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.


Future Treasures: Stories of the Strange and Sinister by Frank Baker

Saturday, March 5th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Stories of the Strange and Sinister-small Stories of the Strange and Sinister-back-small

Stories of the Strange and Sinister first-smallI first discovered Valancourt’s marvelous 20th Century Classics line when I stumbled on their booth at the 2014 World Fantasy convention in Washington D.C.. I was so impressed, in fact, that I wrote up a lengthy survey of their back catalog as soon as I got home.

Valancourt has been bringing neglected horror and thriller classics back into print in handsome new editions for years now. Their latest subject is Frank Baker, whose first novel, The Twisted Tree, was published in 1935. He published an odd little book titled The Birds in 1936… it sold only about 300 copies, and Baker labeled it “a failure.” It likely would be utterly forgotten today, if Alfred Hitchcock had not turned it into a hit with his 1963 horror film of the same name.

Perhaps Baker’s most successful work was Miss Hargreaves (1940), a comic fantasy in which two young people invent a story about an elderly woman, only to find that their imagination has brought her to life. He published more than a dozen others, including Mr. Allenby Loses the Way (1945), Embers (1947), My Friend the Enemy (1948) and Talk of the Devil (1956), before his death in 1983.

Stories of the Strange and Sinister is his only collection. It was first published in 1983 (see cover at right), and has long been out of print.

The new edition will be published by Valancourt on March 15, 2016. It is 184 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital version. See more details at the Valancourt website.

See all of our coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy here.


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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The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Burnt Black Suns-small Ghouljaw and Other Stories-small The Wide Carnivorous Sky-small

When I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington last November, the first thing I did was write about all the great discoveries I made in the Dealer’s Room.

I’m not just talking about rare and wonderful old books (although those were pretty damn cool, too.) I mean the smorgasbord of small press publishers who’d come from far and wide to display an incredible bevy of treasures, piled high on table after table after table. Seriously, it was like walking through Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, except air conditioned and with decent carpeting.

One of the great discoveries I made was Hippocampus Press, a small publisher founded by Derrick Hussey in New York City in 1999. Their table was groaning under the weight of dozens of fabulous collections, horror anthologies, entertaining and informative journals, and stranger and more marvelous things. They specialize in classic horror and science fiction, with an “emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s,” as well as critical studies of folks like Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Hope Hodgson.

I brought home a copy of their 2014 Simon Strantzas collection, Burnt Black Suns, and told you about it here. Today I’d like to take a few moments to re-create what it was like to stand in front of the Hippocampus table and take in their extraordinary output, the product of over a decade of tireless dedication to classic weird tales (and great cover design.)

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Twenty Years of Smart Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Tachyon Publications Catalog

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

THE TREASURY OF THE FANTASTIC-small The Uncertain Places-small The Best of Michael Moorcock-small

While I was at the World Fantasy Convention last November, I kept being irresistibly sucked into the Dealers Room. Seriously, the place was like a giant supermarket for fantasy fans. There were thousands of new and used books on display from dozens of vendors — books piled high on tables, books crammed into bookshelves, books being pressed into your hands by enthusiastic sellers.

When I came home I moped around for a few days, and then mocked up some HTML pages with dozens of thumbnail jpegs of books so I could pretend I was still at the convention. I waved a crisp twenty dollar bill in front of my computer screen and said things like, “I’ll take the new Moorcock collection, my good man.” I even haggled over the price of The Treasury of the Fantastic. Truly, it felt like I was there.

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The Recent Best: The Fantasy Catalog of Prime Books

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Time Travel Recent Trips-small Magic City Recent Spells-small Aliens Recent Encounters-small

In November of last year I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C. I’d never been to the city, and there was a tremendous amount to do and see — including the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

All very impressive, even for a Canadian like me. But three months later, the place that’s lingered longest in my mind is the convention Dealer’s Room. It was packed with dozens of tables from the finest publishers in the genre, all showing their latest wares. Since I pay attention to the market every day, I naturally assumed there wouldn’t be a lot of surprises, even in a target-rich environment like that.

I was dead wrong. Walking from table to table, and seeing the dazzling display of novels, anthologies and collections piled in dense stacks before all the smiling vendors, drove home just how marvelously rich and diverse our industry is. Since returning from the convention I’ve tried hard to replicate that experience here, in a series of posts showcasing the catalogs of several of the most impressive publishers. So far I’ve covered Valancourt Books and ChiZine Publications; today we turn our attention to the gorgeous catalog of Prime Books.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in November

Friday, December 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

John Brunner

John Brunner

Boy, we sure covered a wide range of topics in November.

They included a look at the tragic death of British SF author John Brunner, the triumphant return of one of the fathers of modern Sword & Sorcery, a high-resolution snapshot of a 1942 pulp magazine rack, bulletins from the World Fantasy Convention, and a detailed report from inside the prehistoric painted caves of Somaliland.

And that’s just a sample of the Top Ten most popular articles.

The #1 article of the month was an excerpt from Robert Silverber’s article in the March 1996 issue of Asimov’s SF magazine, on the tragic death of John Brunner, and a look at Brunner’s career following his ill-fated detour into historical fiction.

The second most popular blog post last month was Fletcher Vredenburgh’s review of Charles R. Saunders’s new Sword & Soul novel Abengoni: First Calling. Saunders reshaped sword & sorcery with his first novel Imaro in 1981, and Howard Andrew Jones calls him “one of the greatest sword-and-sorcery writers of the ’70s (and one that by all rights should be a household name).”

The #3 article for the month was a sample from the Shorpy Historic Picture Archive, with a gorgeous high-resolution pic of a 1942 magazine rack crammed with hundreds of pulp magazines, slicks, and comics — all in glorious color.

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Embrace the Odd: The Fantasy Catalog of ChiZine Publications

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

They Do the Same Things Different There-small We Will All Go Down Together-small Year's Best Weird Fiction-small

Last month, I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. (my first trip to the city) and had a marvelous time. I attended readings by over a dozen writers, sat in on terrific panels, and reconnected with close friends I haven’t seen in far too long.

But I probably spent the most time in the Dealers Room, where publishers and collectors laid out their wares on closely packed tables. We talk about a lot of new books here at Black Gate, and I’m proud of our coverage of the industry, but let me tell you — there’s nothing like wandering past stacks of newly-published fantasy titles from dozens of publishers to make you realize how woefully you’ve underrepresented the cavalcade of new books that have arrived in just the last few months.

I vowed that when I returned to our rooftop headquarters here in Chicago, I’d showcase those publishers that most impressed me — and not just with a book or two, but by trying to show you what it was like to stand in front of their tables in that room, with the full range of their current books on display. I’ve done that once already, with Valancourt Books; today I’d like to focus on one of the most innovative small press publishers in the field, the brilliant ChiZine Publications.

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New Treasures: Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Gifts for the One Who Comes After-smallRecently I’ve talked at length (or “droned on and on,” as a few friendly readers have commented) about wandering through the Dealer’s Room at the World Fantasy Convention and discovering the splendid books produced by many of the most dynamic and exciting small press publishers in the industry, including  ValancourtHippocampus Press, Chizine, Prime Books, Taychon Press, and many more.

Of course, the Dealer’s Room isn’t the only way to discover fabulous new titles. Another is to talk to your fellow attendees and see what they recommend. Or you can attend the marvelous reading series put on by the convention. Or if you’re very lucky — as I was with Helen Marshall — you can do both. After hearing multiple rave review of her second collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, from panelists, authors, and fellow attendees, I was able to change my schedule at the last minute and slip into Helen’s reading — where I was thoroughly delighted. I dashed down to the Dealer’s Room and bought her book immediately. She is a major new talent, and you should investigate her work as soon as possible. I know I am.

Ghost thumbs. Microscopic dogs. One very sad can of tomato soup.

Helen Marshall’s second fiction collection offers a series of twisted surrealities that explore the legacies we pass on to our children. A son seeks to reconnect with his father through a telescope that sees into the past. A young girl discovers what lies on the other side of her mother’s bellybutton. Death’s wife prepares herself for a very special funeral.

In Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Marshall delivers seventeen tales of love and loss shot through with a profound sense of wonder. Dazzling, disturbing, and deeply moving.

Gifts for the One Who Comes After was published by ChiZine Publications on September 16, 2014. It is 268 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Erik Mohr.


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