I've always been curious as to why Grant dropped the "L." out of his name later in his career. You can't see it on the cover for this edition of the book, but on the print edition you can see that he's just "Charles Grant" there. I noticed this on Robert R. McCammon's I Travel by Night, as well, and wonder what drives that sort of thing. Too much of a mouthful? Or are the authors trying to separate their careers using the slightly different names?
With The Black Carousel, Grant wasn't deviating from anything he had done previously; if anything, he returned to familiar ground. By the time this collection was originally published, Grant hadn't written anything about Oxrun Station for six years, and not only did he return to his familiar town, but he also wrote a book comprised of four novellas, like he did with Nightmare Seasons, The Orchard, and Dialing the Wind. And yet he still left out that "L.". Curious.
Anyway, this is another re-read for me, and I was looking forward to this one because I remembered liking this one a lot, even though I didn't recall many details about any of the stories. I remembered the feeling I had while reading it, and even recommended the book to some others folks I knew who were into horror. Plus, the theme of the dark carnival is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury and Something Wicked This Way Comes, so the collection had a lot to live up to just by association.
"Penny Tunes for a Gold Lion", the first story in the collection, was a little predictable, but effective nonetheless. The main character wasn't completely sympathetic due to his being a little pathetic, but still, he wasn't someone you wanted to see done wrong. Once things started going down a dark road, though, I could feel the mood of the story change. That's another one of Grant's skills, though -- how he can change how you feel about a story with a short turn of phrase.
The second story, "Will You Be Mine?", is the story I remember the best, because it's just so chilling. Grant was an expert at creating genuinely creepy moments, like the one from this story that actually made me shudder. He didn't use shock or graphic violence to convey that feeling; he just knew how to create the atmosphere and characters and set the scene to elicit the right response. And that ending . . . man, he sticks it like an Olympic gymnast.
"Lost in Amber Light", the third story, was odd in its imagery and its theme, but it used the idea of the carnival to full effect. It hit a little too close to home for me, for various reasons, which made it even more disturbing, which in turn made the story successful, but I'm not sure it would resonate with other readers with different life experiences. Regardless, it was an effective story for me.
"The Rain Is Filled with Ghosts Tonight", the last story, is a melancholy story of ghosts. Maybe. It's also a story about a man dealing with the onset of Alzheimer's, so it's hard to say whether the ghosts are real (in the sense of the story) or just old memories. That question alone makes this story unnerving, which is just the right mood for it, ghosts or otherwise.
I continue to get frustrated with these e-books, too, since little care was put into proofreading them. It's clear that these were created by scanning in a printed book, since there are a lot of OCR errors scattered about the book: "dose" instead of "close"; "mom" instead "morn"; and so on. Plus, paragraphs are created at the wrong place, or aren't indented properly. When I pay money for a file, I expect that file to be accurate, you know? The errors just take me out of the story.
Regardless, this is the best Grant book I've read thus far. I'm glad to see that my memories of this book hold up some twenty years later. I can see how Grant's skills developed over time, and how his style developed into something smoother and more accessible, and I'm happy to say that I would still recommend this book to someone looking for "good horror".