I stumbled across a copy of Stories of the Supernatural in a paperback collection I acquired a few months ago, and fell in love with it immediately. Partly it’s the great table of contents — eleven classic tales of supernatural horror by E. F. Benson, Arthur Machen, Saki, Charles Dickens, W. W. Jacobs, and others. And partly it’s the early 60s, breathlessly over-the-top marketing copy (“Read it in the daytime… and hope your blood will unfreeze by the time the terrors of the night steal in.”)
But chiefly it’s the knockout cover by Richard Powers. Huge swatches of color, giant staring faces, and a dark backdrop reminiscent of deep space… that’s classic Powers all right. I don’t know what it is I find so deeply satisfying about settling down in my big green chair with a vintage paperback anthology from a great editor, but whatever it is, the feeling is significantly amplified by a Powers cover.
Speaking of great editors, the one on duty here is Dorothy L. Sayers. She had a surprising assortment of genre anthologies to her credit, such as Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror (1928) and its two follow-on volumes. Two of her later paperback anthologies, Human and Inhuman Stories (1963) and Stories of the Supernatural (1963), both released posthumously, were selections from her massive 1929 anthology The Omnibus of Crime, a 1,177-page Harcourt hardcover. I’m very glad I found Stories of the Supernatural, but I’m even more pleased that it led me to discover The Omnibus of Crime, which is a truly monumental survey of early crime fiction (even if it doesn’t have a Power cover).
[Click the images for supernatural-sized versions.]
Copies are easy enough to find. Coverless copies of the 1929 edition are widely available on eBay for under $15, and you shouldn’t let the lack of a cover bother you — it was pretty boring anyway. This week I found a 1929 Book Club edition with a dust jacket in pretty good shape on eBay for $18 (see below).
When I have a chance to spend more time with it I’ll report back here.
In the meantime, Stories of the Supernatural is an entirely adequate substitute, especially for those of us whose tastes run towards otherworldly scares anyway. Here’s the inside flap, with three story descriptions, to whet your appetite.
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
“The Trial for Murder” by Charles Dickens (1865)
“The Open Window” by Saki (1911)
“The Novel of the Black Seal” by Arthur Machen (1895)
“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs (1902)
“Mrs. Amworth” by E. F. Benson (1922)
“August Heat” by William Fryer Harvey (1910)
“The Anticipator” by Morley Roberts (1898)
“Where Their Fire Is Not Quenched” by May Sinclair (1922)
“The Seventh Man” by Arthur Quiller-Couch (1928)
“Proof” by Naomi Royde-Smith (1919)
“Lukundoo” by Edward Lucas White (1907)
Stories of the Supernatural was published by Macfadden-Bartell in 1963. It is 144 pages, priced at 50 cents. It was reprinted once, by Manor Books in 1974, and there is no digital edition. The cover is by Richard Powers.
See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.