it all.  Tension, completely inappropriate smutty ponderings, giant crabs and plenty of bloodspill.  The short tale fits snugly within the events from Smith’s novel ‘Crabs’ Moon’ (1984) as well as within the chronological timeline of ‘Night Of The Crabs’ (1976). Written predominantly from the first person perspective of Ed Billington, this short, sharp snippet of the carnage the crab army unleashed onto Shell Island delivers an interesting additional viewpoint from a previously unseen group of characters.  The storyline is fairly straight forward, predominantly feeding off the success of the previous Crabs novels, although utilising a far more claustrophobic premise than seen in any of the other Crabs offerings. Nevertheless it still packs in a good-sized punch which is guaranteed to entertain all fans of this classic pulp horror series.

‘The Crabs’ originally appeared in the 1992 edition of the quarterly magazine of horror fiction, ‘Peeping Tom’ and was later reprinted under the title ‘The Vigil’ within the ‘Crabs Omnibus’ (2015) collection.

The Ginger Bear - 7 Pages
Collette is a young student whose corpse is found on top of a druid sacrificial stone; her throat having been savagely cut open. The prime suspect for the murder is the mad local woman Michelle Wildig (known to the local community as
the Ginger Bear due to her size and burning red hair). PC George McEwan is sent to investigate, but a dark turn of events awaits him in the circle of ancient stones...

The tale is certainly short and sweet, spending the majority of its time detailing the oddities that surround the unusual character of Wildig. The short has a constantly intriguing air surrounding it, which builds to the surprising twist ending that turns out to be somewhat of a let-down. It is unclear exactly how Smith was aiming the tale to end, with a vaguely suggestive ending that leaves a few too many questions lingering.

‘The Ginger Bear’ was originally published back in 1990 within issue 31 of ‘Dark Horizons’ magazine.

The Grim Reaper – 11 Pages
Sergeant John Mayo of Scotland Yard
s anti-terrorist force has a new highly-secret mission, that if he fails, it threatens to wreak absolute havoc on the world.  An infamous terrorist known only as ‘The Grim Reaper’ seems to be plotting a new scheme of devastation.  Mayos mission (dubbed ‘Operation Werewolf’) is to hunt down and kill this ruthless killer; a man Mayo has come to believe is in fact the Anti-Christ.  Mayo must use all his skills and cunning to track down the man to avert a potential worldwide disaster...

The tale is a short instalment into the ‘Black Fedora’ series featuring the Black Fedora man himself Sergeant John Mayo.  Smith spends little time in setting down the principal protagonist, almost entirely relying on the assumption that the reader will be somewhat familiar with the character from the likes of ‘The Black Fedora’ (1991) and ‘The Knighton Vampires’ (1993).  For the first third of the short Smith sets down the elaborate scenario for the tale as well as the intricate backstory for the internationally wanted killer - ‘The Grim Reaper’.  Smith then cleverly plays with the mythical status awarded to ‘The Grim Reaper’, drawing the short tale to a somewhat abrupt conclusion with very suggestive questions still hanging over the events.   All in all, the short is a quick-fire tale that merely utilises the character of Mayo further, with very little merit other than the thrills and spills of a science-fiction-esque short story.

‘The Grim Reaper’ was originally published in the May 1997 edition of
Phantoms magazine.

Vampire Village – 10 Pages
Whilst in Germany, ex-priest and SAS trained killer (with the soul of his evil brother trapped inside of him), Mark Sabat, has been lured into the manmade
Vampire Village named Verboten, by a young and beautiful girl named Ingrid Bacher, whose brother Gerd Bacher has gone missing after viewing a property in this eerie village.

Typical of Sabat, he cannot resist Ingrid’s charm and after spending the night with her, goes to Verboten to investigate the disappearance of her brother. However, once Sabat is in the deserted village, he quickly realises that his undead enemies have actually set a diabolical trap for him instead.  Once against, Sabat will be put to the test.  The outcome being life or death...

For all the excitement of another instalment into the Sabat series (however short it may be) ‘Vampire Village’ is unfortunately a rather disappointing read.  The ten page short is unusually weak in its delivery, with a slow-paced plot that merely meanders along until the frustratingly obvious ‘twist’ to the tale is dropped on the reader.  The short then quickly wraps itself up in frankly a none to creative way and then simply ends in an bizarrely abrupt manner.  The short is perhaps the weakest inclusion within this particular collection and certainly a disappointment for the ‘Sabat’ series.

This short previously appeared in the
Sabat complete collector’s edition titled ‘Dead Meat’ (1997), which included the four ‘Sabat’ novels along with the additional ‘Sabat’ short entitled ‘Hellbeat’.

Hollow Eyes – 9 Pages
Lester Miles’ daughter, Julie Miles, has gone off with a homeless youth named Ronald Hutchinson (known to most as ‘Hutch’) on Halloween night.  Lester quite openly disapproves of the relationship between the two youths, especially due to the slobbish nature of Hutch.  And so, when Lester catches the pair having sex together, Hutch quickly takes Julie off to a Halloween carnival to get away from her father.

However, Lester has other plans for Hutch, and so he goes in search for the grubby youth with his .38 pistol. But with so many masked partygoers in the park, Lester quickly becomes overwhelmed by the Halloween mayhem.  His sanity is cracking when a whole new horror is revealed to him...

This is certainly a chilling little tale, laced with menace and an unnerving edging towards madness. Simply bursting with tension from the moment the youngsters unwelcome relationship is first detailed, the first-person-perspective is well-delivered and works incredibly well, allowing the reader to feel sympathetic with Lester Miles
s dilemma whilst still observing his breaking sanity. The conclusion to the short is somewhat predictable, but still delivers a powerful punch to end the story on.

The short first appeared in Alan Ryan
s Halloween inspired collection of short stories entitled ‘Halloween Horrors’ (1986).

Come On In And Join Us – 10 Pages
Louis is a fresh-faced school graduate, who after searching for a job, manages to secure one within a local second-hand bookshop.   However, Louis soon realises that there
s something thats not quite right about the eerie little bookshop and its decrepit owner - Mr Klein. The only customers it appears to have are dirty derelicts, who he sees entering the dingy bookshop either clutching a large tome or otherwise leaving with it. And so one day when Louis is left to look after the bookshop, his curiosity gets the better of him and he breaks in to the bookshops cellar that Klein had specifically warned him to keep away from.  And there, in the gloomy depths of the cellar, Louis will witness an ungodly secret that will tear away at the young lad’s sanity...

‘Come On In And Join Us’ is another dark and intriguing tale, reliant more on atmosphere than anything else.  The weird mysteriousness of the shop and its keeper is what quickly draws the reader into its peculiar storyline. The conclusion is surprising and delightfully imaginative (as well as exquisitely pulpy). The characters all display rich individual characteristics making the short an all-round entertaining and encapsulating read.

The short was originally published in ‘Fear Magazine - Issue 6’ (May/June 1989). The tale was later reprinted in its own chapbook in 2004 by Horror Express in a limited to 100 signed copies release.

The Executioner – 7 Pages
Wolskel had a personal vendetta which he is making good of.  He’d worked hard in researching them, hunting them down and then finally taking revenge.  They all deserve the death penalty, there’s no doubt in his mind about that.  Some may have forgotten, but he hadn’t.  They’re all Nazi war criminals, living normal lives amongst the British population, unknown to the general population. But not unknown to Wolskel.  He’d already taken the lives of three such criminals, but they were just practice runs for the one he wanted the most.  The one who Wolskel could never forget.  The one known as Bremmer.  A man who was instrumental in betraying 14,000 Polish servicemen to the Russians and instigating the massacre in Katyn Forest in 1940.  The man who killed his father.

Wolskel’s time for revenge is almost upon him.  But then he hears of another assassin who, as fate would have it, is also after Bremmer’s blood. This assassin, known only as ‘The Hawk’, is known as one of the best.  Wolskel suddenly needs to bring forward the time of Bremmer’s abduction.  He can’t lose the opportunity of delivering the Nazi’s rightful execution. The execution is his job to do.  His alone.  It’s his right…

Written to help publicise the release of his novel ‘The Hangman’ (1994), Smith’s gallows-related short is certainly an imaginatively written tale packed with suspense until the final twist ending.  From our first meeting of the character, the short keeps a purposeful air of mystery about the principal antagonist of Bremmer. Indeed, from early on nothing seems to be as it appears.  And as the tale carefully progresses onwards, so the suspense of this strange unknown intensifies.  The tale concludes with a creatively-bizarre, but altogether intriguing twist of pure black comedy, to end the otherwise morbidly downbeat premise with.  Textbook Smith.

The short story was first published within ‘Frighteners: Issue 3’ (1991), then reprinted within ‘Graveyard Rendezvous: Issue 6’ (1995), and again within ‘Tales From The Graveyard’ (2020).

Until Death – 4 Pages
After finding out about his wife’s affair with another man, our narrator decides enough is well and truly enough.  Actually hearing the words from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) his wife Janet had informed him that she only really married him for his money.  So upon finding an old phial of strychnine in the outhouse, our narrator decides to solve all his woes by murdering his wife.  However, it proves to be far from easy to rid the world for good of this raven-haired ex-beauty queen.  Perhaps tampering with the car’s breaks will do it?  If all else fails, then surely a shotgun to her pretty little head will end it all?...

Beaming with black-comedy from the outset, this utterly comical tale shows a humorous side to the prolific pulp horror author, that has previously only been glimpsed emerging every now and again within his work.  However, with ‘Until Death’ Smith embraces the angle of humour for all it’s worth, delivering a tale that plants a smirk on the face of every reader from start to finish.  Written in the first-person-perspective, the short is able to relay a story from the frustrated viewpoint of our unnamed narrator, allowing for a truly amusing angle for the reader to appreciate the story from.  Short and sweet, after a few attempts at taking his wife
s life, the tale concludes on a brilliantly bizarre note, promising one final laugh to end it all with.

The short was originally published for the
Children Of The Night (1977) publication.

Return To Innsmouth – 6 Pages
From the death of his uncle, a hundred-page manuscript written by his great-aunt Miss Anna Tilton, which detailed her own account of the disturbing happenings at Innsmouth, is passed on to our narrator in the will.  Along with the manuscript are newspaper clippings and a published account by a Mr Williamson of the horrors met at Innsmouth.  From the moment our narrator finishes reading the terrible events detailed within the manuscript, he finds himself plagued with terrifyingly vivid dreams that haunt his sleeping hours.

Knowing that unless he faced his fears, his life would continue to undoubtedly spiral ever closer to that of his incarceration in a mental asylum, our narrator decides he must leave the relative comfort of his day-to-day life and investigate what (if anything) is left of Innsmouth.  And so, although he has never in fact been to Innsmouth in person, he knows he must return to where his nightmares trouble him so.

Having arrived at Innsmouth, our narrator takes a room in The Gilman House where Williamson was detailed as having stayed on that fateful night.  Securing himself as best he can in the small room, our narrator tries to get some rest.  However, the beginnings of Williamson’s ordeal seems to be returning once again.  And within the eventual slumber of sleep, anything can happen…

Following on from perhaps Lovecraft’s most famous tale ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1936), Smith’s return to the eerie fishing village follows much the same ground that Lovecraft himself covered; almost following in the exact same footsteps, only diluted down somewhat.  For only six pages in its entirety, the short does take a little while to get on its way, and ends rather abruptly, with only a vaguely suggestive ending finishing of the short.  That said, the tale itself actually reads well, with Smith having purposefully adopted a very Lovecraftian prose, with the writing style used adding a mildly atmospheric undertone to an otherwise painfully shallow storyline that feels to be little more than a regurgitated and diluted snippet of the original classic.

The short was originally published in Stephen Jones’ anthology ‘Shadows Over Innsmouth’ (1994).

Ratmania – 3 Pages
For the last eight days, the last man on earth has been cooped up in a tiny brick building at the far end of the main Research Station Block.  He knows his time is short.  The exposure that all of the windows give will undoubtedly be how they will eventually get to him.  And then he’ll go like the rest of them did.  Ripped apart and consumed.  Nothing more than rat food…

Super short and beautifully apocalyptic; this well written and morbidly-atmospheric tale starts with the thump of a depressively bleak scenario, and from there, simply embraces the gloom of a downbeat and cruel ending.  Written as if these final words have been penned by this very last man as he contemplates his final moments, the short wallows in the depressive acceptance of the final death of mankind, with a final snarl of anger at those that brought its downfall.  For such a short addition, this is a spectacular piece of pulpy post-apocalyptic fiction.

The Waiting Game – 5 Pages
A set of manuscripts and notes have been passed to our narrator by a man named Reuben Lycett.  His request is to have them re-written into a more publishable format.  After looking into the wild and highly imaginative notes, our writer recognises a particular name within the scrawled text and decides to look it up within a copy of
Whos Who.  And from there it soon transpires that the text is in fact a true account, rather than that of fiction.

Our narrator (the writer) takes the text along to Oliver Carson, an editor at a leading newspaper renowned for their scandals. Carson quickly realises what he has in front of him and its huge potential for sales, and begins to hassle the writer for the notes.  But he can’t hand them over…for they should never be published.  The requests get more and more demanding, until our writer fears for his life and that of his family. It seems that death will be the only release from these unrelenting demands now...

This strange tale is born from a very bizarre concept that seems to be missing vital links to truly justify the gravity of what is going on. The general principals and ideas are present in the tale, but seem to be lacking the overall thrust behind the true implications held within this mysterious text.  The desperation of our writer is only hinted upon in places, leaving the whole affair ultimately feeling quite surreal.  A little further explanation into the power held within the pages of text and why it is so important that they never get published, would add so much more depth and tension to this idea.

Pocklington’s Walk – 6 Pages
Based upon Guy
s own family legend, Charles Weale (Guys great-grandfather) moved his family back home to Leicester into a large Georgian house that had a surprisingly low rent. Upon moving to the property, the Weale family and their servants soon start to hear strange banging noises resonating from the cellar, along with other such mysterious and creepy behaviour. When Aunt Trudy returns from an evening with friends, to her horror she is confronted by the perpetrator of these mysterious occurrences. The house has a dark and evil secret that cannot be ignored, not even by those who dont believe!

This final short is a creepy tale that slowly builds on the eerie suspense until the final understanding is made apparent. Because of its personal nature to the author, a certain haunting quality can be seen within the tale; reaching out to the reader with an air of spine-tingling truth about it.  Delightfully spooky throughout, the short spins a tale that throws the author back to the days of E F Benson, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce and the like.

The short was originally published in the somewhat unheard of magazine publication
Beyond back in 1995.  Unfortunately, the Authors Note that follows on from Pocklingtons Walk has been accidentally cut short by the publishers, which is a shame.

As a whole, the collection is unfortunately let down by the overall amateurishness of the publication and the serious lack of any proofreading that has led to the inclusion of a veritable litany of type-o
s throughout the anthology.  The cover artwork is scrappy to say the least and the binding is literally a couple of staples.  However, its the tales that are contained within the pages that ultimately count.  Delivering a mixture of horror styles, as well as additional instalments into classic Smith series’, alone makes the collection an absolute must read for fans of Guy N Smith’s work.  They’re certainly not all sure-fire winners, but there are nevertheless a number of shorts that give a glimpse at really how good this mater of the pulp genre is.

The collection runs for a total of 89 pages.

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