You know Richard Connell, right? If you came of age in the days of high school and undergraduate textbooks, you were probably assigned his story “The Most Dangerous Game” in one of your English classes. If not, you have likely encountered one of the dozens of film, television, or radio adaptations that began with Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1932 classic starring Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. And if you have somehow missed those, you’ve possibly caught wind of the controversy surrounding the latest adaptation titled The Hunt (from Blumhouse and currently streaming on Peacock).
Surprisingly, despite the story’s notoriety, the author himself and his numerous other works are relatively unknown to contemporary readers.
To remedy that, we now have a new collection of Richard Connell stories edited by writer Tom Connair. Titled A Little Gray Book of Grisly Tales and published by Borderlands Press as part of their well-regarded Little Book Series, this compact edition reprints Connell’s aforementioned classic along with five lesser-known tales that fall into a gray zone–somewhere in the shadow of horror, mystery, and satire.
Here you will find “Six Reasons Why,” in which a salesman encounters his own obituary in the evening news; and “All Wrong,” where a visitor to New York City realizes the advertisements on the subway are all about him. Both stories have a distinctive Twilight Zone vibe, as does “The Lawbeaters,” a dark little two-hander with a Rod Serlingesque twist.
Other stories “Innocent Bystander” and “A Reputation” beg comparisons with Franz Kafka. The former centers on a hapless schlemiel who goes looking for a lost cat and ends up a suspect in a murder. In the latter, a milquetoast nobody who becomes the toast of the town after announcing his intentions to commit suicide in Central Park on the Fourth of July.
And of course, there’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” the classic thriller about an aristocrat in the Caribbean with a particularly grisly obsession. It is this story more than any of the others that gives the collection its title.
The book also includes a personable introduction and ancillary notes dealing with Richard Connell, the texts of the stories, recommended readings, and more. Eschewing an academic tone, these pieces provide a conversational framework for a long-overdue rediscovery of Richard Connell.
As with all books in Borderland Press’s Little Books line, Grisly Tales is a compact edition, about the size of a mass-market paperback but with hard binding. The cover is woven cloth over heavy boards; the pages, acid free and bound with a cloth headband. Copies are signed by the editor, numbered, limited to a press run of 500 copies, and available (while they last) from Borderlands Press.