Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe!


Today marks Edgar Allan Poe's 206th birthday, so we thought we'd celebrate by sharing some interesting stuff from the Valancourt Archives. Back in 2013, we published Andrew Sinclair's The Facts in the Case of E.A. Poe (1979), a brilliant hybrid of fiction and nonfiction that surely ranks as one of the most interesting books on Poe ever written. In order to write the book, Sinclair followed in Poe's footsteps from Richmond to Charlottesville, Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, and documented his research in two volumes of journals, which he sent to us.  

Poe Cottage, Bronx, NY, where Poe wrote "Annabel Lee"

Poe Park, Bronx, NY


 The Constellation, Baltimore, Maryland. A note in the journals indicates that the bowsprit points to where Poe was found dying.


 The Edgar Allan Poe Society at 512 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore

Poe was originally buried without a headstone; this stone marks the spot of his original grave.

Andrew Sinclair at Poe's tomb.






 Main Street, Richmond, outside the Poe Museum.

 Grave of Poe's mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, at St John's Episcopal Churchyard, Broad Street, Richmond

 The Gold Bug Restaurant & Lounge, Sullivan's Island, SC. Poe's story "The Gold Bug" was set on Sullivan's Island.

 Fort Moultrie, where Poe was stationed from Nov. 1827 to Dec. 1828.




"Visit the house where Poe wrote The Raven": Baltimore. In the late 1970s, when Sinclair visited, this neighborhood was particularly bad. When we visited last year, it hadn't improved much.

Hope you enjoyed these photos -- all of them come into play in Sinclair's book, which we hope you'll check out.  It's available in paperback or as a $2.99 ebook (free for Amazon Prime subscribers).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Top 10 of 2014 List!

Last year, I posted a list of my top 10 favorite Valancourt releases for 2013 (http://valancourtbooksblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/top-10-of-2013.html) and got some good responses, so here we go again, my top 10 favorite releases of 2014. Keep in mind, we only publish books we love, and we think all the books we publish are worth reading. But some are a little nearer and dearer to our hearts than others. Without further ado . . .




We reissued five of Colin Wilson's novels in 2013 before his passing in December 2013, and we returned in 2014 committed to keeping his works in print, issuing two more of his novels, Necessary Doubt and The Glass Cage, both of which I enjoyed very much. The Glass Cage is a great read which deals with many of the topics that interested Wilson, in particular existential philosophy and serial murderers. This one will also appeal to fans of our editions of 18th century literature, as the killer leaves a quotation from William Blake at the scene of each crime and the 'detective' is a Blake scholar.





John Blackburn wrote 28 novels, 14 of which we've now published, and every one of them is good. They have original premises and are written in a highly intelligent, literate style, and, what's refreshing, they're never one word too long. Most of them clock in at about 150 pages or less, making them a perfect short read. Blackburn's books vary in tone: the earlier ones are fairly straight-up suspense thrillers; some of the later ones, particularly those featuring Bill Easter, approach parody. But for a period in the middle, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Blackburn wrote some very good horror novels, and this one is by far the darkest and grimmest. I won't give away any major plot surprises, but like the best of Blackburn's books, this one features a modern-day updating of a medieval legend (in this case, the story of Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian countess rumored to have slaughtered girls and bathed in their blood). It's a terrific read, and if you've never given Blackburn a shot before, this is the one to start with.


Our efforts to revive the reputation of Claude Houghton continued in 2014 with the release of his first novel, Neighbours (1926), which had been out of print since, well, 1926, probably. Though it's not on a par with I Am Jonathan Scrivener (1930) or This Was Ivor Trent (1935), it's still a brilliant read. The premise is intriguing: an author takes a room in the attic of a boarding house, seeking privacy and quiet. But he finds unexpectedly that he has a neighbour on the other side of the wall, whose every conversation he can hear. As time goes on, his eavesdropping on his neighbour's life turns into an obsession. In the hands of a lesser writer, this wouldn't work for a 200 page novel, but somehow Houghton pulls it off. If you haven't read Houghton yet, don't start with this one: try one of the others. But if you find that you like the style of his metaphysical, psychological thrillers, you'll enjoy this one as well.


This extraordinary novel was much compared to Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, presumably because they're both very long books dealing with tuberculosis patients in sanatoriums. I haven't read the Mann book, so I don't know how apt the comparisons are, but Ellis's first and only novel is remarkable and well worth reading. It earned near-universal praise in England when first published and was reprinted off and on as a Penguin Modern Classic but had fallen out of print by some point in the 1990s. For me, the book's brilliance is in its gallows humour: though the painful and dehumanizing medical procedures the hero undergoes are horrific to read about, the novel is infused throughout with some of the blackest humour you'll find in a novel. It's an exquisitely written book and one only wishes Ellis (pseudonym of Derek Lindsay) had written others.


During his brief career, James Kennaway published several astonishingly good novels and also wrote a number of award-winning screenplays. Unfortunately, he died way too young, dying on the M4 motorway at age 40 around Christmas, 1968, as he was driving home from having drinks with his friend Peter O'Toole. This novel, published posthumously, may be his masterpiece. For my money, opening lines don't get much better than this: 'They were painting the gothic corridors of the railway hotel when the economist arrived. It was about six o’clock in the evening, early in May, which is no time to die, and it had been raining heavily.' Time Magazine summed up the novel as 'a hard little book about dying', which seems fair. The protagonist, dying of lung cancer, has only a short time left to live. His wife, knowing the prognosis, can't help but look on her husband as a sort of walking corpse: any kind of normal relationship between them has become impossible, since she knows he may die at any time. Seeking to live to the fullest in the short time he has left, he embarks on an affair with a teenage girl, who, not knowing of his illness, is free to imagine they have a future together. Like the crab clawing at his insides, he claws desperately for life, and just as the cancer is consuming him, he becomes cancerous to everyone around him, ruining their lives in his single-minded quest to enjoy his own. It's a powerful short novel that demands to be read -- his style is unique and the book is unforgettable.


The Elementals has been by far our most popular book this year. It doesn't quite outsell all the rest of our catalogue put together, but it certainly seems to be trying to. Poppy Z. Brite has called it 'surely the most terrifying novel ever written', and plenty of the online reviews echo that sentiment: readers seem to find it genuinely terrifying. I think I'm just too jaded from having seen so many horror movies and TV shows and read so many horror books over the years, but I didn't find the book particularly scary. But I still loved it. McDowell is a terrific writer: his fortes are dialogue (which is always pitch-perfect, particularly in his rendering of dialect), setting, and characterization. Most horror novels have a cast of throwaway characters who don't serve much purpose except as fodder for the killer: they're indistinguishable from one another, and the dialogue could just as easily be spoken by any one of them. After the book's finished, you probably won't remember a single one of them. Not in McDowell's books, and especially not in this one. India (a precursor of Lydia in McDowell's later Beetlejuice script) and her father Luker, the alcoholic Big Barbara, the maid Odessa Red, each of the characters really comes to life and practically leaps off the page. If I wasn't terrified by the story, I was nonetheless carried along by it: the first two-thirds or so of the book move at a fairly leisurely pace, leading up to the real horror towards the end, but it's never dull for a moment and keeps you turning the pages. We're thrilled to be continuing the Michael McDowell rediscovery in 2015 with three more of his novels. If you're a horror fan, these are must-reads, but even if you normally don't read horror books, you'll find plenty to admire in the writing of McDowell, who is a very fine writer indeed.


This one's cheating a bit, since it's actually being published Jan. 6, 2015, but since we spent a lot of time working on it this year (and since this is my list and I can do what I want with it), I'm putting on here. Until recently, like many readers in the U.S., I didn't have a particularly clear idea who Christopher Priest was and what his books were like. I'd heard of The Prestige, of course, and seen the Christopher Nolan film, but otherwise, I didn't know much about Priest. This is probably in part due to the fact that most of his books have been unavailable in the U.S. for many years. The neglect of his works here in the U.S. is surprising, since all his books are in print in the UK, where he has won many major awards; they're also all available in various European translations (he's also won major awards in France, Germany, etc.) When I stumbled upon an old copy of The Affirmation, I knew from the jacket blurb that this was the sort of novel I'd love: it's a book that blends and transcends genres -- not exactly SF, not exactly fantasy, not exactly a thriller -- and features an intriguing premise and a very clever literary mindgame that will make you want to reread the book as soon as you've finished it, just so you can see how it was all done. An extremely enjoyable, page-turning read, and we're excited to be offering it. 


Speaking of books that don't fit easily into genres (most of ours don't), this is another: equal parts fantasy, political thriller, autobiography, and nostalgia, Lord Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman is one of the best books I read all year. In fact, both of us here at Valancourt Books would rank this among our top reads for 2014. It's temping to say that the fantasy aspects concerning Tir-nan-Og, the land of eternal youth, or the supernatural parts with the 'wise woman' (witch) are the most interesting, but I found myself engrossed even with the parts of the book dealing with Irish political intrigue or hunting foxes and geese on the bog. His prose here is, as always, mellifluous, and the book is charming and delightful throughout. If you haven't read Dunsany before, or if you read some of his early short stories and they weren't for you, give this one a shot: you're almost certain to like it.


This book is about 400 pages long, but it doesn't feel like it. You'll wish it had been double the length. John Wain's books are always good (Hurry on Down and The Smaller Sky were favourites of mine from our 2013 list), but this one is really something special. The plot, which is simple enough, involves an English linguist, Roger Furnivall, who spends a winter in Wales to learn the language and gets caught up in a local dispute in which a large corporation is attempting to put all the local bus operators out of business. The last holdout is Gareth, a taciturn hunchback, and Roger determines to interfere and help Gareth save his bus route and his livelihood from the encroaching forces of corporate greed. It's hard for me to say why I liked the book so much. The plot is all right, the writing is of course solid, but somehow it's a book that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I think perhaps it has to do with the unusual earnestness with which Wain writes: it's hard not to root for him, and for his characters. Very highly recommended. (As an aside, I'd love to hear from anyone who reads this one and who has also read one of my favourite Valancourt releases of 2012, John Trevena's Sleeping Waters [1913], which also involved an Englishman arriving as an outsider in a small Celtic town and interfering with local business affairs, and also featured a hunchback...)


This book is so good that it's almost unthinkable that its inclusion on this list is owing entirely to an accident of fate. Here in Richmond we have a thrift store that benefits the gay community center; I stumbled upon an old copy of the book there, never having heard of it. But from the publisher's blurb and the rave reviews on the cover from Iris Murdoch, Christopher Isherwood, Angus Wilson, and others, it was immediately evident that this was a book we needed to republish. Tracking down the estate took a considerable amount of detective work, but was well worth it, as this was my favourite book of ours this year. Set in a boys' boarding school (based on the Irish school that Campbell himself attended, and peopled with characters that were easily recognizable as Campbell's teachers and schoolfellows), the book focuses on two characters, both struggling with their attractions for members of the same sex. One is Eric Ashley, a former pupil of the school, now returned to teach there, and who is tormented by his attraction to young men. The other is Carleton, a student, who is in love with Allen, a boy a year younger. Meanwhile, with the school declining in quality, a new headmaster, Crabtree, has been brought in, and he is determined to stamp out any homosexual conduct in the school. (His efforts, though, are thoroughly misguided and often lead to hilarious disaster, as when he arranges for a girls' school to visit for the day). But it would be unfair to call this a 'gay' novel: as Iris Murdoch blurbs, it's really a novel about love. And though of course infused with sadness and even tragedy, the book is also very, very funny in parts. Like the Wain novel, it's about 400 pages, but again, not a page too long. It's a beautiful book and not to be missed.

What about you? What were your favourite Valancourt releases this year? We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, December 5, 2014

A bit of bad news....

We hate to be the harbingers of bad news, especially during the holiday season, but we've received some really disturbing news from Amazon that we have to pass along. 

Effective Jan. 1, Amazon will begin charging VAT on e-books based on the buyer's country. Up until now, they've charged 3% VAT, which is the rate in Luxembourg, where Amazon EU is based. Beginning Jan. 1, e-books in the UK will be subject to a 20% tax instead of 3%. In Ireland, it's an appalling 23%.

Amazon has notified us that if we leave our e-book prices the same, Amazon will simply take the 20% out of the royalties it pays us. As it is, on most sales, Amazon keeps about 31% for itself; under our contracts, the author gets 25-30%. The little bit that's left goes to cover our costs for cover art, proofreading, digitization and conversion to MOBI and EPUB formats, and other costs, and a tiny profit to keep the lights on here at Valancourt Towers and keep new books coming out. Thus, on a given e-book, we get about 40% of the retail price. Under the new scheme, this would drop by half -- 20% going to VAT and the slender 20% that remains going to us. As a very, very, very, very small operation, we cannot possibly absorb a 50% decrease in our already modest revenues.

Therefore, unless the UK and other EU governments take action in the very near future to resolve this mess, we will be forced to raise our e-book prices in the UK and EU countries by as much as 20%. The UK's VAT on e-books is especially absurd, since the UK charges a 0% tax on print books.

We regret very much the prospect of increasing prices on UK/EU e-books, particularly since the entire raison d'ĂȘtre behind Valancourt Books has always been to make books available to everyone at the most affordable prices possible, but unfortunately, this issue is beyond our control.... 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

An update on a bunch of forthcoming releases

The year is rapidly winding down, but things are still in full swing at Valancourt Towers, where we're working on tons and tons (and tons) of new stuff that will be out over the next couple months. We did a quick tour of the factory today to see what our resident Valancourt gnomes are churning out on the presses, and here is some of what they're working on:

Lusignan; or, The Abbaye of La Trappe (1801), Anonymous (edited by Jacqui Howard).  

This four-volume Minerva Press Gothic is exceedingly rare, with the only known copy surviving at Corvey Castle, in Germany, where an early-nineteenth-century Prince of Corvey was an avid reader of English Gothic literature. Jacqui Howard, who has previously edited Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) for Penguin Classics, provides an introduction and notes. Prof. Howard has previously made the argument that this scarce novel and another, The Orphans of Llangloed, could in fact be the product of Radcliffe herself, who famously disappeared after the publication of The Italian in 1797. Maybe she found it harder to put down her pen than she thought, and continued to publish anonymously . . . ?

The chapel scenes in which the fainting Emily beholds the ghastly spectre are well done and are sure to please any fan of Gothic Literature.




Anthology of Graveyard Poetry, edited by Jack G. Voller

This groundbreaking new volume contains the best and most influential of the poetry of the so-called 'Graveyard School', which arose in mid-18th-century England and became a literary phenomenon; it also went on to have a major impact on the development of Gothic fiction in the 1790s and afterwards. This collection includes important works by Robert Blair ('The Grave'), Edward Young ('Night Thoughts on Death'), Thomas Gray ('Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard') and many more, and also features many lesser-known women poets. Editor Professor Jack G. Voller, who previously edited the chapbook The Veiled Picture for Valancourt and who runs the Literary Gothic website, provides an introduction and notes. A must-have for scholars and students of 18th century literature as well as anyone interested in the development of Gothic literature or those who like their reading on the morbid side....



Jaspar Tristram (1899) by A. W. Clarke, new introduction by A. D. Harvey

One of the earliest English public school novels, this was the only novel by Clarke, and it's an unusual one. Few novels (perhaps none) up to that point had gone into so much psychological depth in portraying the character of a schoolboy. As readers of the other public school novels we've published (The Fourth of June, Lord Dismiss Us, Never Again) will expect, the hero, Jaspar, conceives a passionate friendship for another boy at the school. Arnold Harvey contributes a new introduction.



The Tom Barber Trilogy (1931-1944) by Forrest Reid, new introductions by Andrew Doyle

We previously reissued Reid's classic trilogy as a two-volume hardcover set in 2011, but now the three volumes will be available individually as paperbacks, and, for the first time, as e-books! Each volume includes a new introduction by Dr Andrew Doyle, as well as never-before-seen photographs and archival materials from the Forrest Reid Collection at Queens University Belfast, and striking new cover designs by Henry Petrides, which have been getting rave reviews. Highlights include Uncle Stephen (1931), whose importance as a work of the fantastic and supernatural is signaled by its previous inclusion in Tartarus Press's prestigious series and which has been called a masterpiece by E.M. Forster, and Young Tom (1944), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (that era's equivalent of the Booker) for best novel of that year. If you've never read Reid, now's a great time to start!


A Hair Divides (1930), Chaos Is Come Again (1932), Julian Grant Loses His Way (1933) by Claude Houghton

If you haven't read any of the three incredible books we've already published by Houghton (1889-1961) (I Am Jonathan Scrivener, This Was Ivor Trent, and Neighbours), close this browser window, stop reading this blog, and get over to Amazon or your local library to get a copy of his masterpiece, I Am Jonathan Scrivener, which we published with a foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Michael Dirda, and read it immediately! A contemporary reviewer in 1930 said the book was impossible to put down; nothing has changed: it's still impossible to put down.  

Once you've finished that one, and the other two we've published, you're going to be demanding more, which is why we're reissuing three more of his neglected classics. Houghton was very widely praised by his fellow authors during his time (J.B. Priestley, Hugh Walpole, L.A.G. Strong, Clemence Dane, and many others, were admirers, as was Henry Miller, who had a years-long, impassioned correspondence with Houghton), but never found the readership he deserved during his lifetime or even after his death. We're trying to change that with our continuing program of reissuing his books; the best of the new trio is probably Julian Grant Loses His Way, a remarkable work of the fantastic. The book opens with Julian Grant finding himself in London one foggy morning without any clear idea of where he's been or where he's going. After he ducks into a cafe to collect his thoughts over a cocktail, he is assailed by memories and images from his past. As his story unfolds, it becomes clear something very strange is going on. Is he suffering from some sort of mental disturbance or amnesia? Has he become trapped in some kind of dream world? Or is there an even more chilling explanation for the weird situation in which he finds himself?

All three will feature their original jacket art (these are unrestored versions):





The Black Cloud (1957) by Fred Hoyle; new introduction by Geoffrey Hoyle

Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was a brilliant and influential scientist whose work in astronomy and astrophysics has had an enduring impact in those fields, but he was also a popular science fiction novelist. In the new foreword to this edition of his first novel, The Black Cloud, his son Geoffrey, also a sci-fi novelist, recounts that when one of Hoyle's colleagues was surprised to see him reading a lowbrow science fiction novel, Hoyle replied: “I have a purpose in mind. These people don’t know any real science and they make money by writing this stuff. I, who know some science, should be able to do much better.”


And so he did. The Black Cloud is a landmark of British science fiction, a work of what is known as "hard SF": books grounded in scientific fact in which the apparently improbable events could in fact actually happen. But don't be misled: though it contains a healthy dose of science and fact, Hoyle's book is no snoozer: the plot involves the advent of a gigantic black cloud the size of Jupiter that arrives in our solar system and blocks out the Sun's light, causing unimaginable destruction and the possibility of the extinction of all life on earth. It's a thrilling apocalyptic read that has long been recognized as a classic in the UK, where it's never been out of print and is now part of Penguin's Modern Classics series. We're very pleased to bring this great book back to print in the U.S. for the first time in four decades.


The Affirmation (1981) by Christopher Priest, new introduction by the author

Christopher Priest has been a major figure in British SF for many years now, though whether you classify his works as SF or fantasy, they're also excellent literary fiction. For some reason, until recently, he hasn't caught on as much in the States: two of his best novels, The Affirmation (1981) and The Glamour (1985), came out in hardcover over here but quickly fell out of print and never made it to paperback. A couple years back, NYRB Classics began the important work of a Priest revival, reissuing the classic The Inverted World (1974), and we're very glad to continue the process with this reissue, to which the author provides a new introduction.


The Affirmation is a book about the nature of reality: what is "true", and how can we really be certain that it's true? It opens with a young Londoner, Peter Sinclair, down-and-out after losing his father, his girlfriend, his job, and his flat all at roughly the same time. Trying to figure out where things went wrong, he begins to write an autobiography. But though it captures the facts of his life literally, it somehow misses the essential truth of his experiences. So he rewrites it, changing names and fictionalizing certain events. Meanwhile, we meet another Peter Sinclair, a native of Jethra, who has just won the grand prize in a lottery: a trip to the Dream Archipelago, where he will undergo a procedure that confers immortality on him. The catch: it will also erase his memory. So he, too, sets out to write his autobiography, in order to recapture the memories following the procedure. As their two stories seem to overlap, intersect, and intertwine, the lines of truth and reality blur: is one Peter the fictional creation of the other? Are both real? Or neither? Priest pulls off a brilliant literary mindgame that will keep you turning the pages and will have you anxious to reread it once you reach the surprising end. I loved every page of this one and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.


The Devil's Own Work (1991) by Alan Judd; new intro by Owen King; new afterword by the author

Like Christopher Priest, Alan Judd was one of the original Granta Best Young British Novelists chosen in 1983, and like Priest's novel, Judd's book has received somewhat less than its due here in the U.S. When first published in 1991, The Devil's Own Work was a major critical success, winning the UK's Guardian Fiction Prize and garnering outstanding reviews from every major critic in the U.S. The Vintage paperback edition even boasted a glowing quote from Stephen King, calling it the best book he'd read all year.



Judd's novella is the story of an aspiring writer, Edward, who -- depending on how you read it -- sacrifices either his artistic integrity or perhaps even his immortal soul in exchange for popular acclaim and success. Edward's friend, the narrator, pieces together the story of Edward's meteoric rise: it involves the death of a respected, elderly writer, an inscrutable and possibly cursed manuscript, and a beautiful, seemingly ageless woman. Whether read as chilling supernatural horror in the Faustian tradition or as an allegory and satire on modern literary culture, it's a terrific book, which we're very pleased to be offering. Owen King contributes a great new introduction (his father, a little-known scribe, contributed an intro to our edition last year of The Monk), while the author has written a new afterword, explaining how the novella arose out of his research on Ford Madox Ford and a strange meeting with Graham Greene.


Matchbox Theatre (2015) by Michael Frayn

Increasingly often, we're approached -- often by well-known and well-respected authors -- about the possibility of publishing a brand-new, original work. Usually we say no: as much fun as it would be to publish new material, we've carved out a little niche for our reissues of neglected classics, and our small size limits us from taking on anything too ambitious. But in the process of acquiring U.S. rights to five of Michael Frayn's classic novels originally published between 1965-1973, the opportunity came along to publish his new book and we couldn't pass it up. It's not every day a small operation like ours has the chance to publish a book by an author whose last three were all Booker Prize nominees and who's regarded by many as one of the best playwrights of our time.



Published in October by Faber in the UK, where it's already getting rave reviews, the US edition will be out from us in February. It contains thirty short pieces -- call them plays, playlets, sketches, monologues, or, as the author does, simply "entertainments" -- and, as you'd expect from the author of Noises Off and Skios, it's riotously funny. It also features a wonderful wraparound vintage-matchbox-inspired cover and interior illustrations by M.S. Corley.

That's it for now, but keep watching this space and our website and Facebook pages, as we continue to add more and more great titles to our offerings!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Forthcoming titles for 2015 (updated 10-28-14)

Previously posted a couple months ago, but updated with new info on some great folks who've kindly offered to contribute introductions, as well as new literary classic titles we're taking on by Nevil Shute and H.E. Bates and a great gay-interest title by Robin Maugham (nephew of W. Somerset Maugham).  And we'll be updating periodically to add more exciting stuff that we're currently in negotiations for....


HORROR, SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY

CHARLES BEAUMONT

The Intruder (1959) 
A Touch of the Creature (2000)

MICHAEL BLUMLEIN

The Brains of Rats (1989) (World Fantasy Award nominee), intro by Michael McDowell

DAVID CASE

Among the Wolves and other Werewolf Stories, edited by Stephen Jones
Fengriffen and other Storiesedited by Stephen Jones

STEPHEN GREGORY

The Woodwitch (1988), introduction by Paul Tremblay
The Blood of Angels (1994), introduction by Mark Morris

FRED HOYLE

The Black Cloud (1957) (US only), introduction by Geoffrey Hoyle

GERALD KERSH

Neither Man Nor Dog (1946), introduction by Robert Webb
Clock Without Hands (1949), introduction by Thomas Pluck
The Great Wash (aka The Secret Masters) (1953)
On an Odd Note (1957), introduction by Nick Mamatas

HARRY KRESSING (pseud. of Harry Adam Ruber)

The Cook (1965)

ROBERT MARASCO

Burnt Offerings (1973)

GABRIEL MARLOWE
I Am Your Brother (1935), introduction by Phil Baker

MICHAEL McDOWELL

Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980), introduction by Douglas E. Winter, cover by Mike Mignola

ARCH OBOLER

House on Fire (1969), introduction by Christopher Conlon

CHRISTOPHER PRIEST

The Affirmation (1981) (US only), introduction by the author

ANDREW SINCLAIR

Gog (1967), introduction by John Clute

MICHAEL TALBOT

The Bog (1986)
Night Things (1988)

BERNARD TAYLOR
The Godsend (1976) (US only)
Sweetheart, Sweetheart (1977) (US only), introduction by Michael Rowe
The Moorstone Sickness (1982) (US only), introduction by Mark Morris

ROBERT WESTALL
Antique Dust (1989)


MODERN LITERARY CLASSICS


JOHN BRAINE

Life at the Top (1962) (US only); introduction by Ben Clarke

H.E. BATES
Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944) (US only); introduction by Alice Ferrebe

MICHAEL FRAYN (all US only)

The Tin Men (1965) (Somerset Maugham Award); introduction by the author
The Russian Interpreter (1966) (Hawthornden Prize); introduction by the author
Towards the End of the Morning (1967); introduction by the author
A Very Private Life (1968); introduction by the author
Sweet Dreams (1973); introduction by the author

F. L. GREEN

Odd Man Out (1945); introduction by Adrian McKinty

CLAUDE HOUGHTON
A Hair Divides (1930)
Chaos Is Come Again (1932)
Julian Grant Loses His Way (1933)

ELIZABETH JENKINS
Harriet (1934)

ALAN JUDD
The Devil's Own Work (1991) (Guardian Fiction Prize); introduction by Owen King, afterword by the author (US only)

ROBIN MAUGHAM
Behind the Mirror (1955); introduction by Doug Armato (US only)

NEVIL SHUTE
Landfall (1940); introduction by Rob Spence (US/Canada only)
An Old Captivity (1940); introduction by Rob Spence (US/Canada only)

KEITH WATERHOUSE

Jubb (1962); introduction by Alice Ferrebe (US only)
Billy Liar on the Moon (1976); introduction by Alice Ferrebe (US only)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Announcing our new Valancourt eClassics series!

Each month, we've been offering one or two of our recent 20th century releases as a $2.99 e-book, and the response has been tremendous.  So we've been looking at ways to make more great books available at ultra low prices, which has resulted in the creation of a new series, Valancourt eClassics, which will parallel our print series of Valancourt Classics, focusing mainly on rare and hard-to-find Victorian and Edwardian literature at prices as low as $2.99 each. 

In order to keep costs extremely low and allow us to price these at less than a cup of coffee (not exaggerating: I was formatting one of them the other day at a coffee shop and was charged $3.17+tip for a small iced coffee), these editions will generally not feature introductions and annotations; they will be carefully proofread texts, formatted and linked for optimal reading on the Kindle and other e-readers.

We've already published the first six titles in the series, including texts by Baron Corvo, Forrest Reid, and Richard Marsh.  At first, we plan to focus primarily on current Valancourt authors, so expect to see more of Corvo, Reid, and Marsh, along with John Trevena/Ernest G. Henham, Bertram Mitford, Florence Marryat, Beverley Nichols, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Sheridan Le Fanu, and many others.

Fans of our print editions: don't panic!  These are intended to supplement our print editions, not replace them. In most cases, these are out-of-copyright works for which dozens and dozens of low-quality print-on-demand paperbacks stolen from Google Books or Project Gutenberg exist, making it unlikely we'd be able to offer them as paperbacks. (To understand why, just go to Amazon and try to find the print editions we published of Richard Marsh's The Beetle, Bram Stoker's The Mystery of the Sea, Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean, or, in fact, any of our Victorian paperbacks.  You can wade through pages and pages of crap and you'll never find them unless you know the ISBN. Thanks, Amazon.)

Are there any 19th or early 20th century authors whose books you'd love to see as $2.99 e-books? We look forward to hearing from readers what they think about this new project of ours and as always we welcome your input!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spotlight on Dennis Parry's THE SURVIVOR (1940)

If you've never heard of Dennis Arthur Parry (1912-1955) or his 1940 novel of the supernatural, The Survivor, you're hardly alone. As far as I know, Parry doesn't receive so much as a mention in any survey or study of English literature of that period, and even among scholars of occult and fantastic literature, only E. F. Bleiler gives even the briefest of mentions of Parry's book. Even during his lifetime, despite the fact that he published ten novels, most or all of them well received by critics, Parry seems to have been little known. Reviewing his tenth (and final) novel, Sea of Glass (1955), for The Observer, the prolific book critic John Davenport confessed that he was 'ashamed to confess having known nothing of his work before, as he is an uncommonly good writer, with the classic novelist's virtues and other gifts besides'.  

The few of us around the world who have had the good fortune to discover Parry's works owe the discovery to the macabre illustrator Edward Gorey, who in a 1975 interview named Sea of Glass the most undeservedly neglected novel he knew. Coincidentally, Parry shares a number of things in common with his almost exact contemporary, fellow Valancourt author John Lodwick (1916-1959): both were fairly prolific authors of clever, urbane, slightly cynical novels characterized by their incisive, witty prose, and both suffered the same fate: death in an auto accident at age 43, followed by instantaneous and total literary oblivion.

The Survivor (NY: Holt, 1940)

Parry seems to have come from an upper-middle-class background and was well educated, earning a degree in law and qualifying as a barrister, though he ultimately wound up in the civil service after he was rejected for active duty in WWII because of his poor eyesight. His first novel, Attic Meteor (1936), was published when he was 24, and over the next twenty years, nine others would follow (one of them, The Bishop's Move [1938], was co-authored with H.W. Champness).  It would seem Parry dabbled in fiction as a sort of hobby, devoting most of his attention to his career and family.

Parry's penultimate novel (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1954); d/w by Val Biro

The publication history of his third novel, The Survivor, is an interesting one. It was first published in London by Robert Hale in 1940, but it seems to have been dead on arrival. I could locate no reviews in the usual sources (TLS, Guardian, Observer, Spectator), and copies of the edition are almost nonexistent: OCLC/Worldcat locates only two copies in world libraries, and I've only ever seen one copy come up for sale on Abebooks (it sold instantly, before I could buy it). One wonders whether the publisher, Hale, simply didn't market the book correctly, or whether Britain was too preoccupied with WWII to notice it, or if it was just too odd to catch on at the time (quick: name some great British supernatural horror novels published in the early 1940s!)

By contrast, when the book was released in the U.S. in a curiously undated (c. 1940/41) edition from Henry Holt & Co., it was a surprise hit.  It sold well enough that I came across an article indicating Holt was going to budget another $5,000 (quite a lot back then, no doubt) for advertising and was going to issue a second printing. Virginia Kirkus's influential reviews service gave it a starred notice, and other positive reviews appeared from major review outlets in the U.S., comparing Parry's novel favorably with classics like Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Turn of the Screw, and Dracula. (It'd be interesting to know if Hugh Walpole read Parry's book, as Walpole's The Killer and the Slain was a bestseller the following year and also dealt with the theme of possession by a wicked, dead man.)

Mooncalf (London: Hale, 1947) d/w by C.W. Bacon

Without spoiling the plot, The Survivor opens with Dr. James Marshall, a brilliant doctor who has fought and conquered plagues on three continents but who is hated, feared, and despised by all, including his family (with the sole exception of his rather naive niece, Olive).  Marshall is domineering, tyrannical, with a malicious, sharp tongue, and capable of diabolical perversity and inventive methods of sadism.  When he dies -- ironically during a flu outbreak, the one epidemic he is unable to conquer -- everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief. But, Parry suggests, such a larger-than-life character, such a strong, powerful personality, may not be totally destroyed by death, but might somehow live on.  And when Olive begins to show some strange behaviors reminiscent of her uncle, the family begins to wonder whether it's merely her unique way of grieving his loss, or could she actually be possessed by his consciousness? An odd mixture of humorous and rather harrowing scenes ensue, leading up to an unexpectedly sinister conclusion.

In his introduction to the new edition, author, critic, and connoisseur of arcane literature Mark Valentine makes a number of interesting points. One is that Parry's novel is a rarity: a successful novel-length ghost story.  There are plenty of classic short stories featuring ghosts, as well as novellas like James's Turn of the Screw, but a full-length novel concerned with ghosts that manages to maintain the terror and suspense over the course of 250 or 300 pages is uncommon.  Also, Valentine writes:

"[Parry] has written a modern and ironic ghost story. He has the nerve to use his characters to point out the distinction between his approach and those of convention. When they meet to discuss what is happening to them, they rather doubtfully consider, and reject, what they know from 'tales and legends of the supernatural'. One character, evolving a theory, admits it may not be 'any higher than Dracula'. Another 'would greatly have preferred that the supernatural, if it must impinge on her life, should do so in a familiar, old-fashioned style, dressed in a white shroud and accompanied by clanking chains'. This is a knowing, new style of ghost story, blithely acknowledging, but distancing itself from, the stock properties of the past."

Sea of Glass (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1955)

Though it's doubtful that a new edition of The Survivor at this late date will propel it into the canon of classic ghost stories, or that this edition and our forthcoming reissue of the absolutely brilliant Sea of Glass will earn Dennis Parry a spot on the list of major 20th century English novelists, both books are well worth reading and discovering.  If you like intelligent, interesting, out-of-the-way fiction, give Dennis Parry a shot -- you might be very pleasantly surprised.

The Survivor (1940) by Dennis Parry, with a new introduction by Mark Valentine, will be available worldwide in paperback, Kindle, and e-book formats.  Parry's Sea of Glass (1955) is also forthcoming from Valancourt.


Atalanta's Case (London: Hale, 1947) d/w by C.W. Bacon

Going Up, Going Down (1953)