Magic Terror

Magic Terror is another collection of short stories from author Peter Straub. Straub is primarily considered a horror writer, but in recent years he has also ventured into other genres with novels such as Mystery (1990). In this collection, Straub tries out many genres, including espionage, but in all of them he may be lacking something.

Straub is a very talented writer and it shows. What does not show, however, is editing. In many of these stories, the reader is left wondering if Straub could have condensed the story more so that the terror is more intense. By the time the reader actually encounters the horror, as in “Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff,” Straub continues on so much further that the terror has been reduced to a side dish and not the main feast.

There are other problems with this collection. In “Hunger, An Introduction” the character of Francis Wardwell is introduced, who the reader will learn something about by the end of the story. . . or by reading the book jacket beforehand. In “Bunny Is Good Bread,” Straub shows how a child trapped in a terrible situation eventually grows up to be a serial killer. What is really sad about this story is that part of it—the occurrences inside the movie theater—seems to be a reworking of another Straub story called “The Juniper Tree.”

There are some good things in this collection. Too bad they are saddled with so much baggage.