From the Abyss: Weird Fiction, 1907–1940

Handheld. (Handheld Weirds, Bk. 6). Aug. 2022. 380p. ed. by Melissa Edmundson. ISBN 9781912766567. pap. $17.99. HORROR
The latest of Handheld Press’s series of weird fiction by neglected women writers features 11 tales whose chronological arrangement reveals how Dorothy Keane Broster’s uncanny stories evolved out of her métier, historical fiction. Relics feature prominently in many of these stories, such as the guillotine-like revenge of a sash window in an old French house in “The Window,” or in the cunningly framed “Clairvoyance,” in which a razor-sharp ancient katana is improbably reunited with its samurai master, to supremely terrifying effect. Other stories have the macabre relish of John Collier, as in “The Promised Land,” where tensions between frumpy traveling companions erupt in the city of Dante. Broster’s best-known story, “Crouching at the Door,” succeeds in evoking shudders from a fur boa, the embodiment of a fin-de-siècle author’s decadent affectations, and a ghastly transgression committed for their sake.
VERDICT Both subtle and sudden, this solid collection artfully combines vivid atmosphere, supernatural horror, and psychological terror across a diverting variety of conceits.
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