Review published on November 28, 2016.
John Collier (1901-1980) was an eclectic British author and a skilled short story writer. His stories have been compared to those of the likes of Ambrose Bierce, Evelyn Waugh and Somerset Maugham, but he had a voice of his own, an elegant narrative style cleverly employed to address the fantastic as well as the macabre, comedy as well as drama, often with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.
Tartarus Press has collected twenty-six of Collier’s stories in one of its classy hardcover volumes, offering an opportunity for today’s readers to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the work of this interesting author.
Among the more noteworthy tales are “Man Overboard”, an accomplished example of psychological horror depicting a freak sea accident; “Special Delivery, a surrealistic piece portraying a man madly in love with a mannequin; “Thus I refute Beelzy”, a short, nasty tale about children’s fantasies; “Witch’s Money”, a modern fairy tale featuring ignorance and greed; and “Little Memento”, a bittersweet piece wherein a man receives some unpleasant, private information from a nosy neighbour.
The title story, “Green Thoughts”, is a delicious masterpiece of botanical horror featuring a dangerous carnivorous plant, while the famous, often anthologised “De Mortuis” is a splendid piece of dark humour. The excellent “In the Cards” is a smart story showing how card reading may sometimes provide deceiving glimpses of the future, while the humorous “A Matter of Taste” is an elegant whodunit revolving around a box of chocolates.
By no means a fairy tale, the offbeat “Sleeping Beauty”addresses the subjects of love, obsession and ingratitude, while “Youth from Vienna”, a delightful black comedy, makes us meditate on the fear of ageing and the inevitable disappointments of love.
In short, this is an attractive showcase of a talented writer’s fiction and it is likely to resuscitate the author’s reputation and elicit new interest in his work.
Mario Guslandi 4/4
Green Thoughts & Other Stories by John Collier
Tartarus Press 9781905784875 hbk Sep 2016
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