When dealing with the topic of sex and horror the reading masses still find themselves in uncharted territory for some it’s still taboo others a fetish of extremism, as the concept of eroticism leans to pleasure while horror enters into the dimension of fear and agony. Therefore with the 30-year anniversary upon Ramsey Campbell’s Scared Stiff: Seven Tales of Seduction and Terror (1987) why not make this latest installment of book reviews I submit for your enjoyment. This is an adult horror, provocative and yet enhances the control of dangerous intentions, moods and eroticism it is not 50 Shades by any means. Campbell, well known for his skills and many awards among them four-World Fantasy and ten-British Fantasy and of course part the Horror Writers’ Association, his style excelled from the 1960s always capturing new readers. My copy found on the Thiftbooks website, after an exhaustive search at local used bookstores.
For those readers that don’t object to the theme of the sexual horror tales, many fully aware that other series exist especially in the late 1980s to approximately 2007 with the popular Hot Blood series totaling 13 volumes in all from Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett. This of course expanded to both more Lovecraft eroticism and author Poppy Z. Brite’s Love in Vein, therefore Ramsey’s uncomfortable sexual lusts not that quite unusual.
The six explicit contents include An Introduction by Clive Barker, Dolls, The Other Woman, Lilith’s, The Seductress; Stages, Loveman’s Comeback, and finally Merry May. Now the first, four tales in the book, written years ago, dating back to 1976, another one in 1977 and only two as new for the year of 1987. As to lay the claim on x-rated perversion, it is not, while it is graphic times, not completely violent, it is not like James Herbert’s The Fog, by any means and as for the artistic drawings from illustrator J. K. Potter rather tame too. In addition, the early works show a roughness to his work, and then the later short stories present a clear path, so from here one cans appreciation of the arc of his career.
His work of Dolls (from The Fourth Mayflower Book of Black Magic Stories) involves devilish orgies to Lilith’s (Mayflower Black Magic Stories #5) about a rubber doll to Loveman’s Comeback (More Devil’s Kisses) on the delicious topic necrophilia. This gives just an opening volley of the madness of pleasure and pain found in the pages of this book.
Similar to Stephen King, Campbell provides incredible amount of detail, as he captures unique and interesting tidbits. Some profane items occur but overall the stories fall into a pattern of more seductive and cunning than just sleazy and x-rated behaviors, setting the tone more important than explicit intimate content. However, the Dolls story does contain the wildest description creating a witches’ coven and the ensuing orgy making it likely the strongest and most powerful story in the collection.
For those curious of the genre of erotica-horror, will likely find this of interest, it doesn’t contain much of modern explicitness in the subgenre, though fetishes in the collection might have the squirming for more discovery of their own devilish conjuring and exploration of their dire fears.