If you are not a great lover of the short story form (and I’m not, really), then you absolutely have to make an exception for H P Lovecraft. Lovecraft (1890-1937) is the natural inheritor of the American horror tradition from Poe and arguably provides the link between Poe and more modern writers of the horror genre such as Stephen King (who acknowledges his indebtedness to Lovecraft). But Lovecraft is made for the short story with his poetic, even flowery, use of language (somewhat redolent of M R James in a way) that harks back to the nineteenth century, but looks forward to the twentieth. Where Lovecraft departs from the earlier Romantic and Gothic traditions is that horror lies, for him, much more in the real and everyday, rather than in the spiritual and unknown, yet he avoids the more contemporary prediliction for what King calls the ‘gross-out’.
The Colour Out Of Space (has the title been anglicised, I wonder?) is a collection of three stories, published by Penguin as a mini-modern classic and, if you haven’t read Lovecraft before, then this is as good a way to start as any. The story after which the title of the volume takes its name is the most interesting. A meteor ploughs into a field in a remote rural location and the wonderful luminescent colour it emits is a kind of poison that slowly infects and rots all living things in the immediate vicinity. The fact that is a poison that is formless and can’t be seen, felt or smelt makes it all the more terrifying. The story was written in the 1930s, but the fact that I was reading about it whilst hearing the worrying news from the Fukishima nuclear power station in northern Japan, made the story all the more relevant. It is a beautifully written and controlled story that is well worth an hour of your time.