BROWN Nightmares Geezenstacks

   If you want a really scary story or two… or more… you have to go to the masters, the inspired hacks who made a living off cheap thrills. Fredric Brown’s short-short stories (some only a page or two) collected in Honeymoon in Hell and Nightmares and Geezenstacks (Bantam, 1958 and 1961, respectively) aren’t all that great taken individually — though some are quite nice indeed.

   Brown can find pathos in a dinosaur and horror in three feet of water — but read as a whole, they have an effect like the Rubaiyat, sort of an extended meditation on fates already writ, that set me to thinking of things unhallowed.

BLOCH Your Jack Ripper

   So I picked up Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (Belmont, 1962) a collection of the best of Robert Bloch’s stories from Weird Tales. I hadn’t read these since grade school, when they kept me up all night, and I have to say they still pack a creepy punch.

   In the wisdom of my advancing years, I was able to sit back and admire the way Bloch — a lean and hungry writer in those days –could shift voices, writing sometimes in victorian academic, sometimes in modern hard-boiled or omniscient 3rd person … whatever it took to hone the story at hand to a sharp, unsettling edge.

   Besides the title tale, there are such classics here as “The House of the Hatchet,” “Beetles,” and “The Faceless God,” all guaranteed to keep you up at night.