Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Well Folks, there you go.  My impressions on the, if my arithmetic is correct, 470 entries to The Pantheon.  It has taken me almost exactly twelve months to read all thirty volumes and to pen my scribbles, and I would suggest it has been a year of my life well spent.
In the preamble I briefly mentioned the ratings system my teenaged self devised to grade the stories, and I thought it may be a bit of fun to repeat the process with (hopefully) a rather more subtle scheme, which would allow me to ascertain my favourite volume.
So to this end, I rated all the stories and poems on a scale of 0-5, with the occasional half mark thrown in for good measure.  This method would I knew, rather unfairly, have given David Case's 83 page epic The Hunter in Pan12 a similar weighting to the 8 pages of The Nursery Club in the same volume, as to both stories I allocated a 3.5.  So, with the aid of Excel, I multiplied each score by the number of pages occupied by that particular story, thus did The Hunter contribute 290.5 points and The Nursery Club 28 points to the total for Pan12.
Realising this method would favour those volumes with most pages, I then divided the total points of each volume by the total number of pages in that volume to produce what I call my Pantheon Quality Quotient, or PQQ.  Which resulted in the following league table:

 Pan14 Pan2
 Pan8  Pan27
 Pan1  Pan18
 Pan29  Pan23
 Pan10  Pan13 

From which I have ascertained that Pan15 is the finest volume of the series and Pan20 the weakest. 

My system did sort of confirm the general view that quality deteriorated once the series entered the twenties, but I was surprised to note Pan11 down in the relegation zone.  And similarly Pan27 in a European slot.
I shall note bore you with the actual ratings I gave to each story, but will tell you I gave a 5.0 to only one entry (Ringing The Changes in Pan4), and a 0.5 solely to The Bath in Pan26.

But having said all of the above, were I to read the whole lot again I should probably end up with a totally different set of results!


  1. Fantastic dedication to get the lot, read the lot and write it about it all. I too used to devour the series in the early days but after a while other horror compendiums were more attractive. Thanks for making all this stuff available to jog our fading memories

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Anthony - am considering giving the Fontana collections the treatment next. Regards


  2. I was for some reason thinking of those weirdly-macabre gallows-humour stories by M.S. Waddell today and decided to look on the internet and what do I find? Not only a blow-by-blow account of all of them but also of all the other stories in every compilation! A true labour of lover. I often think of some curious or more often downright horrible story I read when I was far too young and I've just revisited loads of them about 45 years later. All hail the internet and the dedication of people like yourself.

  3. Thanks for this. I read most of these stories when I was in my early teens as my elder brother left them behind when he got married. Many of them have seared into my memory especially the tales of Alex White. Reading your musings brought back all sorts of memories.

  4. Just saw a 30th Pan Book of Horror Stories go for £42 on eBay. Pass! I'm sure one will pop up some place or other without paying silly money like that. I have made a few short story sales this year and it dawned on me, thinking about their content, how influenced I was by the Pan books. A friend said, "You do like your out of the frying pan and into the fire stuff don't you?" And while reading such stuff so (too) young undoubtedly twisted me in some ways it also made me value a well written story, of which there are plenty in these books. Thanks again for all your hard work here, although it sounds more like fun than work.

  5. Hi Bob.
    The whole business certainly was a whole load of fun. I started doing the same with the Fontana series, but that sorta stalled after two and a bit volumes. Maybe I will pick it up again soon.
    I seem to recall picking up my copy of Pan30 on eBay, for not much more than the others cost. So sensibly priced copies do still surface from time to time.

    Best wishes.


    1. The Pan books were in a class of their own. I still recall, as a teenager, standing in a school science block doorway at school, reading 'An experiment with H2O' (Pan 16) and feeling physically sick when I had finished it. Great stuff.

  6. I finally gave up waiting for an 11th Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories at a reasonable price and thought I'd go looking for its contents elsewhere. For the princely sum of £35.72 I purchased Realms of Darkness, 65 Great Spine Chillers, 65 Great Tales of the Supernatural, & 65 Great Tales of Horror (all edited by Mary Danby). Also The Man Who Sold Ghosts (A collection of Roger Dunkley stories) and From Another World (A collection of Rosemary Timperley stories). I could only track down 9 of Fontana 11's stories (and Timperley's 'The Eye of the Mandala' is not in her collection), but I now have hundreds of old tales for peanuts. Discovering Timperley's broader work has been a joy. She misses a lot but, boy, when her stories click into place they are wonderful.

    1. Hi Bob. I never thought about that approach, but it does seem eminently sensible.
      I note that more and more horror short stories are finding themselves onto YoutTube narrated by talented amateurs. One can tick off many Fontana volumes yarns that way - if audiobooks are your thing.

  7. I did catch an audio recording of 'The Cocoon' which was very good. 'Bert's Resurrection' (Fontana 11) was done by Radio 4 in 1983, starring the wonderful Peggy Mount, but the BBC don't seem to have archived it. Unwrapping the '65...' volumes was childishly exciting. Just a couple of quid each and it was like being 12 again, and having all these stories in front of you. The research was not particularly time consuming, but it again demonstrated how many great stories have just been forgotten.

  8. Hello Ian, I've found your blog since several years ago and revisiting again these days, I was surprised at the amount of new comments in your blog. Back then I was too scared just to simply read your review, but now I was kind of engrossed with these series and I particularly like to read stories based on the most interesting and intriguing review of yours. It's just really too bad I couldn't get hold of vol. 29 and 30 myself. Would you mind perhaps to tell me where I could get those volumes?

    1. Hi. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      eBay is where I pretty much picked up all the series. I don't think I paid more than a few pounds for any, apart from Volume 30. Which was around £20, if memory serves. Good Luck. Ian

    2. Your great fortune seemed never smile upon me for every time I check on eBay, I feel absurd had I decided to purchase one single vol. with such excessive cost. Anyway, I just want to say thank you for creating marvelous review and I actually wonder if you have any objection if I imitate your writing style of book review? This is my first time reading book review with that kind of structure and I want to ask your permission to use similar way of writing.

    3. And do share your reviews with us. Ian's site has resurrected some amazing, all but forgotten stories, that deserved to run and run and run. But that's the nature of short stories. The vast majority just get left behind.

  9. Many thanks for posting this brilliant comprehensive review!

    I collected many of these Pan books while in my teens, during the 80s, and have such vivid memories of reading the stories for the first time; via Pan 21 and 25, I was introduced to the work of the great Stephen King.

    I am now the proud owner of all thirty books.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jon.
      The business of including Stephen King in the later collections did strike me as a bit odd. For, as I think I noted somewhere, SK was already very popular and vey much mainstream. I suggested few readers with an interest in the horror genre would not already have already known of and read SK's stories, by the time they pitched up in the Pan volumes.

      But you prove me incorrect.