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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New Treasures: Figures Unseen by Steve Rasnic Tem

Monday, January 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Figures Unseen Steve Rasnic Tem-small Figures Unseen Steve Rasnic Tem-back-small

I’m still sorting through all the books I brought back from the World Fantasy Convention this year (which is kinda par for the course — it usually takes me 4-8 months to unpack from that con). Based on reading time and enjoyment over the past few months, my most productive period of the entire convention was the 10 minutes I spent in the Valancourt Booth.

I’ve already talked about several of the books I purchased there, including Michael McDowell’s The Complete Blackwater Saga and Harry Adam Knight’s The Fungus. But I haven’t yet mentioned Steve Rasnic Tem’s new book Figures Unseen, a fabulous collection of 35 of his best tales, as selected by the author.

In his long career Tem has received the World Fantasy, British Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards. His novels include Excavation (1987), The Man on the Ceiling (2008, with Melanie Tem) and Blood Kin (2014), and his many collections include City Fishing (1999), The Far Side of the Lake (2001), Celestial Inventories (2013), and Out of the Dark (2016). Dan Simmons calls Tem “One of the finest and most productive writers of imaginative literature in North America,” and this collection is the perfect place to start if you want to sample some of his finest work. It includes many of my favorites — including the brilliant “City Fishing,” the tale of a father who takes his son on a very unusual fishing trip in the heart of an ancient city.

Figures Unseen also includes a fine introduction by Simon Strantzas, which I think explicates the effectiveness of Tem’s work better than anything else I’ve read. Here’s a small excerpt.

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The Return of a Fantasy Landmark: The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall

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

The Unfortunate Fursey-small The Return of Fursey-small

While I was standing in front of the Valancourt Books booth at the World Fantasy Convention (so I could buy a copy of the classic horror novel The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight, as I reported last week), I took the time to look over all their latest releases. Valancourt is one of the great treasures of the genre — their editorial team has excellent taste, and they scour 20th Century paperback backlists to bring long-neglected classics back into print. I’m pretty familiar with 20th Century genre stuff, but they consistently surprise me with their diverse and excellent selections.

I ended up taking home a pile of books, including the one-volume edition of Michael McDowell’s complete Blackwater Saga and Steve Rasnic Tem’s new collection Figures Unseen. But I was hoping for new discoveries, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were plenty of eye-catching titles vying for my attention, but the most interesting — and the ones I ended up taking home with me –was the pair of novels above.

Set in 11th century Ireland, where demonic forces have launched an assault on the monastery of Clonmacnoise, The Unfortunate Fursey was originally published in 1946. The sequel The Return of Fursey followed in 1948. Written by Irish writer Mervyn Wall, they were praised as “landmark book in the history of fantasy,” by Year’s Best SF editor E. F. Bleiler. More recently, Black Gate author Darrell Schweitzer wrote:

The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey are not quaint esoterica for the specialist, folks, they are living masterpieces. They haven’t dated slightly and are as fresh and as powerful as when they were first written.

Both novels were reprinted in handsome trade paperback editions by Valancourt last year, with new introductions by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda.

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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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