Vintage Treasures: The Great White Space by Basil Copper

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Great White Space-small The Great White Space Basil Cooper Sphere-small The Great White Space Basil Cooper-small

Basil Copper received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Horror Convention in 2010, and is remembered today for his short fiction (collected in the mammoth two-volume set Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper from PS Publishing), and for his much-loved Solar Pons stories, which Bob Byrne has discussed in detail right here at Black Gate.

But he also published a handful of fondly remembered novels, such as Necropolis (1980), The House of the Wolf (1983), and Into the Silence (1983). His first novel, The Great White Space (1974), is considered one of the best Lovecraftian horror novels ever written. Valancourt Books, whose impressive horror catalog I surveyed after getting a glimpse of their glorious table at the World Fantasy Convention last year, reprinted it in a handsome trade paperback in 2013 (above right). But the copy that tumbled into my hands was the 1976 Manor Books edition (above left), which I found in a recently-acquired collection on eBay.

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Peter Tremayne’s Dracula Lives Trilogy Revisited

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on February 14, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

Dracyla UnbrnNurceaIt has long been my contention that pulp fiction not discovered by age thirteen was beyond my ability to appreciate later in life. A certain amount of nostalgia seemed essential to enjoying such escapism once age and responsibility have got the better of you. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule in the rare instances where genuine literary talent is in evidence as is the case with the Holy Trinity of hardboiled detective fiction: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald. Given that I recently covered Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I decided to revisit Peter Tremayne’s three Dracula novels and one short story that I enjoyed so much as a teenager to see how they held up three decades on.

Peter Tremayne is best known today for his long-running Sister Fidelma mysteries. His medieval detective series is sort of a lightweight version of an Umberto Eco doorstop. Although Tremayne’s real world credentials are quite impressive as both an academic and scholar, his fiction is strictly populist in its appeal. Turn back the clock 40 years and one would find Peter Tremayne as a dedicated pulp pastiche writer trying his hand at extending the lifespan of H. Rider Haggard’s She, deliriously combining Shelley’s Frankenstein with Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, and delving deep into Stoker’s Dracula for a trilogy of loosely connected titles published by Bailey Brothers in the UK.

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DRACULA THE UNDEAD by Freda Warrington

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on January 22, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

draclargeDracula The UnDeadDracula the Undead by Freda Warrington is a true rarity – a sequel to a literary classic that doesn’t pale in comparison. Warrington is a respected British fantasy and horror author with a loyal following in the UK. Her prose is worthy of greater acclaim. Dracula the Undead was first published as a paperback original in the UK in 1997 to coincide with the centennial of Stoker’s classic. The book gained some decent reviews but never made it across the Atlantic and seemed doomed to fade into obscurity.

Flash forward to October 2009 and the publication of Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt’s “authorized” sequel, Dracula the Un-Dead. Their book received a great deal of media attention and was displayed prominently in retail bookstores. It was the sequel I wanted to love as a Stoker fan, but I’m afraid I am far too much of a purist to embrace it. However, I did note that Severn House (a British publisher that started out in the mid-seventies recycling titles from another British bargain-priced reprint specialty press, Tom Stacey) was bringing the Freda Warrington book back in a hardcover edition to capitalize on the attention granted the nearly identically-titled Stoker/Holt sequel. I was aware of the Warrington book and since my book shelf already contained a few Severn House titles from decades past, I was happy to see they had now acquired US distribution so I made a point of picking the book up.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The MX Book of New SH Stories

Monday, September 21st, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

mX_1On October 1, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories will be released, with a major party in London taking place to commemorate the event. It is a MASSIVE, three-volume collection containing 2 Introductions, 3 Forewords, 2 Poems, 2 Essays and 63 brand new Sherlock Holmes stories. In fact, it’s the biggest collection of new Holmes stories ever!

The stories are arranged chronologically, with Part I covering 1881-1889 (23 stories); Part II including 1890-1895 (19 stories) and Part III dealing with 1896-1929 (21 stories). The authors range from those with their first published Holmes stories to New York Times best sellers.

This collection was put together by editor David Marcum, who is my main Solar Pons buddy. He emailed me one January afternoon, telling me he had had a dream the night before. He wanted to put “together an original traditional-Canon Holmes anthology for MX.” David writes Holmes books for MX Publishing in England and he had emailed MX head Steve Emecz already that morning.

David is a Holmes purist and as he wrote to me, “there would be no weird Alternate Universe or present-day stuff, no Holmes-is-the-Ripper, nothing where Watson is at Holmes’ funeral or vice versa.” He wanted traditional stories as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would write them, narrated by Watson.

The part that I chuckle at now is that he said he planned on asking a small and select group of authors to participate. But there was no chance of that. More and more folks signed on and it grew from a single book to two to a trilogy.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Solar Pons & The Dorak Affair

Monday, August 31st, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Dorak_BookOne of my favorite Solar Pons stories by August Derleth is “The Adventure of the Golden Bracelet.” If you’ve read that one, you know that an archeologist discovered a fabulous treasure horde at a mysterious woman’s house, made rubbings of the pieces, then found himself embroiled in a scandal when the items turned out to be stolen and no trace of the woman could be found. Pons figures things out and it’s quite a tale.

Derleth didn’t spin this tale out of whole cloth. It relied heavily on The Dorak Affair. James Mellaart was a well-known archeologist with some great successes in Turkey. Riding on a train in Turkey, a woman came in and sat across from him.

She wore a bracelet like the ones found at Troy. She gave her name as Anna Papastrati and said she had many more like it at home. Mellaart accepted her offer to go see them.

She revealed a large collection of artifacts, which she said came from tombs her family uncovered in the village of Dorak. The elated Mellaart was convinced he had proof regarding the Yortans, Troy’s sea-faring neighbors.

He spent three days and nights at her house (certainly bold for the married man), making sketches of the collection. She promised to send him photographs he showed her of the tombs. The photos never came, but after a time, Mellaart did receive a letter from her, saying he could use his sketches in an article.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Moriarty Chronicles

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Moriarty_CardPerhaps my favorite Sherlock Holmes pastiche is 1974’s The Return of Moriarty by John Gardner. In it, Professor Moriarty (who did not perish at the Reichenbach Falls) is a Victorian Era godfather, with a criminal organization the envy of the American mob in the Roaring Twenties. A sequel followed it the next year, The Revenge of Moriarty. The trilogy was completed with Moriarty, just a few weeks before Gardner passed away in 2008.

Having completed one muddle of a screenplay about a Civil War naval battle, I took it upon myself to contact John and tell him I was writing a pilot for a proposed TV series about The Return. Extremely polite and friendly, he told me to send it to him when I was done. I did. He and his agent, less than impressed with this amateur effort from a self-taught screenwriter, understandably, passed.

I stayed in email contact with John (who was always nice) up until his death, taking one serious stab at revising the pilot and expanding it to two-hours. I never did resubmit it to his agent (John having passed away by then).

So, read on about The Moriarty Chronicles, a British TV series you, alas, will never see.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official?

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ConaPas_Ace2Today’s post is actually about Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but (in a stunning surprise) it’s got some Sherlock Holmes at the foundation. No, Conan never met the great detective…

Hopefully you’ve been checking in on our summer series, Discovering Robert E. Howard. There are plenty more posts coming, so stay tuned. While I very much like Howard and his works, I came late to his stories and I’m certainly no expert.

There is one area I’ve found…curious, which relates to the “official” status that seems to be accorded to the authorized pastiches written since Howard’s death. It’s quite different in the Holmes world.

There are sixty official Sherlock Holmes tales. Period. Fifty-six short stories and four novels (more novellas, really), all penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published during his lifetime. There are two Holmes short-shorts, “How Watson Learned the Trick” and “The Field Bazaar” and there is no disputing that they were written by Doyle. But they are not included (by anyone, I believe) in the official count.

You, oh enlightened one, know that the Doyle Estate tried to include a sixty-first story, found among ACD’s papers by a researcher, but it turned out to have been written by Arthur Whitaker.

To quote myself, from my first Solar Pons post here at Black Gate:

Parodies are stories that poke fun at Holmes. But the more serious Holmes tales, those that attempt to portray Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to varying levels, are called pastiches. Just about the earliest ‘serious’ attempt at a Holmes copy was by Vincent Starrett, who wrote “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920.

Doyle’s son Adrian, sitting at his father’s very desk, produced The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (half of the stories were co-written with John Dickson Carr, who would quit mid-project).

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Why Solar Pons?

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

The full painting by Les Edwards. It was seriously cropped for the cover of Basil Copper's 'Solar Pons: The Final Cases.'

The full painting by Les Edwards. It was seriously cropped for the cover of Basil Copper’s ‘Solar Pons: The Final Cases.’

I am a major fan of Solar Pons, The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. I wrote about him for Black Gate here and here. Fu Manchu expert William Patrick Maynard wrote about Pons and an unnamed but clearly Manchu here.

We know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave us 56 short stories and 4 novels (novellas, really) featuring Sherlock Holmes. And there have been many television shows and movies with the world’s first private consulting detective. And the number of books and short stories written about Holmes by other authors is virtually uncountable in our modern age.

So, with an endless supply of options to get our Holmes fix (albeit, ranging from atrocious to excellent), why in the world would we need to read about a Holmes imitator dreamed up nearly ninety years ago?

‘Why Solar Pons?’ was the first essay in the first issue of my free, online newsletter, The Solar Pons Gazette. I believe that the Pontine Canon is a treasure trove for Holmes fans (of which I am most definitely one). So, read on and maybe you’ll get an itch to read a Pons story or two (sadly, the books are out of print and you’ll have to find some used copies, like I did).

I harbor a somewhat silly hope that this essay will someday be used as an introduction to a Pons collection.  So…

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Conan of Venarium

Monday, April 20th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Turtledove_Venarium2I’ve got a couple Holmes-related posts in the works, but am not done researching any of them (no, I don’t just make up my posts as I go: I actually put some thought into them; even if  it may not always appear so). Fortunately, I’ve got no shortage of other areas of interest that I can use to fill the gap (I still haven’t figured out how to get a baseball-related post here. Although, if I still had my copy of that Daryl Brock book.  Maybe something on W P Kinsella.).

The esteemed Ryan Harvey used to review Conan pastiches here at Black Gate. I am absolutely a Robert E. Howard and Conan fan. Perhaps you read this recent post? So, looking to indulge my non-mystery interest (I really want to write something on Tolkien’s Nauglamir, but it’s not even outlined yet), I turned to Conan.

Harry Turtledove is best known for his alternate history novels. I’ve read little Turtledove, so I can’t expound on them. However, one that I did read and enjoyed very much was The Guns of the South, which involves time-travelers bringing Robert E. Lee AK-47s, changing the outcome of the American Civil War (it’s better than it sounds). I definitely enjoyed it more than his other alt-Civil War book, How Few Remain.

Back in 2003, Turtledove joined the list of authors putting out Conan pastiches for Tor Books. Fans of Conan know that this line was quite hit and miss. Conan of Venarium was the 49th and last of the Tor originals, coming six years after the previous entry.

You can read Ryan’s review of that one, here. I’ll include a quote that I think sums up his thoughts on Venarium’s predecessor:  “I am glad to report that Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza is superior to Conan and the Mists of Doom. Unfortunately, that still ranks it as the second worst Conan novel I’ve read.”

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New Treasures: Old Venus, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallI think my favorite book of the year (so far) is George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s new anthology, Old Venus, which imagines Venus just as the pulp writers of old: a steamy, swampy jungle planet with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation.

Old Venus is a follow-up to Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do.” It includes brand new fiction from Lavie Tidhar, Paul McAuley, Joe Haldeman, Eleanor Arnason, David Brin, Garth Nix, Joe R. Lansdale, Ian McDonald and many others. Russell Letson at Locus Online offers an enthusiastic review, saying:

In the introduction, co-editor Gardner Dozois writes that he and George R.R. Martin were looking for a return to the ‘‘heyday of the Planetary Romance,’’ when ‘‘the solar system swarmed with alien races and civilizations, as crowded and chummy as an Elks picnic…’’ These 16 stories, mostly of novelette length, aspire to resuscitate not only the obsolete, imaginary planetology of Old Venus, but the iconography and tropes that filled the pulp adventure stories once set there: the rain-soaked frontier outback where questionable characters meet in roughneck saloons before setting out to find abandoned temples or lost cities, guided or preyed upon by aquatic or amphibious natives, pursued by hungry local fauna, and perhaps tempted by exotic-erotic possibilities…

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