For various reasons of a masochistic stripe I have read every vampire short story in my possession that I don't know more-or-less by heart already, and a few that I can get for nowt online. I have done this regardless of whether they are any good or not. Naturally, being the ones I have read less often, they tend to be somewhat less inspiring. Still, a few treats were to be found, foremost The Drifting Snow, which was an unexpected delight - especially as it was written by the much maligned August Derleth.
Anyway, more about vampires later. Is that a what? A threat? A promise?
Speaking of 'other horrors', Gregory Maguire's Wicked is an incredibly ruthless book, far more so than I'd expect from the hype surrounding the musical, and something of a shock to a person who only has faint memories of The Wizard of Oz. While it isn't an entirely consistent novel, which I've come to expect from works which cover such a long timespan, it is enjoyable throughout. I would say the middle of the book is the best, possessing a page turning intensity and a fine irony in the telling. The beginning is rather slow, though, and the ending felt somewhat forced and hurried. The reason for this is probably lie in the fact that Wicked is derivative fiction, and was thereby constrained by the events and timespan of The Wizard of Oz.
So, flawed and a little unsatisfactory, but it was haunting. While I'm not convinced of it as a portrait of causes and complications of the Wicked Witch's wickedness, it was a solidly enjoyable read, offering a very approachable exploration of prejudice, privilege, historical blindness and the slow encroachment of intolerance. Maybe I will watch that musical after all.