The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories is a Master’s Course in Classic Horror

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three-small The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three-back-small

I’m a huge fan of Valancourt Books, ever since I stumbled on their eye-popping booth at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention. They’re an independent small press specializing in rare, neglected, and out-of-print Gothic, Romantic and Horror fiction, and two years ago they had a brilliant idea: why not assemble an annual anthology showcasing stories by some of their authors, modern and otherwise? The Editor’s Forward to the first volume gives you the idea:

The idea behind this anthology was, “What if we distilled the best of each part of our catalogue into a single volume? What would a horror anthology spanning two centuries, and featuring only Valancourt authors, look like?”

Pretty darn good, it turns out. These are substantial and attractive volumes, with terrific covers by M. S. Corley. The series has proven very successful, and the third volume arrives next month, with brand new fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Eric C. Higgs, and Hugh Fleetwood, and thirteen blood-curdling reprints from R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Helen Mathers, Charles Beaumont, J. B. Priestley, Robert Westall, and many more.

The series is edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle. Here’s the details on all three books.

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New Treasures: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume One, edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories-smallNow here’s an interesting idea — a collection of horror stories showcasing the work of a single publisher.

How appealing is that? Depends on the publisher. In the case of Valancourt Books, an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print Gothic, Romantic and Horror fiction, it’s very appealing indeed. Here’s a snippet from the Editor’s Forward to give you a taste.

Since 2005, Valancourt Books has made available almost 40 neglected classics by dozens of authors, most of them out of print for decades, sometimes even for a century or two. Our catalogue includes Gothic novels from the late 1700s and early 1800s, Victorian ‘penny dreadfuls’ and ‘sensation’ novels, vintage mystery and horror fiction from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, rediscovered gay interest fiction from the mid-20th century, and more recent horror and science fiction from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. The idea behind this anthology was, “What if we distilled the best of each part of our catalogue into a single volume? What would a horror anthology spanning two centuries, and featuring only Valancourt authors, look like?”

This book has something for fans of each section of our catalogue. Those who have enjoyed our Gothic Classics series will surely find Matthew Gregory Lewis’s rare ghost story in verse, “The Grim White Woman,” to their liking. If, like us, you love a good, old-fashioned Victorian horror story, you’ll relish the creepy tales we’ve included by authors hugely popular in the day but now little known, like Florence Marryat, Richard Marsh and Mary Cholmondeley. Readers who have appreciated our efforts to rediscover lost gay fiction will be pleased to find contributions from authors such as Forrest Reid, Hugh Walpole and Francis King in this volume. Of course, no horror anthology would be complete without stories from some of the great contemporary masters of horror like Michael McDowell, Bernard Taylor and Stephen Gregory. But perhaps the biggest surprise for some readers will be the excellent tales by writers not normally thought of as “horror authors,” like Christopher Priest, Michael Blumlein and Francis King.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Bringing Neglected Classics Back Into Print: The Horror Catalog of Valancourt Books

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cormorant Stephen Gregory-small The Monster Club R. Chetwynd-Hayes-small The Killer and the Slain Hugh Walpole-small The Smell of Evil-small

One of the many delights of the World Fantasy Convention, as I reported last week, is meeting the small publishers doing marvelous work in the industry. Seeing their catalogs of books spread out before you on a table in the Dealers Room can be quite a revelation. That was certainly the case with Valancourt Books.

As they proclaim proudly on their website, Valancourt Books is an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction. They have five major lines: Gothic, Romantic, & Victorian; Literary Fiction; Horror & Supernatural; Gay Interest; and E-Classics. For World Fantasy, they crammed their table with titles from their Horror & Supernatural line. And I do mean crammed: their small table was piled high with dozens of beautifully designed trade paperbacks reprinting long-out-of-print horror paperbacks, chiefly from the 70s and 80s.

All it took was one glance to see that Valancourt Books has two significant strengths. First, their editorial team has excellent taste. They have reprinted work by Stephen Gregory, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Hugh Walpole, Charles Birkin, Jack Cady, Basil Copper, Russell Thorndike, John Blackburn, Michael McDowell, Bram Stoker, and many, many others. And second, their design team is absolutely top-notch. Their books are gorgeous, with beautiful cover art and striking visual design. I’ve selected eight to highlight in this article, just to give you a taste of what they have to offer, and replicate (in a small way) what it was like to stand in front of their table gazing appreciatively at their assembled treasures.

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A Spectacularly Gruesome Nasty: The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight

Monday, December 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Fungus Harry Adam Knight-small The Fungus Harry Adam Knight-back-small

I first discovered Valancourt Books at their wondrous booth in the Dealer’s Room of the 2014 World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC (I wrote about that revelatory find here.) So as soon as I entered the Dealer’s Room at this year’s WFC in Baltimore I searched them out, and was delighted to find them with a well-stocked booth again this year. I stocked up on several of their recent releases, including a new collection from Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael McDowell’s creepy novel Cold Moon Over Babylon, a pair of novels by Mervyn Wall, and the latest volumes of The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories. But I think my most interesting acquisition was The Fungus, a reprint of a gonzo 1985 horror novel by “Harry Adam Knight” (the pseudonym of British writers John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle). Ramsey Campbell called it “A spectacularly gruesome nasty, written with inventiveness, grisly wit, and considerably more intelligence than almost any of its competitors,” and Publishers Weekly raved about it, saying:

What would happen if, through a genetic experiment gone awry, fungi–mushrooms, toadstools, molds and yeasts — were to go out of control and grow with unprecedented vigor and speed and tenacity, and in places formerly inimicable (sic) to them? Knight has pulled out the stops to produce an imaginative and fast-paced sci-fi horror tale set in the British Isles. The protagonist is Barry Wilson, a semi-successful author of spy novels and a former mycologist. Barry’s wife Jane, from whom he is separated, is the scientist whose experiment has lead (sic) to the disaster, and the British government has called upon Barry to help find Jane and her lab notes. Crossing London in an armored tank, Barry and two other volunteers observe all sorts of grotesqueries: people and animals covered with multicolored fungi, some still alive, some now quite insane; farms and buildings and forests draped in spongy shrouds; mushrooms tall as skyscrapers…. A first-rate and vivid thriller.

That’s some great press, but I think what really sold me was the marvelous cover by M.S. Corley. The Fungus was published by Valancourt Books on October 2, 2018. It is 191 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital version. See all of our coverage of the excellent Valancourt Books here, and check out their website here.


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.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in June

Sunday, July 16th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman 4 - Black Gate interview

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Photo by Liz Duffy Adams

June was a big month for interviews at Black Gate. Our top articles were interviews, and our roving reporter Joe Bonadonna placed two in the Top Ten — a lengthy conversation with Author T.C. Rypel (the Gonji series) at #2, and a free-wheeling conversation with two editors of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Adrian Simmons and David Farney, at #8. And the #1 article for the month was Elizabeth Crowens’s enchanting conversation with the First Couple of Fantasy, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.

Rounding out the Top Five for the month was our report on the ongoing back issue sale at Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog magazine (still one of the best bargains in the industry), a Vintage Treasures piece on the 80s fantasy paperbacks of E. Hoffmann Price, and Nick Ozment’s think-piece “When Fantasy and Theology Collide: Some Thoughts on Satan.”

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New Treasures: The Late Breakfasters and Other Strange Stories by Robert Aickman

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-late-breakfasters-and-other-strange-stories-small the-late-breakfasters-and-other-strange-stories-back-small

Robert Aickman was one of the finest horror writers in our field. He received the World Fantasy Award in 1975, and the British Fantasy Award in 1981, the year he died.

Not familiar with Aickman? Great! There’s never been a better time to try him. The marvelous Valancourt Books has returned much of his work to print, including The Late Breakfasters and Other Strange Stories, an omnibus collection of his early work, released in hardcover and an affordable trade paperback format last week. It contains his debut novel The Late Breakfasters (1964), half a dozen short stories, and a new introduction by Philip Challinor.

I first discovered Valancourt by standing in front of their booth at the World Fantasy Convention a few years ago, and being absolutely astounded at how many terrific books they have in their back catalog. Here’s a few I’ve managed to highlight recently at Black Gate.

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The Wonders of Fairwood Press

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

amaryllis-and-other-stories-by-carrie-vaughn-small seven-wonders-of-a-once-and-future-world-and-other-stories-small pandoras-gun-small

I first met Patrick Swenson, publisher and editorial mastermind at Fairwood Press, back in the late 90s. I think it might have been James Van Pelt who introduced us, after I wrote a review of Patrick’s magazine, TaleBones. I helped Patrick negotiate with a squatter who was sitting on the address he wanted for his website (unsuccessfully, as I recall.) At the time, Fairwood Press was a small press underdog, with only a handful of titles to its name, but a fast-growing reputation.

Fastforward about 17 years, to Worldcon in 2016. I was walking through the sprawling dealer’s room when I spotted Patrick sitting behind a table groaning under the weight of dozens and dozens of eye-catching science fiction and fantasy books, from some of the biggest names in the industry — including Robert Silverberg, Michael Bishop, Jay Lake, Carrie Vaughn, Devon Monk, Tom Piccirilli, Tina Connolly, James Van Pelt, and many others. Could this possibly be the same Fairwood Press?

Yes, as it turned out.

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A Southern Tale of Spectral Revenge: Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell

Saturday, August 13th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Cold Moon Over Babylon Michael McDowell-1980-small Cold Moon Over Babylon Michael McDowell-1980-back-small Cold Moon Over Babylon Valancourt-small

Leave it to Valancourt Books to produce the first reprint of Michael McDowell’s spooky southern gothic Cold Moon Over Babylon. It was originally published in paperback by Avon in February 1980 (above left and middle, cover artist unknown).

Stephen King called McDowell “The finest writer of paperback originals in America.” McDowell’s other novels include the Blackwater series, The Amulet (1979), and Toplin (1985). I first discovered him with the Valancourt reprint of The Elementals (1981). I was standing in front of the Valancourt booth at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention, gazing in amazement at their incredible back catalog, and that was the book that forced me to open my wallet.

Last year Valancourt brought most of McDowell’s back catalog back into print as part of their 20th Century Classics line, starting with Cold Moon Over Babylon, now available in a handsome new trade paperback with a wonderfully spooky new cover by Mike Mignola.

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Nathan Ballingrud on Robert Marasco’s Burnt Offerings

Thursday, July 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Burnt Offerings-small Burnt Offerings-back-small

A few days ago, I came across this concise review by Nathan Ballingrud, author of North American Lake Monsters and The Visible Filth.

I just finished reading Burnt Offerings, by Robert Marasco. Forty-three years after its publication, it still packs a wallop. Second only to Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House in my personal pantheon of haunted house novels. Respect to Valancourt Books for bringing it, along with so many other forgotten horror novels, back into print. (Also, check out that beautiful art by Pye Parr, who also did the art for The Visible Filth.)

I wasn’t even aware that Valancourt Books had done a reprint of Marasco’s classic horror novel — but I was very glad to hear it! Two years ago, when I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C, I wrote about my delight in discovering their magnificent back catalog in the Dealer’s Room, saying:

As they proclaim proudly on their website, Valancourt Books is an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction… their small table was piled high with dozens of beautifully designed trade paperbacks reprinting long-out-of-print horror paperbacks, chiefly from the 70s and 80s. All it took was one glance to see that Valancourt Books has two significant strengths. First, their editorial team has excellent taste. They have reprinted work by Stephen Gregory, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Hugh Walpole, Charles Birkin, Jack Cady, Basil Copper, Russell Thorndike, John Blackburn, Michael McDowell, Bram Stoker, and many, many others. And second, their design team is absolutely top-notch. Their books are gorgeous, with beautiful cover art and striking visual design.

Burnt Offerings was originally published in 1973 by Delacorte Press. I ordered the new edition two days ago; it is 230 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback. See the complete details at the Valancourt website.


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