Vintage Treasures: The Horror Horn by E. F. Benson

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Horror Horn E.F. Benson-smallIs Bruce Pennington the finest cover artist in publishing history?

Probably. I talked at length about my own interest in his art — and how we licensed two of his paintings as covers for Black Gate – in The Lost Art of Bruce Pennington. Over the years I’ve collected much of his work, and seen a great deal more online and in various art books, but from time to time I’m still surprised to see a previously undiscovered Pennington cover on a hard-to-find book (as I was with the Panther edition of Fritz Leiber’s Night Monsters back in January.)

So you can understand my delight last week when I stumbled upon The Horror Horn on eBay, a 1974 by collection by British horror writer E. F. Benson. It had a marvelously macabre cover by Bruce that I’d never laid eyes on before. In fact, I didn’t even know this book existed. The bidding stood at 5 bucks, with less than two days to go.

Well, you know how reluctant I am to pay more than $8 – $10 for a paperback. It’s rare indeed that the patient collector has to pay more than that for anything. But this was an exception, and I submitted my bid for $14 and sat back to see what happened.

In the meantime, I did a little homework on E. F. Benson. We’ve never really mentioned Benson here before (although he’s popped up in horror collections from time to time, including Otto Penzler’s magnificent The Vampire Archives, and Henry Mazzeo’s Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural), and that’s probably an oversight.

Benson, who died in 1940, was an English novelist and short story writer, with 68 novels to his credit and 10 collections published in his lifetime. He was a frequent Weird Tales contributor, and he also appeared regularly in British publications like Hutchinson’s Magazine and The Illustrated London News.

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New Treasures: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

City of Stairs-smallLast month I made a feeble attempt to sneak in a three-year old book as a New Treasure: The Company Man, a Robert Jackson Bennett novel I’d missed when it first came out. Truthfully, I’d only stumbled on The Company Man because of all the pre-publication buzz around his newest, City of Saints, and I didn’t want to seem late to the party.

I’m not going to make the same mistake with City of Saints, a tale of vast conspiracies, dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city. Robert Jackson Bennett, author of Mr. Shivers (2010), The Troupe (2012), and American Elsewhere (2013), is quickly gaining recognition as one of America’s most acclaimed young fantasy writers.

Personally, I think he owes at least part of his fame to the fact that he’s a dead ringer for Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy. (See the results of our explosive investigative report: Robert Jackson Bennett and Chris Pratt: Separated at Birth?)

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself — first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it — stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem — and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

City of Stairs was published by Broadway Books on September 9, 2014. It is 452 pages, priced at $25 in paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Sam Weber.


The Solar Pons – Fu Manchu Connection

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

200px-OTSolarPonsOmnibusExpoloits_of_solar_ponsMy colleague Bob Byrne has already introduced many new readers to August Derleth’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek exploits of the unlikely-named Sherlock Holmes-inspired consulting detective, Solar Pons of Praed Street.

Derleth loved tossing in nods to mystery works outside of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional universe. These included three memorable encounters with Sax Rohmer’s insidious Dr. Fu Manchu.

“The Adventure of the Camberwell Beauty” was the first of the appearances to see publication in 1958. The story presents an unnamed Dr. Fu Manchu hiring the celebrated consulting detective to recover Karah, his beautiful young ward who has been abducted by his archenemy, Baron Corvus. The tale is set in the early 1930s and although the first chronicled, it is not our heroes’ first encounter with the Devil Doctor.

Structured as a tribute to Rohmer’s 1933 novel, The Bride of Fu Manchu, the story reveals Karah (named for Rohmer’s Karamaneh) as the granddaughter of the Devil Doctor. Showing a nice bit of fidelity to Rohmer’s early tales, the unnamed Doctor resides in an underground Thames-side lair in Limehouse.

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Miracles, Mystery, and the Ghost of Hank Williams: Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive Steve Erle-smallFantasy is an odd genre, filled with surprises.

I was browsing the remainder table at Barnes and Noble earlier this month, when I stumbled on a dark fantasy featuring ghosts, mystery, drug addiction… and miracles. The author was none other than singer Steve Earle (Copperhead Row), who’s had his own battles with heroin addiction. I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is Earle’s only novel (he published one collection of short stories, Doghouse Roses, in 2001), and the back cover was plastered with enthusiastic reviews from The New York Times, USA Today, Rolling Stone, and even Patti Smith. But it was the brief book description that won me over.

Doc Ebersole lives with the ghost of Hank Williams. Literally.

In 1963, ten years after he may have given Hank the morphine shot that killed him, Doc has lost his license. Living in the red-light district of San Antonio, he performs abortions and patches up the odd knife wound to feed his addiction. But when Graciela, a young Mexican immigrant, appears in the neighborhood in search of Doc’s services, miraculous things begin to happen. Everyone she meets is transformed for the better, except, maybe, for Hank’s angry ghost — who isn’t at all pleased to see Doc doing well.

Legendary American singer Hank Williams died — at the ripe old age of 29 — in 1953, and on the night he died, a doctor did indeed give him an injection of vitamin B12 mixed with morphine. I think we can safely assume the book departs from reality after that point, however.

Steve Earle is something of a Renaissance man. In addition to being a singer-songwriter, record producer, and author, he’s also an actor. He’s appeared on two HBO series, The Wire and Treme, and briefly appeared on 30 Rock. His fourteenth studio album, also titled I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, arrived in 2011. On September 16, The Wrap reported that Chris Hemsworth (Thor) will star in and produce a film adaption of I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive. It was published by Mariner on May 22, 2012. It is 256 pages, with a cover price of $13.95 in trade paperback. I bought my copy remaindered for $4.98.


Goth Chick News: Clive Barker Lets His Fans Back Into Hell… Finally

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Scarlet Gospels-smallWaiting for a sequel for nearly two decades could be considered one of Satan’s personal jokes, were it not for the fact that in  this case the irony would be too blatant even for the Prince of Darkness himself.

Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels has been teased for so long, and in so many incarnations, that it was beginning to look like one of the worst publicity stunts in publishing history. As far back as 1993, Barker talked about a new book of short stories that would include a sequel to The Hellbound Heart, the novella that introduced the world to the Cenobites.

Those rumors soon morphed into scuttle about a potential short novel pitting the most famous Cenobite, Pinhead, against another iconic Barker character, the occult detective Harry D’Amour.

However, as the story developed over the course of several years, Barker decided to expand the concept into a novel and the unrelated short stories were put aside.

Rumors of a release date were bantered about, sending Barker fans into repeated frenzies of speculation. But delays came in the form of Barker’s several throat surgeries, and in 2012 his lapse into a coma for eleven days following a trip to the dentist that led to blood poisoning. Barker recovered, but his near-death experience left him with “many strange visions” (which may or may not have found their way into his work).

Finally on Sept 9, 2013, Barker announced via social media that although no date has been set for release, “The Scarlet Gospels are finished.”

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New Treasures: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Volume Two, Adapted by P. Craig Russell

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Graveyard Book Volume Two-smallBack in August, I reported on the arrival of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Volume One, the first half of a handsome hardcover graphic novel adapting Gaiman’s famous contemporary fantasy.

I’m very pleased to report that the second half has now arrived, and it looks just as sharp as the first. Volume Two includes the last three chapters of Gaiman’s novel, skillfully adapted by Russell and illustrated by several of the top artists in the field.

The second volume of a glorious two-volume, four-color graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s #1 New York Times bestselling and Newbery and Carnegie Medal-winning novel The Graveyard Book, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by an extraordinary team of renowned artists.

Inventive, chilling, and filled with wonder, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book reaches new heights in this stunning adaptation. Artists Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, Scott Hampton, and David Lafuente lend their own signature styles to create an imaginatively diverse and yet cohesive interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s luminous novel.

Volume Two includes chapter six to the end of the book.

Once again the colorist is Lovern Kindzierski, who brings a solid cohesiveness to the project, tying together so many disparate art styles with a unified look.

The Graveyard Book, Volume Two was published by Harper Books on July 29, 2014. It is 164 pages, priced at $19.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.


Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: The Doom that Came to Sarnath by H. P. Lovecraft

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 | Posted by westkeith

Lovecraft Sarnath frontThe Doom that Came to Sarnath
H. P. Lovecraft
Ballantine Books (280 pages, February 1971, $0.95)
Cover art by Gervasio Gallardo

The Doom That Came to Sarnath was the second volume of H. P. Lovecraft stories published under the BAF imprint. It served as a bridge between the Dunsanian fantasies of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and the Cthulhu Mythos related titles that followed.

Many of the stories in this volume weren’t published until years after they were written or were published in amateur press publications of the day. These days, we’d call them fanzines. The contents include the aforementioned Dunsanian fantasies, some traditional horror stories, and some early Mythos tales. Also included are a few prose poems and one selection of Lovecraft’s verse.

Rather than give a brief description of each of the 20 items in the book, I’ll highlight some of the ones I liked best, then offer some general thoughts. Carter broke the selection up into groups loosely based on either chronology or theme. I’m not that organized.  I’m also not a Lovecraft scholar, so I’m not going to comment much on the specific chronology  of the stories or try to get into the nitty gritty of Lovecraft’s authorial evolution.

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Vintage Treasures: Paradox Lost by Fredric Brown

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Paradox Lost Fredric Brown-smallIt’s strange to think that I didn’t really discover Fredric Brown until last year. Sure, before that I could probably name one or two of his most famous stories (including the Star Trek episode “Arena,” which doesn’t really count), but I didn’t truly learn to appreciate him until I brought a battered paperback with me on a flight back from Las Vegas last October. A week later I wrote about it, saying:

The Best of Fredric Brown is one of the best short story collections I’ve read in years. Brown is frequently compared to O. Henry for his gift for twist endings and the comparison is apt. Even when you’re on the alert, Brown manages to constantly surprise and delight you in a way that very few authors — in the genre or out — can pull off… I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun with a single collection.

It’s good to know I can still find unexpected treasures in my own library.

Now, if you’re a Fredric Brown fan, the logical way to collect him these days is by purchasing From These Ashes from NESFA Press, which contains his complete short fiction in one gorgeous and economical volume — and is still in print.

Of course, you know how I feel about that. It takes all the fun out of it. You want to really appreciate Fredric Brown? You painstakingly track down his eight collections, like a normal person. Starting with Paradox Lost, because it has a dinosaur on the cover. Duh.

Paradox Lost (full title: Paradox Lost, and Twelve Other Great Science Fiction Stories) was published in 1974 by Berkley Medallion. It contains many of his finest stories, including the brilliant and oh-so-slightly-terrifying “Puppet Show,” “It Didn’t Happen,” “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” and ten others, plus a thoughtful introduction by his wife Elizabeth Brown (the only place where it appears). The book is 176 pages, priced at 95 cents; the cover is by Vincent DiFate. It is out of print. There is no digital edition, but copies in good condition start at under a buck at Amazon.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.


Future Treasures: Apocalypse Girl Dreaming by Jennifer Brozek

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming-smallYou know what’s marvelously satisfying? Watching writers who got their start in Black Gate going on to accomplish great things.

Jennifer Brozek began her professional writing career producing game reviews for Black Gate magazine a decade ago. I wish I could take credit for discovering her, but it was our games editor at the time, Don Bassingthwaite (who’s gone on to a stellar career of his own, with more than a dozen fantasy novels under his belt), who found and recruited her. Since then, Jennifer has written or co-written over half a dozen game titles, including the Fifth Edition Shadowrun rules, the Big Damn Heroes Handbook for the Serenity Role Playing Game, and the BattleTech novel The Nellus Academy Incident.

She’s also made a name for herself as an accomplished editor — with ten titles to her name, including the DAW anthology Human for a Day (co-edited with Martin H. Greenberg) and Grants Pass (with Amanda Pillar) — and author, of In a Gilded Light, The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting, and the Karen Wilson Chronicles, among others. Most recently, we reported here on her upcoming heroic fantasy anthology from Baen, Shattered Shields, co-edited with Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, Jennifer is also the author of some 50 short stories, and early next year sees the publication of her very first collection: Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, from Evil Girlfriend Media. Here’s the book description:

Evil Girlfriend Media is pleased to release the cover of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, a short story collection, by Jennifer Brozek. This collection features dark speculative fiction ranging from tie-in stories in the Valdemar and Elemental Masters worlds, weird west horror to satirical science fiction to urban fantasy with a horrific bent.

A first collection is a pretty big milestone for an author and we think congratulations are in order. And maybe a cake.

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming will be published on January 16, 2015 in e-book and paperback format. No word yet on price or page count. The cover art is by Fernando Cortes, with graphic design by Matt Youngmark. Learn more at the Evil Girlfriend website.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Ellery Queen’s Misadventures of SH

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Misadventures_CoverYou’ve probably heard the name ‘Ellery Queen,’ but you may not know that it’s actually the name for joint efforts by cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee. They were important players in the mystery field for decades, with Dannay being a notable Sherlockian.

In 1943, Dannay planned The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, an anthology of parodies and pastiches. Unlike today, Holmes anthologies were unheard of back then. Due in large part, as we’ll see, to the management of the Doyle Estate by Sir Arthur Conan’s sons, Adrian and Dennis.

The book, by Ellery Queen, was unveiled at a Baker Street Irregulars gathering in 1944. I gave a taste what dealing with Doyle’s two sons could be like in my post on “The Man Who Was Wanted.” There’s more of the same in this tale.

Adrian heard about the collection and went off in his usual rage, telegramming his brother Denis (also a wastrel) in Spain. Denis cabled the Estate’s law firm and instructed them to demand that Queen and the publishers, Little, Brown and Company, stop publication and withdraw all copies. They were also to be sued for damages.

To quote Denis’s cable to the lawyers: “It is obviously a flagrant example of that very sort of piracy, striking at the very roots of the literary value of the property which my father left to his family, against which we have fought together in the past…books which will completely devaluate and ruin the whole value of the Holmes property, including films, radio and stage.”

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