Best New Horror combines dozens of the best and grisliest short stories of today. For twenty-five years this series has been published in the United Kingdom as The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and now comes to the US to delight and terrify thriller enthusiasts. This has been the world’s leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. This newest volume offers outstanding new writing by masters of the genre, such as Joan Aiken, Peter Atkins, Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, Joe R. Lansdale, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Robert Silverberg, Michael Marshall Smith, Evangeline Walton, and many others!
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Best New Horror Volume 25
By Stephen Jones
Skyhorse PublishingCopyright © 2014 Stephen Jones
All rights reserved.
Who Dares Wins: Anno Dracula 1980
KIM NEWMAN IS a novelist, critic and broadcaster. His fiction includes The Night Mayor, Bad Dreams, Jago, the Anno Dracula novels and stories, The Quorum, The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories, Life's Lottery, Back in the USSA (with Eugene Byrne), The Man From the Diogenes Club, Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d'Urbervilles and An English Ghost Story under his own name, and The Vampire Genevieve and Orgy of the Blood Parasites as "Jack Yeovil".
His non-fiction books include Nightmare Movies, Ghastly Beyond Belief (with Neil Gaiman), Horror: 100 Best Books and Horror: Another 100 Best Books (both with Stephen Jones), Wild West Movies, The BFI Companion to Horror, Millennium Movies, and the BFI Classics studies of Cat People, Doctor Who and Quatermass and the Pit.
Newman is also a contributing editor to Sight & Sound and Empire magazines (writing Empire's popular "Video Dungeon" column), has written and broadcast widely, and scripted radio and television documentaries. His stories "Week Woman" and "Ubermensch" have been adapted into an episode of the TV series The Hunger and an Australian short film, respectively. He has directed and written the tiny film Missing Girl, and he co-wrote the West End play The Hallowe'en Sessions. Following his Radio 4 play "Cry Babies", he scripted episodes for Radio 7's series The Man in Black ("Phish Phood") and Glass Eye Pix's Tales From Beyond the Pale ("Sarah Minds the Dog").
The author's two contributions to this volume of Best New Horror are reasonably self-contained selections from the long-in-progress fourth Anno Dracula novel, Johnny Alucard. There will eventually be a fifth book in the series, and a comic book is also in the works. Fans of the series may also like to note that the following story features the Anno Dracula version of occult detective Richard Jeperson, who features in the collection The Man from the Diogenes Club.
Previously ... in Anno Dracula: Dracula is gone, but vampirism has spread across the globe and his former lieutenants – like the Baron Meinster, from Hammer's The Brides of Dracula – contest the position of King of the Cats, the monarch of the undead. A movement has arisen to claim Transylvania as a vampire homeland. In London, vampire journalist Kate Reed covers an embassy siege ...
PALACE GREEN WAS blocked, an armoured car emphasising a point she would have thought established sufficiently well by police vans. Uniformed coppers – the Special Patrol Group, of recent ill reputation – and camoclad squaddies were kitted up for riot, and locals kept out of their homes and offices muttered themselves towards a resentful shade of disgruntled. To Kate Reed, this patch of Kensington felt too much like Belfast for comfort, though passing trade on Embassy Row – veiled woman-shapes with Harrods bags, indignant diplomats of all nations, captains of endangered industries – was of a different quality from the bottle-throwers and -dodgers of the Garvachy Road.
TV crews penned beyond the perimeter had to make do with stories about the crowds rather than the siege. Kate saw the TV reporter Anne Diamond, collar turned up and microphone thrust out, sorting through anxious faces at the barrier, thirsty for someone with a husband or girlfriend trapped inside the Embassy or, better yet, among the terrorists.
"Evenin' Miss Reed," said a vampire bobby she remembered from the Met's old B Division, which used to handle vampire-related crime.
"It's been a funny old week at Palace Green ..." Sensing the imminence of an anecdote with a moral, Kate showed Sergeant Dixon her NUJ card and was let through.
"We've been waiting for you," said the sergeant, with fatherly concern, lifting a plank from the barrier. "This is a rum old do and no mistake."
Anne Diamond and a dozen other broadcast and print hopefuls were furious that one of the least significant of their number had a free ticket to the big carnival. It wasn't even as if Kate were the only vampire hack on the street. She'd spotted Paxman, drifting incorporeally in mist-form through the crowds. She was, however, the only journo Baron Meinster would talk with.
For two years, she had been waiting for the Transylvanian to call in the favour he'd granted by spiriting her out of Romania via his underground railway. She knew he'd helped her to spite the Ceausescus, with whom he had a long-standing personal feud, but his intervention still saved her life. This was not what she had expected, but the development didn't surprise her either. Since Teheran, embassy sieges had become a preferred means of the powerless lording it over the powerful. Not that the Baron, soi-disant First Elder of the Transylvania Movement, would consider himself powerless.
A tall, moustached vampire in police uniform took a firm grip on Kate's upper arm. Dixon retreated without offering the traditional cup of tea.
"Daniel Dravot," she said, "it has been a long time."
"Yes, Miss Reed," said the vampire, unsmiling.
"Still Sergeant Dravot, I see. Though not truly of the Metropolitan Police, I'll wager."
"All in the service of the Queen, Miss Reed."
Dravot had been in the shadows as long as she could remember – in Whitechapel in 1888, in France in 1918. Last she'd heard, he'd been training and turning new generations of vampire secret agents. He was back in the field, apparently.
She was walked over to the command post, a large orange workman's hut erected over a hole in the pavement. Dravot lifted a flap-door and ushered her inside.
She found herself among uncomfortable men of power.
A plain-clothes copper sat on a stool, hunched over a field telephone whose wires were crocodile-clamped into an exposed circuit box. Down in the pit, ear-phones worn like a stethoscope under long hair, was a thin warm man of undetermined age. He wore New Romantic finery – full-skirted sky-blue highwayman's coat, knee-boots and puffy mauve britches, three-cornered hat with a feather – and jotted notes on a pad in violet ink. Above them, literally and figuratively, hovered three vampires: a death-faced éminence grise in a gravemould-grubby Ganex mac, a human weapon in a black jumpsuit and balaclava, and a willowy youth in elegant grey.
She recognized all of these people.
The policeman was Inspector Cherry, who often wound up with the cases involving vampires. A solid, if somewhat whimsical plod, he was an old B Division hand, trained by Bellaver. The dandy in the ditch was Richard Jeperson, chairman of the Ruling Cabal of the Diogenes Club, longest-lived and most independent branch of British Intelligence. He had inherited Dravot, not to mention Kate, from his late predecessors, both of whom she had been close to, Charles Beauregard and Edwin Winthrop. It had been some time since she had last been called to Pall Mall and asked to look into something, but you were never dropped from the Club's lists. The vampires were: Caleb Croft, high up in whatever the United Kingdom called its Secret Police these days; Hamish Bond, a spy whose obituaries she never took seriously; and Lord Ruthven, the Home Secretary.
"Katie Reed, good evening," said Ruthven. "How charming to see you again, though under somewhat trying circumstances. Very nice piece in the Grauniad about the royal fiancée. Gave us all the giggles."
Ruthven, once a fixture as Prime Minister, was back in the cabinet after a generation out of government. Rumoured to be Margaret Thatcher's favourite vampire, he was horribly likely to succeed her in Number 10 by the next ice age, reclaiming his old job. He brought a century of political experience to the ministerial post and a considerably longer lifetime of survival against the odds.
As Ruthven rose, so did Croft. The grey man had resigned his teaching position to return to secret public service. Kate's skin crawled in his presence. He affected not to remember her. Among monsters, there were monsters – and Croft was the worst she knew. He had a high opinion of her, too ... "Kate Reed was – is – a terrorist, space kidettes," he'd said when he last set eyes on her. Then, he was just an academic, though he'd used her to clear up one of his messes. Soon, he'd be in a position to tidy her away and no questions asked.
"She's here," said Cherry, into the phone.
The policeman passed her the set, hand over the mouthpiece.
"Try to find out how many of them there are," said Jeperson in a stage-whisper. "But don't be obvious about it."
"I don't think we need teach Katie Reed anything," said the Home Secretary. "She has a wealth of varied experience."
Unaccountably, that verdict made her self-conscious. She knew about all these men, but they also knew quite a bit about her. Like them all, she had wound in and out of the century, as often covered in blood as glory. Ever since her turning, she had been close to the Great Game of power and intelligence.
Kate put the phone to her ear and said, "Hello". "Katharine," purred Baron Meinster. His unretractable fangs gave him a vaguely slushy voice, as if he were speaking through a mouthful of blood.
"I'm here, Baron."
"Excellent. I'm glad to hear it. Is Ruthven there?"
"I'm fine, thank you, and how are you?"
"He is. How delicious. Ten years of dignified petitions and protests, when all I needed to do to get attention was take over a single building. How do you like the banners? Do you think He would appreciate them?"
She knew who Meinster meant when he said "He".
The flags of the Socialist Republic had been torn down, and two three-storey banners unfurled from the upper windows of the Embassy. They were blazoned with a tall black dragon, red-eyed and fanged.
"It's time to revive the Order of the Dragon," said Meinster. "It's how He got His name."
She knew that, of course.
"People here want to know what you want, Baron." "People there know what I want. I've been telling them for years. I want what is ours. I want a homeland for the undead. I want Transylvania."
"I think they mean immediately. Blankets? Food?"
"I want Transylvania, immediately."
She covered the mouthpiece and spoke.
"He wants Transylvania, Home Secretary."
"Not in our gift, more's the pity. Would he take, say, Wales? I'm sure I can swing Margaret on that. The taffs are all bloody Labour voters anyway, so we'd be glad to turn them over to that drac-head dandy. Or, I don't know, what about the Falkland Islands? They're far distant enough to get shot of without much squawking at home. The Baron could spend his declining years nipping sheep. That's all they ever do up in the Carpathians, anyway."
"There might be a counter-offer, Baron," she told him. "In the South Atlantic."
"Good God, woman, I'm not serious," said Ruthven. "Tell him to be a nice little bat and give up. We'll slap his wrist and condemn him for inconveniencing our old mucka Ceausescu and his darling Elena, then let him do an hourlong interview with Michael Parkinson on the BBC, just before Match of the Day. He should know we like him a lot more than the bloody Reds."
"Is that an official offer?"
"Not in my lifetime, Miss Reed. Will he talk to me?"
"Would you talk with the Home Secretary?"
A pause. "Don't think so. He's an upstart. Not of the Dracula line."
"I heard that," said Ruthven. "I've been a vampire far longer than Vladdy-Come-Lately Meinster. He was turned in the 1870s and he's basically little more than a Bucharest bum boy. I was already an elder when he was sucking off his first smelly barmaid."
They might be of different bloodlines, but Ruthven and Meinster were of a similar type. Turned in their golden youth, they remained petulant boys forever, even as they amassed power and wealth. To them, the world would always be a giant train set. Engineering crashes was great fun.
"Katharine," said Meinster, "you had better come visit."
She really wasn't keen. "He wants me to go inside."
"Out of the question," said Croft.
"Not wise, Kate," said the spy. "Meinster's a mad dog. A killer."
"Commander Bond, your concern is most touching. Are you with the SAS now? Or is everybody dressed up in the wrong uniform these days? What do they call it, 'deniability'?"
"Aren't you supposed to be a secret agent, Bond," sniped the Home Secretary. "Does everybody know who you are?" "I met Miss Reed on an earlier mission, sir."
"That's one way of putting it, Hamish Bond."
"Rome, 1959," said Jeperson, from the pit. "Not one of the Club's notable successes. The Crimson Executioner business. And the death of Dracula."
Lord Ruthven ummed. "You were mixed up in that too, weren't you? How you do show up, Katie. Literally all over the map. A person might think you did it on purpose."
"We can't let a civilian – an Irish national at that – compromise the situation," said Croft. "Give the word, and I'll send in Bond and settle Meinster's hash. Set-ups like this are why we have people like him."
Bond stood at attention, ready to kill for England.
"Margaret would have our heads on poles, Croft. And I'm not ready to become an ornament just yet. Katie Reed, do you solemnly promise not to succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome? Meinster's a fearful rotter, you know. Good clothes and a boyish charm are no guarantee of good character."
"I've met him before. I was not entirely captivated."
"Good enough for me. Any other opinions?" Everyone looked as if they were about to say something, but the Home Secretary cut them all off. "I thought so. Katie, our hearts go with you."
"Wouldn't you rather have a gun?" asked Jeperson.
"Ugh. No. Nasty things."
"A shadow? I can have Nezumi here in fifteen minutes. You've worked with her before."
Kate remembered the Japanese vampire girl who used to live in the flat upstairs from hers. An elder, and an instrument of the Diogenes Club.
"Isn't it a school night?"
Meinster would have someone who'd notice even a shadow as mouse-like as Nezumi. It was safer to go into the Embassy alone.
Safer, but still stupid.
She was marched again, with Dravot taking hold of her arm in exactly the same place, to the front line, the pavement outside the Embassy. Power was cut off to the street lamps as well as the building, but large floodlights illuminated the dragon banners, projecting human silhouettes against the walls. It must be very dramatic on television, though she overheard Paxman arguing down the line with a BBC controller who wanted, if no one was being murdered just now, to cut back to the snooker finals. As she approached the Embassy, there was some excitement among the crowd, mostly from people asking who the hell she was.
Kate saw no faces at the windows. SAS snipers with silver bullets in their rifles were presumably concealed on the nearest rooftops. Men like Hamish Bond were trained to use crossbows with silver-tipped quarrels. There were even English longbowmen schooled in Agincourt skills, eager to skewer an undead with a length of sharpened willow.
On one side, Jeperson suavely ran down what they knew about the situation inside the Embassy. On the other, Croft brutally gave bullet points about the things they'd like to know.
So far as they understood, there were about twenty-five hostages, including the Romanian Ambassador, whom no one would really miss since he was a faceless apparatchik, and Patricia Rice, a pretty upper-middle-class student who had been visiting in order to arrange a tour of collective farms by her Marxist Student Group. As a bled-dry corpse, Rice would be a public relations nightmare: her great-great uncle or someone had once been a famous comedian, and news stories were already homing in on her. The viewers were following the siege just to see if the posh bird made it through the night. Besides Meinster, there were perhaps five vampire terrorists. It was imperative she confirm the numbers, and find out what kind of ordnance they were packing besides teeth and claws. From what she remembered of Meinster's kids up in the Carpathians, they didn't need that much more.
As they reached the front doorstep, Dravot let her go. Everyone backed away from her in a semi-circle, skinny shadows growing on the Embassy frontage.
In theory, Kate could be arrested if she crossed the threshold. The Embassy was legally Romanian turf and she remained a fugitive from state justice. It occurred to her that this would be a needlessly elaborate way of whisking her back to the prison she had clawed her way out of. Which didn't mean the Securitate, besides whom the SPG were lollipop men, weren't up to it.
She thought of pressing the bell-button, but remembered the power was off. She rapped smartly on the door.
The report was surprisingly loud. Weapons were rattled, and she turned to hiss reassurance. If anything would be worse than being bound in a diplomatic pouch and sunk in a Bucharest dungeon, it would be getting shot dead by some jittery squaddie.
The door opened and she was pulled inside.
In the dark lobby, her eyes adjusted instantly. Candles had been stuck up all around and lit.
Excerpted from Best New Horror Volume 25 by Stephen Jones. Copyright © 2014 Stephen Jones. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Horror in 2013,
Who Dares Wins: Anno Dracula 1980 KIM NEWMAN,
Click-clack the Rattlebag NEIL GAIMAN,
Dead End NICHOLAS ROYLE,
Isaac's Room DANIEL MILLS,
The Burning Circus ANGELA SLATTER,
Holes for Faces RAMSEY CAMPBELL,
By Night He Could Not See JOEL LANE,
Come Into My Parlour REGGIE OLIVER,
The Middle Park MICHAEL CHISLETT,
Into the Water SIMON KURT UNSWORTH,
The Burned House LYNDA E. RUCKER,
What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Z — LAVIE TIDHAR,
Fishfly Season HALLI VILLEGAS,
Doll Re Mi TANITH LEE,
A Night's Work CLIVE BARKER,
The Sixteenth Step ROBERT SHEARMAN,
Stemming the Tide SIMON STRANTZAS,
The Gist MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH,
Guinea Pig Girl THANA NIVEAU,
Miss Baltimore Crabs: Anno Dracula 1990 KIM NEWMAN,
Whitstable STEPHEN VOLK,
Necrology: 2013 STEPHEN JONES & KIM NEWMAN,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well at least only thirty minutes of my life was wasted attempting to read this compilation of alleged horror stories. I actually got through the first three “short stories” before throwing in the towel. There was no inkling of “horror” in any of the stories and each ended abruptly without rhyme or reason. Please save your hard earned money and break out your old Stephen King collection for some of the best “horror” to ever come our way.
There seems to be a cultish sense of being the vanguard of the new avant garde among these "authors." What ever happened to writing STORIES? I found just about every entry in this volume to be exercises in some form of mental masturbation. I felt no chills, no creepy-crawlies...just disappointment and disgust. I am sure the professional critics, in order to seem intellectually with it, will heap praise on these barely readable offerings. These writers, however, are not tellers of tales but mere purveyors of atmosphere, the grimier, the better. They try so hard to paint the background that they leave the picture lacking real interest. There will be no more of these anthologies for me. There is enough about me in real life that is pretentious and puzzling to waste my time reading stories that aren't.
This anthology of short stories and novellas is an absolute must read for fans of the genre. Stephen Jones is a magnificent editor, who gives a brief biography and list of credits for each author. His selection is totally stellar as he has picked the best of the best from all sides of the ocean. It is my wager that no one can read just one story at a setting. Once you start in, you are trapped. A genuine page turning thriller!