Tales of Horror by
Edgar Allan Poe
Published by Alma Classics

HAVING settled into the routine of a new school or university year, young people may be less inclined to think of the classic writers they’re being urged to read, than of Hallowe’en parties and horror films.

What would be a true shame this autumn, would be failing to combine the very best parts of both, as this stunning edition of haunting short stories invites.

The first short story I studied in school is perhaps one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous, and naturally, included in this collection. The Tell-Tale Heart was read to me by an English teacher, somewhere in a 15-year-old’s day dream between maths and lunch, pulling my mind into shape focus.

As I looked around, I saw a room full of teenagers holding their breath alongside me. It is that experience which I love about horror writing.

Horror is one of those few genres, alongside comedy, which dares to be a sensory experience and challenges itself to draw physical reactions from the audience. Whether people are jumping at a screen with a bowl of popcorn, or shivering at the words between the pages of this collection, horror creates engagement and response.

The Tell-Tale Heart has earned its fame and more, leaving every reader in shock at how beautifully woven suspense has them hoping a murderer will not be caught, for a few thrilling pages.

However, the 25 other short stories contained here make the book what it is – a journey of discovery.

For those who do not know Poe well, the stories will astound with their lasting impact formed in a short time.

One of those which comes to mind is the very first tale, which if read in order, provides an experience as exciting as if you were to choose stories to open to at random. Metzengerstein manages to feel even shorter than its nine pages as it flies through images of supernatural horses and fire, cutting through arrogance and bitter rivalry.

It is these human themes, with a character of some relatable predicament or just emotion – even if that is only fear – which provide a ground to latch on to each brief narrative. This ground is then, inevitably, shaken in skilful prose which does not explain itself but rather opens up questions.

It would be impossible to think of a better time of the year to engage with horror classics. It is the genre that unites what one thinks will be mundane with what is universally exciting.

The short story is one of the most accessible ways to enjoy literature, and when combined with one of the world’s favourite genres, is the kind of pleasure that even those who wouldn’t usually consider themselves readers can delight in.

So before you head out this week, to a costume party, to a literature class you’ve wrongly assumed is going to be stuffy, or to see Saw X at the cinema, consider what all these things have in common.

You might find yourself at the perfect intersection, with your new copy of Tales of Horror.