Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Be Read With the Lights OnVolume I By Alfred Hitchcock

    Once upon a time I thought Alfred Hitchcock was God.

    Maybe I still do. But there’s no doubt that when I was twelve, thirteen—we’re talking here 1974, ’75—he seemed a figure from another, greater world, a world quite beyond the ken of mortal man. The word “legend” hardly even touches was Hitchcock was to me, and to much of the world, by that point. The face, the voice, the dark suits, the girth, the droll British wit—all these seemed eternal. I’d never known a world without Alfred Hitchcock in it; for that matter, neither had my parents, both of whom were born in 1932, well after his great early career in England was underway.

    What’s more—speaking of eternal—in my first period of discovery of him, Hitchcock was, incredibly, still making movies. “Frenzy” had just been a major worldwide hit, and the newspapers frequently ran stories about his upcoming production “Deception” (eventually retitled “Family Plot”).

    But at that age, my reverence for Hitchcock was only partly based on a love for his movies. Yes, I grew up entranced by TV reruns of “The Birds” and “Lifeboat” and “Psycho” and “Suspicion” and a dozen more, certainly. But Alfred Hitchcock was a media celebrity as much as he was a film director, the Master not only of Suspense but of Marketing—a man who turned his very name into an instantly recognizable brand. One could argue that as a filmmaker Hitchcock was no better than, say, John Ford or Billy Wilder. But they never created the kind of name-brand recognition that Hitch did—recognition so powerful that even today kids often know Hitchcock’s name even if they can’t name a single other director of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Hitchcock’s fame was only partly due to his undoubted brilliance as a filmmaker; a significant portion of it came, and comes even today, from his unparalleled accomplishments in self-promotion.

    In fact, it was actually his television program “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” which introduced me to the man’s work; I used to watch repeats of the show with my mother on KTTV, Channel 11 out of Los Angeles. Like almost everyone, I was charmed by the quirky humor of the show’s rotund host, Mr. Hitchcock himself; my fascination led me to his films quickly enough, and I understood early that they were actually his main claim to fame.

    But in the America of the 1960s and ’70s Hitchcock was everywhere—not only on movie and TV screens, but on record players (“Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People,” an LP I checked out again and again from the library when I was a kid); newsstands (“Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine,” still in business today); children’s bookshelves (the “Three Investigators” series of YA mystery novels with Hitchcock as a character); and, most importantly to me for a while, grown-ups’ bookshelves—with an entire long series of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” mystery anthologies published in hardcover by Random House and in paperback by Dell and, later, Bantam.

    Now, even when I was twelve I found myself wondering how in the world Alfred Hitchcock had time to do all this. His TV series had ended, but he was still making movies regularly and, it seemed, editing a monthly mystery magazine, as well as compiling those numerous anthologies. How could he possibly have the time to read all those stories, not to mention write the introductions to every book and every issue of the magazine—all while directing a steady stream of movies in Hollywood? And at age 75, no less?

    Well, the answer, of course, is that he couldn’t. The magazine and the anthologies were entirely the work of others; Hitchcock merely lent his name to these enterprises. I suspected this even when I was a kid, though I do remember hoping that at least he really wrote the funny introductions to the books himself. He didn’t.

    No matter. Even with my suspicions, I couldn’t get enough of the Hitchcock product as it was churned out during my youth. I subscribed to the magazine for years, and I bought every paperback anthology that showed up on our local grocery store’s wire rack. My mother and I would take out the new hardcovers from the library.

    And the truth is, Hitch or no Hitch, many of those anthologies were excellent (the magazine bearing the man’s name is still a leader in the field of mystery fiction today). I first found the stories of countless writers who would become favorites of mine within the covers of those Hitchcock collections. I loved the books’ titles—“Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV,” “Stories Not for the Nervous,” “Stories That Scared Even Me.” (The paperbacks sometimes had even wilder names—“Alfred Hitchcock’s Happiness is a Warm Corpse,” “Alfred Hitchcock’s Slay Ride,” and so on.)

    But my favorite, hands down—my mother’s, too—was “Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories to Be Read With the Lights On.”

    I still have the book, in a book club hardcover edition we must have picked up at the local thrift store—brand-new publishers’ hardcovers were not in the Conlon family budget. The dust jacket has the familiar Hitchcock silhouette on the cover and, under the title, the words “Thirty-seven Chilling Exercises in the Art of Murder and Suspense.” Just looking at it, one can almost hear Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette,” better known as the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” theme, playing in the background….

    The anthology, published in 1973, features several stories which I read then and have never forgotten: “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl; “The Pile of Sand” by John Keefauver; “The Bitter Years” by Dana Lyon; “Agony Column” by Barry Malzberg (a tale I found horrifying when I first read it but which I now see is bitterly hilarious). And, most and best of all, “Hey You Down There” by Harold Rolseth, the story of Calvin and Dora Spender, two country folk digging a well on their property who find something down there in the earth that’s…well, pretty darned interesting. I’ll say no more, except that if you can finish reading “Hey You Down There” without being both chilled to the bone and convulsed in hysterical laughter, you’re a stronger man than I. Even if you’re a woman.

    That’s maybe the greatest thing about these Hitchcock anthologies—so many terrific stories, often by writers one has never even heard of. Other than as the author of “Hey You Down There,” Harold Rolseth’s name is entirely unknown to me, and even a Google search turns up no evidence he ever wrote any books. Who was he? I haven’t the faintest idea. But I know that “Hey You Down There” has stayed with me for forty years, as have innumerable tales from those Hitchcock books by writers both little-known and legendary.

    My wife is also a mystery and suspense aficionado, and early in our relationship—some fifteen years ago—we were reminiscing about unforgettable early reading experiences when she made mention of a story about a couple digging a well on their property and the remarkable thing they discover deep in the earth—the story had stayed with her since she read it as a little girl. The story was, of course, “Hey You Down There,” and she’d read it in the same Hitchcock anthology I’d read it in.

    Thanks, Hitch.
    English Reseña completa en mi instagram:

    Este libro es un compilado de historias de terror de diferentes autores seleccionados por uno de los directores más representativos del género. Considero que es un tesoro en mi biblioteca, pues tiene relatos que guardare en mi memoria para siempre, con ambientes propicios para el terror. Mi relación con este libro es especial. Siempre he sido un fanático del terror, pero no siempre un lector, es aquí cuando le pregunte a mi padre si tenía algún libro guardado de terror. Me enseñó este y me dijo “Lee el cuento: He, tú que estás allá abajo!” esa misma noche lo leí y me fascinó, aún lo recuerdo como uno de los mejores relatos cortos que he leído en toda mi vida y quedó como mi favorito de la antología, si pueden buscar este libro o al menos ese relato en algún lado, no se arrepentirán, esta escrito por Harold Rolseth. Esta es mi lista de relatos que más amo en esta antología:

    1- He, tú que estás allá abajo! - Harold Rolseth.
    2- La patrona - Roald Dahl.
    3- El hombre del pozo - Berkely Mather. English This title is misleading. It makes you think these stories are scary, and creepy. In fact, they're mostly very tame. The fun part, though, is that each story has a fantastic twist ending. I mean really fantastic. You hardly see them coming at all.

    I don't know how easy it is to find this book in print anymore (see story below for how I came upon it, and the book fell apart in my hands as I read it), but if you can get your mitts on it, give it a read. You won't regret it.

    I have a few books that have been around so long, I never pause to wonder where they came from. Used book stores, garage sales, boxes of books saved from the junk yard.

    This is one of those. I love Alfred Hitchcock, have ever since I was a little girl watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents in reruns on Nick at Nite. So, it made sense that I would have this. Where did it come from? Eh, doesn't matter.

    I decided to pick it up on a lark, as I haven't had time to make my usual library runs, so I don't have piles of library books to choose from now.

    And about 30 pages in, I stumbled across a stamp from my old high school.

    Apparently, 16 or so years ago, I stole this book from my high school library.

    Oops. English I am going to kindly give this a 3 star rating. I'm not sure if it has earned more than that, in fact, it only gets a three because I could not fully distinguish if 2 stars would be completely justified. I enjoyed quite a few of the stories but definitely not all.

    First of all, I had trouble finding stories actually written by Alfred Hitchcock. So when I came across this title I was excited. That excitement quickly dissapated when I got the book in hand and found out that none of the stories were written by Hitchcock but rather only selected by him. I was still curious though because I thought to myself what would the Master of Suspense deem as a worthy collection of suspense and mystery short stories?

    I was disappointed, most of them I do not think would have met such a high standard. So I slowed it down and lowered my expectation and began to actually enjoy more of them. However, I did not read all of them. I only made it to the 309th page of the over 400 page book. These stories are decent enough to fill empty time, but I would not select this book if you were someone who values your time. The stories were predictable (as many reviews have stated) and were written by authors who have taken decent ideas, built them up fairly well then incidently brought them to a sudden halt with screeching tires and left them like abandoned vehicles dangling on an edge. However, there were 3 of the stories I've read that helped give this book it's 3rd star.

    12/8/12 started - 12/31/12 finished English This book came out in hardcover in 1973; for the paperback version the publishers decided to release it in two volumes. This is volume one, and “Breaking the Scream Barrier” is volume two. Only a few of the stories in this one are culled from AHMM; the other sources are as diverse as The New Yorker, Ellery Queen, Playboy, Man from U.N.C.L.E., and the Texas Quarterly. Stories range from 1959 to 1972.
    Again, the volume starts with a relatively weak tale, “Death Out of Season”, by Mary Barrett, but “Witness in the Dark”, by Fredric Brown, is a flat-out winner. No surprise from the guy who wrote THE SCREAMING MIMI and THE FABULOUS CLIPJOINT. It’s a very clever little mystery story about a murder in which the only witness is a temporarily blind man. Nicely done.
    Robert Colby’s “Shadows on the Road” keeps the momentum going as various ne’er-do-wells stop at a desert hotel only to have themselves exploited by their own crimes. “Mr. Mappin Forecloses”, by Zena Collier, is a fun if not slightly predictable story that ends in a nicely Hitchcockian fashion. “Granny”, by Ron Goulart, is a bit lackluster, but is redeemed by a chilling last paragraph.
    Not surprisingly, Roald Dahl’s “The Landlady” is brilliant. A young man about to start a new job checks into a bed and breakfast, where the sweet little landlady is harboring a sinister secret. Funny and creepy, as you’d expect from Dahl.
    “Three Ways to Rob a Bank”, by Harold R. Daniels, is a fun little bit of anti-capitalism with an ending that will leave you with a smile on your face. “No Loose Ends”, from Miriam Allen deFord, has a fairly weak ending, but the story is still well-written and nicely plotted.
    From Joe Gores, “Goodbye, Pops” is a melancholy tough guy story about a hood who breaks out of stir to see his father in the old man’s dying hours. I’m not Gores biggest fan but I liked this one.
    “Pin Money”, by James Cross, is a little slow to get moving, but once it does it really rolls well. Robert J. Higgins “Social Climber” is a very short one about a novice cat burglar trying to get ahead in the game by teaming with an old pro—but the novice isn’t as starry-eyed as he seems. “I’d Know You Anywhere”, by Edward J. Hoch, is a set of scenes between two soldiers over the span of several years, as one soldier’s perverse love of killing takes him to great heights, much to the other’s dismay.
    John Keefauver’s “A Pile of Sand”, is clearly trying to make a bigger point about humanity or the world but I am apparently not intelligent enough to understand what that point is.
    “Payoff on Double Zero”, by Warner Law, starts slow but turns out to be a very good one about a young casino dealer and a scam gone wrong. Dana Lyon’s “The Bitter Years” is a solid Hitchcock-type story in which a woman who embezzled thousands fights to preserve her big dream. “Man’s Best Friend”, by Dee Stuart, a fun story about a woman fighting for her husband’s affections—against a dog.
    The collection ends with a novella by the great William P. McGivern called “Killer on the Turnpike”—an unhinged but clever murderer tries to elude police on a long stretch of highway; meanwhile police pull an ever-tightening cordon around him and for one young trooper it becomes personal. Wonderfully suspenseful.
    Stand-out stories: “The Landlady”, “Three Ways to Rob a Bank”, and “Killer on the Turnpike”.

    Sleep is for sissies, as far as Alfred Hitchcock is concerned. It seems to him a shocking crime that people should waste any of those deliciously dark hours between dusk and dawn when they could be letting murder take them by the hand and lead them to the outer limits of malevolent mischief and eerie ingenuity. To combat this wanton waste of terror time, Hitchcock has assembled his very favourite ghoulish guides to give you a grand tour of a shadowy world where evil never rests and not even the dead sleep well. You have a choice between saving a watt and preserving your sanity when you fall under the spellbinding power of these masters of the macabre. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Be Read With the Lights OnVolume I

    Algunas historias me resultaron chocantes, y otras simplemente una genialidad. English Despite the title, many of these stories are not at all scary, especially the sentimentally poignant Christopher Frames. Some stories are incredibly funny in a dark way such as Social Climber -- I can just hear Hitchcock's laughter when and if he read these.

    The stories are lively and varied. All of them have a twist of some sort. Some are dark portraits of sick psyches, some are speculative fiction and some others are poignant lessons on how not to commit a crime. If you are looking for a good anthology to read, this is it. If you are looking for all scary stories, this ain't it, so keep on going.

    I'm not sure how many (or if any) of these stories were turned into Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside episodes, but some sure seem awfully familiar. English En general muy buenos relatos, lograron engancharme. Como suele suceder en los libros de cuentos hay algunos que aburren y como que cortan en ritmo de lectura pero en este libro la mayoría tiene su encanto. English 4.5 stars. English A solid collection. Our old town library used to have shelves of the Alfred Hitchcock collections and I loved them as a teenager--was interested seeing how they have held up. And they have aged extremely well I am happy to report! None of the stories in this collection flop, some are just okay, most very good, a few great. Roald Dahl is the only author in this that was known to me, and it contains his fabulous landlady.

    Contrary to the title, none of the stories are scary. Most I could see easily adaptable to EC Comics, and I'd be very surprised if many of the authors in this also wrote for the comic industry of the 50s, besides the pulps. I think each of these stories ends with a twist, with the criminal getting away, or dying in an exotic manner--sharks, subterranean world, con artists, serial killers, voodoo--the only thing the stories all have in common is heavy doses of irony. Will read the rest of the set. English


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