Three Men And A Dog: The Elfin Ship by James P. Blaylock

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_222310129FBVSmfjWhen word comes to the good people of Twombly Town that the traders of Willowwood Village have vanished and the whole town has been abandoned, they are worried there will be no honeycakes from the great dwarf baker, Ackroyd, or elfin toys for Christmas. When the mayor calls for an expedition down the Oriel River to the city of Seaside to procure the cakes and toys from their source, the only man deemed capable of the task is the cheeser, Jonathan Bing. Despite his own misgivings, but to the townspeople’s delight, Bing agrees.

Clearly inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, The Elfin Ship (1982), is James P. Blaylock’s first published novel. Like Grahame’s book it is a paean to adventure, home comforts, food, and male camaraderie. For those who take note of these things, only one female character makes a brief, wordless appearance and a second is just mentioned. Nonetheless, it’s not set in a world labeled “NO GIRLS!”, but rather one where the men are more interested in a good bottle of ale, good pipe tobacco, and a raft trip down a meandering river than the whereabouts of the absent women.

I’ve loved this book for decades and have read it several times over the years, chuckling each time. I was inspired to pick it up after reading and contemplating M Harold Page’s piece “Why Humorous Fantasy Isn’t Popular” here at Black Gate a few weeks ago. Most of the comedy here is gentle and might even be deemed old-fashioned. If that doesn’t deter you — and I don’t think it should — give The Elfin Ship a read for some good-hearted goofiness.

Jonathan Bing is a stolid man with little experience beyond the warm and comforting confines of his home, but one who has always dreamed of adventure. Among his prized possessions are several well-read volumes by G. Smithers of Brompton Village with titles like The Tale of the Goblin Wood and The Troll of Ilford Hollow. When Mayor Bastable suggests to Bing he is a “stout enough lad to sail downriver yourself, all the way to Seaside with your cheeses and back again with cakes and elfin gifts”, despite some trepidation, the cheeser decides he is indeed the man best suited for the job.

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New Treasures: The Casebook of Sexton Blake, edited by David Stuart Davies

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Casebook of Sexton Blake-smallI continue to accumulate these Wordsworth Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural whenever I can, as I find them consistently entertaining and well worth the price.

When I wrote about Mark Valentine’s anthology The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths, in the comments Paul R. McNamee remarked on an additional volume I wasn’t familiar with:

I just picked up their Casebook of Sexton Blake this week… it is surprisingly thick – 545 pages. 7 classic Blake stories by different writers between 1907 – 1923. A succinct introduction goes over Blake’s history – an evolution from Baker-Street-Residing-Pipe-Smoking-Holmes-ripoff to his own niche of catch-all pulp adventurer. I wanted to try these classic tales before delving into some James-Bond-mode stories from the early 1960s that a friend (Charles R. Rutledge) had sent me… When I ordered Blake Amazon was displaying the gray cover, but they sent me crimson – which has complete new artwork, I might add, not just a color scheme change.

I was intrigued enough to order a copy of The Casebook of Sexton Blake myself, and it arrived last month. Paul is quite correct. There are seven pulp tales within, by six different authors. My copy had the crimson cover, with artwork by Nathan Clair, shown at right (click for bigger version), although there was a first edition paperback with more pulp-inspired artwork (see below).

It didn’t immediately help me understand who this Sexton Blake fellow was though, or why the seven stories within were written by six different authors. That was curious, to say the least. The Wikipedia entry for Blake cleared that up, however.

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The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: Land of Unreason by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by westkeith

Land of UnreasonLand of Unreason
Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp
Ballantine Books (240 pages, January 1970, $0.95)
Cover art by Donna Violetti

Lin Carter ended the inaugural year of the BAF series with a reprint of a novel from the pulp Unknown, Hannes Bok’s The Sorcerer’s Ship. His first selection for the series’ first full calendar year was another tale from Unknown (the October 1941 issue), a collaboration between Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp.

Land of Unreason followed the first two Harold Shea stories among their collaborations. In this story, they introduce a new character, a young diplomat named Fred Barber, who is taking a medical rest in the Irish country-side.

One night he notices his hostess leaving some milk out for the fairies so that her infant son won’t be taken and a changeling left in his place. Fred is contemplating his bottle of single malt to help him get to sleep and decides he’s rather have the milk since that has been his proven cure for insomnia all his life. Also, milk is strictly rationed, and he doesn’t want to see it wasted. He drinks most of it, leaving just a little, into which he pours a generous amount of his whiskey.

Fred then goes to bed and quickly drops off to sleep. The fairy who finds the whiskey drinks it and gets plastered. Since he didn’t get any milk, he goes into the house to take the baby and leave a changeling. Only in his inebriated state, he takes Fred rather than the infant sleeping in the next room.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Reggie Owens’ A Study in Scarlet

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Owen_PosterIn 1929, Clive Brook’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes ushered in the era of ‘talkies’ featuring the great detective. Although, it was also released as a silent film, likely because many theaters had not yet converted to sound system projectors.

The movies went crazy over Holmes, with three big screen efforts in 1931:The Speckled Band (Raymond Massey), The Sleeping Cardinal (Arthur Wontner) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (Robert Rendel).

Cardinal was released in the US as Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour. Rendel’s film was thought lost for years, with a print but no soundtrack. However, one was found and the two were merged. I’ve yet to see (and hear) that one.

Three more movies followed in 1932: The Missing Rembrandt and The Sign of Four (both with Arthur Wontner) and Sherlock Holmes (Clive Brook again). In Brook’s second turn as Holmes, his Watson was Reginald Owen, who would achieve success as Ebenezer Scrooge.

1933 saw only one Holmes movie, and it was Owen moving up to the starring role in a version of A Study in Scarlet. Well, sort of.

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Lou Anders Steps Down as Editorial Director at Pyr

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lou Anders-smallPublishers Weekly is reporting that Lou Anders, editorial director and art director of Prometheus’s Pyr imprint, will be leaving the company.

Lou has been the mastermind at Pyr since the imprint launched 10 years ago. We’ve written here of his success with the line many times over the years, and in my recent comments on K.V. Johansen’s The Leopard, I called Lou “the closest we have to Lin Carter in the field today: an editor with impeccable taste and boundless energy, who has also been a tireless champion for sword & sorcery.”

The highlight of my trip to Dragon*Con in 2010 was sitting in the front row of the Pyr Books panel, and the reason for that was the incredible stable of authors Lou had assembled — and the gorgeous books they had on offer. It was exciting to see so much terrific fantasy pouring out of one company, and Lou has been personally responsible for much of the finest adventure fantasy published over the last decade.

The reason given for his departure won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s watched the success of Lou’s first fantasy novel Frostborn, released through Crown Books for Young Readers last month. As a result of that success, Lou has chosen to “devote his professional energy to being a full-time author.” Rene Sears, Lou’s editorial assistant and slush reader, will step in to replace him as interim editor for Pyr.

Congratulations to both Lou and Rene for this career change. We wish them both luck. And Lou — you will be missed!


Future Treasures: The Madness of Cthulhu, edited by S.T. Joshi

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Madness of Cthulhu-smallWith all the recent discussion we’ve had on collecting H.P. Lovecraft, I thought S.T. Joshi’s latest Mythos-inspired anthology The Madness of Cthulhu, due to be released next month, might be of interest. It’s certainly got my attention.

The Madness of Cthulhu collects fourteen new tales — and two reprints — inspired by Lovecraft’s masterpiece At the Mountains of Madness. Authors include Arthur C. Clarke , Robert Silverberg , Caitlin R. Kiernan , John Shirley, and Harry Turtledove.

According to Joshi’s blog, this is the first two volumes, with the second to be released Summer 2015. This volume is introduced by Jonathan Marberry. Here’s the book description:

Sixteen stories inspired by the 20th century’s great master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and his acknowledged masterpiece, At the Mountains of Madness, in which an expedition to the desolation of Antarctica discovers evidence of an ancient ruin built by horrific creatures at first thought long-dead, until death strikes the group. All but two of the stories are original to this edition, and those reprints are long-lost works by science fiction masters Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Silverberg.

The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One will be published Titan Books on October 7, 2014. It is 304 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version. I can’t find a cover credit, but it sure looks like John Jude Palencar (click for bigger version).

See all of our recent New Treasures here.


Horror of the Highest Kind: A Review of The Weird

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Weird-smallI’ve just finished the largest book I’ve ever read: The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

This massive tome comes in at a whopping 1126 double-columned pages. The weight, length, and scope of this massive paperback give you the sense that you’re reading some old Bible! This being the case, I think The Weird should probably be referenced in the coming years as the Bible of twentieth (and early twenty first) century weird stories.

But what exactly is the weird? What sort of stories fit in this genre? As the foreweird contributor Michael Moorcock and the afterweird contributor China Miéville seem to agree, it’s a bit hard to categorize. Surprise, surprise.

For myself, I’ve often associated the genre term “weird” with a certain kind of horror, a horror of the highest kind that leaves you with a feeling of unease. (This is actually fairly close to what Moorcock and Miéville both seem to gesture at.)

The VanderMeers’ anthology seeks to make a case that the weird is more than just one slice of horror: it covers a vast array of examples, from the typical horror and ghost stories all the way to the absurd and dark fantasy. Thus the spread of stories within The Weird are quite sundry.

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Book Pairings: Ancillary Justice and Cordelia’s Honor

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie-smallI’ve creaked into reading again, dipping hesitant toes into the fathomless waters of What’s Out There.

One of the hardest things is trying to balance the books I discover for myself–for love of discovery–with the books I should read because everyone should read them, and has already read them, and I’m the only one in the world who hasn’t.

I come to the latter kind of reading quite reluctantly, and am rewarded by not only the virtue of what I felt to be a tricky chore completed, but also by becoming (in my own estimation) a shave more professional and an ingot less ignorant. “Yes, now I have read this book. I too can geek out about it on the Interwebs!”

Lately, after finishing a book I’ve determinedly set out to read, I’ve been struck with a keen sensation of, “Ah! Now, this would be a good book to read near or about the same time as this book.”

I don’t think of it as the whole Amazon/Kindle/Library E-Zone suggestion thing of, “If you like X book, you’ll probably like Y book too! Because it’s pretty much exactly the same book formulaically, only the names are different, and instead of a werewolf and a vampire, it’s an ANDROID and ALIEN, but the protagonist is plucky and first person present tense and a real CIPHER, with no distinguishing personality traits to distract you, you’ll get right in her head right away, and come away thinking you were she the whole time!”

No, I think of it more like a perfect wine pairing with a certain sort of dinner.

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Self-Publishing Checklist: The Random No One Tells You, Part III

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by Patty Templeton

there-is-no-lovely-end-switchblade-smallIn Part One of this series, we looked at Firming Out Your Expectations, Picking Your Publisher, and how to do a Reality Check on Your Book Format.

In Part Two, we unraveled the mysteries of Finding or Commissioning Art, Merchandise, and Hiring a Proofreader.

Still with me? Then take a deep breath, ’cause we’re going to take your book in for a three-point landing in Part III, starting with how to Upload your book.

7. Upload Your Book

  • Do you want to buy a block of ISBNs? Do you want to have a custom ISBN? Do you want a free ISBN?
  • Do you want your POD publisher listed as your publisher or do you want to create your own imprint?
  • Is your back of jacket summary ready?
  • Is your author bio and photo ready?

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Six – The Female of the Species

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

female altFemale HC 1stSapper’s The Female of the Species (1928) is quite likely the best book in the long-running Bulldog Drummond thriller series. It’s one failing comes late in the narrative and spoils it as assuredly as Mickey Rooney’s bucktoothed yellow-face performance as Mr. Yunioshi sours Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) for modern audiences. As a devoted fan of both Blake Edwards and Sapper, I do my best to make exceptions for both artists’ failings, particularly when they were acceptable in the times they lived in.

In the case of the former, the suggestion of pornographic photos in Truman Capote’s novella could never have been transferred to the screen with an Asian actor in the role of Audrey Hepburn’s frustrated landlord. Edwards soft-pedaled the material and defused a scene that never would have slipped by the Production Code if handled dramatically by offering Mickey Rooney in a broad caricature of an Asian. It was a star cameo in a comic stereotype still common in television sitcoms of the 1960s and Jerry Lewis films. Audiences at the time laughed at the fact that it was Mickey Rooney making a fool of himself and nothing more. Today, the classic status of the film makes the sequence stick out as an unfortunate example of racial insensitivity in a fashion that does not taint comedies of the day which are now viewed as an example of what then passed for juvenile humor.

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