Sixteen tales of horror and/or suspense from an author who has never managed to disappoint sounds like gold on paper. But I'm the first to admit short story collections are a hard sell for me. I'm not sure if it's because I rarely get the chance to warm enough to the characters in each tale, or whether it's that I rarely find the twists and turns surprising; whatever the reason, I struggle to enjoy short stories in the way I do novels and even novellas.
So it should come as no real surprise that I found Samurai and Other Stories from the reliable William Meikle to be a decent, but far from amazing, read. As with any collection, there were stories I did very much enjoy, but there were others that completely failed to resonate with me.
Of the former, the titular SAMURAI was a somewhat predictable, but nevertheless enjoyable, tale with a decent hero and a nasty ship's captain who was easy to hate. In fact, like this one, most of the tales I enjoyed in Samurai and Other Stories were set in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. None were better than the excellent THE HAVENHOME, which managed to elicit some actual chills as it described the ill-fated final voyage of the titular ship in 1605. INQUISITOR was also a period set story and a great little Lovecraft pastiche that alternated journal entries from its two major characters to great effect. The one major present day story I liked was the collection's final entry, A SLIM CHANCE, which had a great premise and managed to say a whole heap in its short 15 pages. And there was THE TOUGHEST MILE, which would be at home in any collection of action-based fantasy tales.
On the other hand, I simply did not understand TURN AGAIN (both in terms of its content or what it was doing in such a collection), thought THE YOUNG LOCHINVAR was too bland a tale, and THE HAUNTING OF ESTHER COX seemed to be built on an all too obvious conclusion which rendered an otherwise fine tale ineffective. HOME IS THE SAILOR also left me cold as it aimed for an odd balance between comedy and horror which never quite worked.
It feels inauthentic to close on such a negative note, as this was a decent collection of short stories that did enough to earn my recommendation. And when it comes to short stories, that's no mean feat.
3 Characters Named Duncan in the First Half Dozen Stories Alone for Samurai and Other Stories.