Introduction

I grew up in the sixties in Pontypridd, South Wales, relieving the crushing boredom of secondary school byspending my pocket money at the local newsagent’s every Friday on volumes of short stories, seduced by the lurid covers of the Pan Books of Horror Stories, Fontana Ghost Stories and the Gunmen, Gallants and Ghosts of Dennis Wheatley. Later, much later, I’d sink into the warm Black Water of Alberto Manguel’s collections (which Amazon now calls “a kaleidoscope from the Magi of the imagination”), consuming countless other paperback anthologies along the way.   
 
Through these, my love of the genre was undoubtedly unlocked (or unblocked? for it felt like a liberation) by such visionary writers as Poe, whose ‘Tell-Tale Heart’, with its unforgettable opening POV – (much imitated but never surpassed, even by Robert Bloch’s ‘Enoch’) – and M.R. James, with his rising bed sheets, unwanted wetnesses, and deeds best kept buried. 
 
As time went by, the likes of Angela Carter with her carnivalesque symbolism, Robert Aickman with his “kitchen sink gothic”, J G Ballard with his stark unrealities, and many writers outside the field (Tobias Wolff, Bernard MacLaverty, Richard Ford, James Lee Burke) became as important to me as the old masters I revered (and still do) like Conan Doyle, Machen, and Stevenson. 
 
I hate any kind of top ten list, or top twelve, but here is a selection of newer discoveries and old favourites I’d like to share. Ones that instruct me how that magical frisson of the uncanny and weird can be achieved. Sparingly. Subtly. Intelligently. Memorably. And remind me that the cause I’m obsessed with as a writer to this day – the creation of nightmares – is a noble and ongoing one. 

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