NESFA Members' Reviews


edited by Martin H. Greenberg

DAW, ISBN 0-88677-659-7, 1996, 316pp, US$5.99

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1996 Evelyn C. Leeper

Four years ago, during the 1992 Presidential campaign, I saw Mike Resnick's ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS in a window display along with the books by and about the various candidates. So I fully expect to see this in a similar display. Certainly the picture of the "President" on the cover, with a grinning half-face, half-skull, fits in with the image people are starting to have of politicians.

Unlike ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS (of which this seems to be, if not the child, then perhaps the niece), many of the Presidents here are future Presidents rather than (real or imaginary ) past ones. Perhaps it's that my tastes don't normally run to horror that makes me say that this collection is not as good overall. There are, however, some very good stories here. "Healing the Body Politic" by Brian Hodge is a strong lead-off, Gary A. Braunbeck's "And Somewhere I Shall Wake" is a memorable idea well-executed, and "The Cabinet of William Henry Harrison" by Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins also makes an impression. "The Ghost and Mr. Truman" by Bill Crider, while perhaps not as historically accurate (I don't think the Truman renovations of the White House gutted it quite that much) does have some very strong images.

But many stories are sabotaged by anachronisms. For example, were doughnuts really purchased in bags 150 years ago, rather than just being wrapped with paper and string? Minor, perhaps, but I am of the opinion that a story set in 1860 should feel like 1860, unless there is some conscious stylistic reason to do otherwise. Some stories were a bit too predictable from the very beginning. And some stories which I think were supposed to be humorous just didn't tickle my funny bone. (One didn't even seem to have anything to do with the White House.)

Do I recommend this book? Well, if you like horror stories in general you may like this more than I did. And there were four good stories that even I liked. Still, when one considers some of the Presidential candidates we've had in my lifetime, one can't help but think that the authors could have come up with more convincing horror stories than these.

[Not surprisingly, assassinated Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy show up either as characters or references fairly often. Even Garfield gets a story. But poor William McKinley seems to be completely ignored. People interested in pursuing the assassination theme should seek out Stephen Sondheim's musical, ASSASSINS.]

%B      White House Horrors
%E      Martin H. Greenberg
%C      New York
%D      September 1996
%I      DAW
%O      paperback, US$5.99
%G      ISBN 0-88677-659-7
%P      316pp

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