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Adventures in Stealth Publishing: The Return of the Sorcerer

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

return-of-the-sorcerer-smallSome time, I dunno, about four years ago, I saw the cover for The Return of the Sorcerer: The Best of Clark Ashton Smith online, and I knew I had to have it.

Maybe it was the cool cover. Maybe it was the Gene Wolfe cover blurb. I can’t say. But I wanted it. Real bad.

Of course, it wasn’t published yet. So I had to wait. I added it to my Amazon cart, where it sat. For months. The publication date changed a few times, and then Amazon slapped it with one of those “Currently Unavailable” warnings that are code for “We have no clue when it’s going to ship, dude.”

So I reluctantly took it out of my cart. But I still kept an eye out in bookstores. For years. It was a long, lonely vigil, like Penelope waiting for Odysseus. Exactly like that, now that I think about it.

There were false reports from time to time. Private sellers listed it on Amazon, but when I queried them they admitted it was “available for pre-order.” Bastards. Our own Brian Murphy, usually rock-solid reliable, even wrote a detailed review in July of 2010, the poor deluded fool. It’s sad what deadline pressure can do, I know. When I have to, I make up books to review too, I’m not throwing stones.

Then today I saw it listed for sale by the Book of the Month club. Yes, the Book of the Month club. That’s just weird. They don’t sell books that don’t exist, usually.

So I dug a little further. I discovered, to my astonishment, that Amazon.com had it listed. So did Barnes & Noble. Apparently it came out in 2010.

Excuse me? 2010?? How the hell did it get past me? I had, like, a dragnet the size of Rhode Island out for this book. I’m usually pretty plugged in to the publishing industry. Really. I’m connected, man. It hurts that this book managed to get past me. For two years.

I blame the publisher, because they’re small and I can pick on them. Prime Books, you owe me an apology. And maybe a cinnamon danish.

The Return of the Sorcerer: The Best of Clark Ashton Smith is edited by Robert Weinberg. It is 400 pages in trade paperback for $14.95 (or $13.99 in hardcover through the Book of the Month Club). It was published (allegedly) in September 2009 by Prime Books.

22 Comments »

  1. And Amazon has it for Kindle for $6.99, which I just bought (granted, it doesn’t have the cover–at least not a color version for the non-Fire Kindle that I have).

    Comment by awsnyde - October 10, 2012 10:53 pm

  2. Allen — would you believe I didn’t know that had been published either?

    You’re quite right, and I should have mentioned that too.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 11, 2012 12:32 am

  3. Wow. I’m surprised this gem slipped past you for so long.
    If memory serves, I think The Return of the Sorcerer was one of the earliest book reviews I did.
    That does remind me, I need to see if I can get my local library to buy another copy. I had to ILL last time because some one ripped it off.

    Comment by sftheory1 - October 11, 2012 12:46 am

  4. I know I’ve seen it on the shelf at Uncle Hugo’s. I didn’t buy it because I’ve been getting the five-volume collection from Night Shade.

    Having said that, the most recent CAS I read was Zothique because I had reached that point in my Ballantine Adult Fantasy series reread. And I think the Zothique stories are probably my favorite of Smith’s work.

    Comment by Joe H. - October 11, 2012 8:39 am

  5. I do love that cover, though. Although my favorite Smith art was probably J.K. Potter’s work in the Arkham Rendesvous in Averoigne.

    Comment by Joe H. - October 11, 2012 1:30 pm

  6. Okay, if we are talking about best ever CAS book covers then I am oathsworn to mention George Barr’s magnificent cover for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of Zothique.

    http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/zothique-a.jpg

    That’s some otherworldly splendor right there.

    Comment by John Hocking - October 11, 2012 1:46 pm

  7. > Wow. I’m surprised this gem slipped past you for so long.

    James,

    Yeah, no kidding. At least it’s still available. If I’d missed it for two years and it was now out of print, that would have driven me nuts.

    > I think The Return of the Sorcerer was one of the earliest book reviews I did.

    Really? What did you think?

    Comment by John ONeill - October 11, 2012 2:35 pm

  8. > I didn’t buy it because I’ve been getting the five-volume collection from Night Shade.

    Joe,

    Good man. My favorite recent CAS reprints, however, have been the two Bison collections edited by Jeff VanderMeer, Out of Space and Time and Lost Worlds. Great stuff.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 11, 2012 2:38 pm

  9. > if we are talking about best ever CAS book covers then I am oathsworn to mention George Barr’s
    > magnificent cover for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of Zothique.

    John,

    Ah, CAS has some magnificant covers! I’m even a fan of the Rowena covers on the Del Rey editions.

    But my all-time favorite CAS cover artist is the brilliant Bruce Pennington:

    http://pantherhorror.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/lostworlds1.jpg

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/44319507@N08/6885888671/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/34204893@N08/4186416830/

    http://www.flickriver.com/photos/pulpcrush/6842301998/

    If his art works familiar, perhaps it’s because he did the covers for Black Gate 12 and 14.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 11, 2012 2:46 pm

  10. John H. — Yes, Barr’s Zothique cover is magnificent. And I did like the covers on the other three BAF volumes as well.

    John O. — Wow, Pennington’s stuff is amazing! I don’t think I’d seen those before; thanks! And it was Rowena’s cover on a library copy of City of the Singing Flame that brought me my first introduction to CAS.

    And here’s one of Potter’s interior illos for Rendezvous:

    http://www.eldritchdark.com/galleries/books-of-cas/all/a/5

    Comment by Joe H. - October 11, 2012 3:02 pm

  11. John,
    I really enjoyed it. One of my favorite collections ever.

    Comment by sftheory1 - October 11, 2012 6:02 pm

  12. Joe,

    Thanks for the Potter link. That’s some impressive and disturbing stuff, and no mistake.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 11, 2012 11:56 pm

  13. Yes, this has been out a long time, since 2009, went through several printings, and was covered extensively by the CAS message boards, trade journals (a starred review from PW), and more. It was nationally distributed and sold quite a few copies, in spite of people suggesting that CAS was perhaps too much of a hard sell, compared to Howard and Lovecraft. I think that if publishers stopped treating CAS like he’s only going to appeal to collectors, and started to position him to casual readers then he might be re-evaluated and might be able to be valued a bit more highly . . .

    Comment by Sean Wallace - October 12, 2012 9:20 am

  14. > Yes, this has been out a long time, since 2009, went through several printings,
    > and was covered extensively by the CAS message boards

    Sean,

    I am appropriately humbled. I should have known. I shall commit ritual seppuku with a copy of THE DUNWICH HORROR (the hardcover, obviously).

    > I think that if publishers stopped treating CAS like he’s only going to appeal to collectors, and started to
    > position him to casual readers then he might be re-evaluated and might be able to be valued a bit more highly…

    Hear hear! Well said. Thanks for publishing this book, and championing Clark Ashton Smith to a new audience.

    Maybe I’ll postpone the seppuku thing until I see the fall Prime catalog. Don’t want to miss anything.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 12, 2012 11:18 am

  15. Here’s the 2012 catalog: http://www.scribd.com/doc/93783146/Prime-Books-2012-Catalog

    Comment by Sean Wallace - October 12, 2012 11:25 am

  16. Sean,

    Oooo… lots of great stuff in there, especially Holly Phillip’s new collection AT THE EDGE OF WAKING, SHOGGOTHS IN BLOOM by Elizabeth Bear, and FUTURE LOVECRAFT.

    My life is saved!

    Comment by John ONeill - October 12, 2012 3:28 pm

  17. I think that if publishers stopped treating CAS like he’s only going to appeal to collectors, and started to position him to casual readers then he might be re-evaluated and might be able to be valued a bit more highly

    Can I get an amen?

    Comment by Jackson Kuhl - October 14, 2012 9:55 am

  18. Funny, I bought a copy when it first came out Delicious reading I think they underestimated how popular it would be

    Comment by Wild Ape - October 14, 2012 11:04 am

  19. [...] Adventures in Stealth Publishing: The Return of the Sorcerer [...]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 45 Black Gate Posts in October - December 3, 2012 3:27 am

  20. [...] The Return of the Sorcerer: The Best of Clark Ashton Smith ($14.95) [...]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Black Gate Christmas Gift List - December 8, 2012 8:57 pm

  21. Speaking of which, the second printing is now gone. I’ve gone back to press for another thousand copies.

    Comment by Sean Wallace - January 8, 2013 1:42 pm

  22. Sean,

    Congrats! Great to see CAS still able to move some volume after all these years.

    Thanks for keeping him in print!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 8, 2013 2:07 pm


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