Ian Watson is a British science fiction and horror writer who’s published a wide range of books and short stories over his long, successful career. I first discovered him upon reading his short story “Happy Hour” in one of my favorite anthologies, The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories. I found it to be a unique, brilliant tale of supernatural horror. The four stories featured here today mark all the ones that I have in the various anthologies I own. Each is a great read.
- “Salvage Rites” (1986) – A couple encounter terror after becoming lost in a salvage yard where they were dropping something off. The salvage yard is a maze of giant dump bins which continues on far longer than seems possible. The misanthropic family that operates the yard begin to stalk the couple as they progress further into the vile yard.
- “The Resurrection Man” (1988) – A man tells the story of how his family came to possess the ear of an infamous criminal who murdered and sold the bodies of his victims for profit back in the 1820’s. The storyteller also relates the strange things he discovered he could do because of it. The ending of this tale is very disturbing.
- “Lost Bodies” (1988) – A group of four wealthy friends find the still-living, decapitated head and spine of a fox after a nearby hunt. Somehow it remains alive long after being separated from its body. They speculate on how this is possible as they deal with their own relationships with each other.
- “Happy Hour” (1990) – Two married couples meet with a beautiful but secretive woman named Alice at an old bar called The Roebuck every Friday night to share drinks and jokes with each other. The men of the group suspect Alice is something more than human — an ancient supernatural being, such as a fae, or a witch, or perhaps a lamia (a female spirit that preys on travelers), but she never uses her powers on them because she likes them. The group sits beneath a device in the ceiling called an Xtractall which activates to suck up cigarette smoke out of the air. It also isn’t what it seems to be. In my opinion, this is a true masterpiece of horror. It starts off as a subtle, but intriguing exploration of ancient forces exerting their influence on a modern world that has largely forgotten them, but it quickly becomes a terrifying story with a truly horrific monster.
Article by Matt Cowan