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New Treasures: Blackwater: The Complete Saga by Michael McDowell

Sunday, October 15th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Blackwater The Complete Saga-back-small Blackwater The Complete Saga-small

Last year author Nathan Ballingrud dashed off a brief Facebook post about Michael McDowell’s 6-volume Blackwater series, originally published in paperback by Avon in 1983. Nathan said, in part:

I’m in the midst of reading Blackwater, by Michael McDowell. It is, you might say, as if The Shadow over Innsmouth was written as a generational family saga set in rural Alabama. It is strange, funny, warm, and frightening, and a true pleasure to read.

That triggered a lengthy quest for the books, which I chronicled here. I was never able to track down all six volumes, although I did manage to locate the Science Fiction omnibus collection of the first three. So I was very pleased to hear that the industrious folks at Valancourt Books have published a massive one-volume edition of the entire series. It was released in hardcover and trade paperback earlier this month; both editions feature a full wraparound cover by MS Corley.

Nathan provides the introduction to this edition. Here’s the decription from the Valancourt website.

Blackwater is the saga of a small town, Perdido, Alabama, and Elinor Dammert, the stranger who arrives there under mysterious circumstances on Easter Sunday, 1919. On the surface, Elinor is gracious, charming, anxious to belong in Perdido, and eager to marry Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of Perdido’s first family. But her beautiful exterior hides a shocking secret. Beneath the waters of the Perdido River, she turns into something terrifying, a creature whispered about in stories that have chilled the residents of Perdido for generations. Some of those who observe her rituals in the river will never be seen again …

Originally published as a series of six volumes in 1983, Blackwater is the crowning achievement of Michael McDowell, author of the Southern Gothic classics Cold Moon Over Babylon and The Elementals and screenwriter of Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. This first-ever one-volume edition, with a new introduction by Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Nathan Ballingrud, marks Blackwater’s first appearance in print in three decades and will allow a new generation of readers to discover this modern horror classic.

Michael McDowell has had a fascinating career. Stephen King called him “the finest writer of paperback originals in America,” and he also has a well-earned reputation for crafting some of the most original horror-comedies of the 80s and 90s. His screen credits include Beetlejuice (1988), six episodes of Tales from the Darkside (’85-88), two episodes of the TV series Monsters (’89-90), the screenplay for The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and Stephen King’s Thinner (1996). See his complete resume at IMDB.

Our previous coverage of Michael McDowell includes:

The Elementals
A Southern Tale of Spectral Revenge: Cold Moon Over Babylon
The Shadow over Innsmouth as a Generational Family Saga in Rural Alabama: Michael McDowell’s Blackwater

And our recent coverage of Valancourt Books includes:

Bringing Neglected Classics Back Into Print: The Horror Catalog of Valancourt Books
The Late Breakfasters and Other Strange Stories by Robert Aickman
A Southern Tale of Spectral Revenge: Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell
Nathan Ballingrud on Robert Marasco’s Burnt Offerings
Stories of the Strange and Sinister by Frank Baker
The Great White Space by Basil Copper
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume One, edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle

Blackwater was published by Valancourt Books on October 2, 2017. It is 800 pages, priced at $39.99 in hardcover and $27.99 in trade paperback. The cover is by MS Corley. Get more details at the Valancourt website.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

9 Comments »

  1. This is an author I’ve managed to miss and, while this collection sounds wonderful, I wonder if anyone familiar with his work could recommend a single, shorter, stand alone novel. It would be nice to get a sense of his style before going all-in on this epic.

    Comment by John Hocking - October 15, 2017 11:21 am

  2. I bought the original paperbacks as they came out, thirty four years ago. (Geez…I gotta sit down.) They’re on a high shelf, to prevent damage during flooding…

    Comment by Thomas Parker - October 15, 2017 12:12 pm

  3. I read The Elementals last year and really dug it. It’s a a tale of a messed up family and a haunted house on the Alabama coast. Very memorable.

    Comment by Fletcher Vredenburgh - October 15, 2017 1:53 pm

  4. According to the copyright page of my ebook copy, the cover artist is MS Corley. It looks great. I’m about to dive in for my October horror novel.

    Comment by Stephen Milligan - October 15, 2017 10:09 pm

  5. > According to the copyright page of my ebook copy, the cover artist is MS Corley.

    Thanks Stephen! I’ve updated the article accordingly.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 15, 2017 10:58 pm

  6. This is an author I’ve only recently learned about. He’s given some fairly significant space in Hendrix’s latest Paperbacks From Hell, who seems to have a very fond appreciation of McDowell. According to Hendrix, if I’m remembering correctly, this series was part of the “Southern Gothic” movement, whatever that means.

    Comment by James McGlothlin - October 16, 2017 9:08 am

  7. You really can’t go wrong with any McDowell novel, but I’ll second the recommendation of “The Elementals” as his best.

    Comment by Michael Padgett - October 16, 2017 9:13 am

  8. I like the description of it as The Shadow over Innsmouth as a generational family saga set in rural Alabama.

    I read these when they were published. The 6 individual books were all under 200 pages so it might not be quite as massive as it sounds.

    Comment by Ben - October 16, 2017 4:56 pm

  9. And now the author’s Cold Moon Over Babylon has been made into a film.
    A film that looks pretty good from the preview you can watch right here…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW6gOnsxAfU

    Comment by John Hocking - November 13, 2017 3:53 pm


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