Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year-End Roundup and A Look Ahead to 2016

Thank you for making 2015 our best year ever!

It's been an exciting year, as we've released more than 60 great new titles, from lost 18th-century works (Jane West's A Gossip's Story, Jack Voller's The Graveyard School: An Anthology) to neglected Victorian classics (George W.M. Reynolds's penny dreadful The Mysteries of London, R.M. Ballantyne's best-selling boys' adventure The Coral Island) to vintage thrillers and chillers (J.U. Nicolson's Fingers of Fear, Henry Chapman Mercer's November Night Tales) to contemporary horror classics (Bernard Taylor's Sweetheart, Sweetheart, Michael McDowell's Cold Moon Over Babylon) and some really great literary fiction that had inexplicably fallen out of print in the USor never been published here at all!(Barry Hines's A Kestrel for a Knave, Iain Sinclair's White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, Michael Frayn's first five novels, three by Russell Hoban).

We love all the books we publish, so it'd be impossible for us to pick a favorite or even a top 10. Instead, here's a list of ten books we published this year (in no particular order) that we really love but which some of you may have overlooked.


Westall is best known as the award-winning author of a number of books for children and young adults; Antique Dust (1989) was his only book marketed for adults. It's a collection of terrific ghost stories in the tradition of M.R. James, centering on an antique dealer who has a knack for running across cursed objects and haunted places. It's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, always entertaining. If you enjoy this one, make sure not to miss Westall's The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral, another Jamesian tale, this time featuring a cathedral tower topped with a rather hideous gargoyle, which may (or may not) be exercising a supernatural power to lure children to their deaths.












Christopher Priest has a large following internationally and has won numerous awards for his books, including the James Tait Black Prize for best novel of the year and the World Fantasy Award for The Prestige (1995), but for some reason has been somewhat overlooked in the States, where most of his classic works were out of print before we started republishing them. The Separation (2002) won both the British Fantasy Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and it's easy to see why. It's an enthralling, mind-bending novel that traces the story of twin brothers who played key roles in World War II through divergent realities. Read it and see why critics have called it one of the best works of alternate history ever written. We also released Priest's The Affirmation (1981) in January 2015, and it's one of my favorite reissues this year.









F. L. Green's Odd Man Out is best known as the source of the classic 1947 Carol Reed film adaptation (recently reissued in the Criterion Collection), but if you've seen the movie and haven't read the novel, you're really missing out. Set over the course of one snowy, surreal, nightmarish Belfast night, it starts out as the story of a violent heist gone wrong and turns into something else entirely, as a wounded IRA leader stumbles through the streets, bleeding, menaced by death and betrayal on all sides, and facing the prospect of dying that night with the stain of murder weighing on his soul.













Elizabeth Jenkins's Harriet (1934) won the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse, beating Evelyn Waugh's better-known A Handful of Dust. It's not hard to see why she won, but it's extremely hard to understand why this novel has been so neglected. Based on the real-life case of Harriet Staunton, a mentally disabled woman who was cruelly murdered for her fortune during the Victorian era, it's an unrivaled exploration into the depths of human depravity that still holds the ability to chill readers to the bone.















I've read Dennis Parry's Sea of Glass (1955) three times now and look forward to reading it again. Most of our authors are neglected to one degree or another, but Parry goes beyond neglect into the realm of total oblivion. From his death in 1955 (less than two months after this book, his best, was published) until 2014, not a single one of his books was ever reprinted. Even during his lifetime he was little known, despite having published ten novels; reviewers of Sea of Glass loved the book and expressed astonishment that they'd never heard of Parry or read others of his books. And Parry would have continued in oblivion were it not for the macabre illustrator Edward Gorey, who, in the journal Antaeus in the 1970s, mentioned Sea of Glass as the most unjustly neglected book he knew. No plot description can do justice to Parry's novel. It's exciting, suspenseful, moving, and very, very funnysometimes laugh-out-loud funny (just wait till you get to the part with the venomous barking spiders). Trust us on this one, give it a shot.







Harry Kressing's The Cook (1965) is one of those books that for decades invariably showed up on lists of books that had undeservedly fallen out of print and needed to be reissued. It's a sort of dark fairy tale, with echoes of Kafka, centering on the mysterious figure of Conrad, a tall, gaunt young man dressed all in black, who arrives in town one day and uses his brilliant culinary skills to win first the stomachs and then the souls of the townspeople. The critic for the Observer said it "begin[s] in a vein of innocent fairy tale and end[s] with satanic revels", while John Fowles praised it, saying, "I have much enjoyed The Cook, for I am very fond of Satan. My congratulations to Mr. Kressing on his achievement." Everyone we've talked to has enjoyed this one, and it has a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon, so we think it's safe to say you're likely to enjoy it too.






7. Michael Blumlein, The Brains of Rats

In this astonishing collection, Michael Blumlein (a medical doctor in addition to a terrific short story writer) blurs the boundaries of horror, science fiction, and fantasy in stories that often feature medical themes. When it first appeared in 1989, it earned rave reviews from mainstream critics at the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, etc., as well as high praise from genre stalwarts Harlan Ellison, Pat Cadigan, Joe R. Lansdale, and Peter Straub. Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, says it best: “The Brains of Rats is blindingly brilliant. Blumlein is beyond any genre, a genuinely great writer.” Probably the most famous (or infamous) story in the collection is one in which the surgical dissection of Ronald Reagan is described in chilling, clinical detail, but almost every entry in the book is a classic.










8. Barry Hines, A Kestrel for a Knave

Unbelievably, Barry Hines's 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave (filmed in 1969 as Kes, also a recent Criterion DVD reissue) had never been published in the United States despite being recognized as a classic in the UK, where it's probably been read by every kid ever to go through the British school system any time in the past four decades. An outstanding work of realistic working-class fiction, it's the story of a young boy in a northern England mining town who has seemingly no future except a life of toil in the mines, but who finds strength and courage through his experiences in training a kestrel hawk. Our edition features one of our favorite covers of 2015, by Tom Duxbury.












9. Michael Frayn, Towards the End of the Morning

Michael Frayn is legendary in the UK, where his first five novels have long been regarded as classics, his most recent three novels have all been nominated for the Booker Prize, and his play Noises Off (currently being revived on Broadway) was voted the nation's second-favorite play of all time. And yet, despite those impressive credentials, his first five novels had all been out of print for decades in the US until we reissued them with new introductions by the author. All five are excellent, but Towards the End of the Morning (1967) is probably the funniest and most famous. The story involves a group of journalists working for a third-rate London newspaper in the waning days of Fleet Street, stuck in the obscure department responsible for the crossword puzzle and 'Nature Notes'. As always with Frayn, it's a very funny book (the scene where one of the newspapermen, dreaming of escaping to a lucrative career in television, finally gets an appearance on a TV program but gets drunk and makes an ass of himself, is a highlight, as is the catastrophically ill-fated trip to review a new resort in the Persian Gulf). We also published Frayn's newest book, Matchbox Theatre, a collection of thirty short 'entertainments' that the New York Times picked as a must for summer reading.





A remarkable first novel, Craig Jones's Blood Secrets (1978) earned rave reviews when first published and in the decades since, numerous critics have hailed it as a masterpiece of 20th century American Gothic fiction. Whether you call it mystery, thriller, or horror, it's a terrific novel, with a slow accumulation of dread and suspense and a couple of genuinely shocking turns you won't see coming. The saying 'don't judge a book by its cover' might have been coined because of this book: the 1979 mass-market paperback, with the title "BLOOD SECRETS" in a large crimson font, must have made the book seem to be just another amongst the thousands of bad horror novels being churned out at the time, which is definitely not the case. Give this one a shot: we think you'll really enjoy it. And whatever you do, don't post any spoilers of the plot anywhere!









A look at 2016

As we count down the waning hours of 2015, how about a look at some of what to expect in 2016? Please note, all these titles are currently considered 'forthcoming' and may be subject to cancellation or delay until 2017. Also, negotiations are ongoing for a number of books, and more titles will be added throughout the year.

Gothic, Victorian, Edwardian
Charlotte Smith, Ethelinde, or, The Recluse of the Lake (1789)
Henry Summersett, The Fate of Sedley (1795) and Aberford (1795)
Regina Maria Roche, The Children of the Abbey (1796)
Carl Grosse, Horrid Mysteries (1796)
Maria Edgeworth, Ennui (1809)
Olivia Shakespear, Beauty's Hour (1894)
Richard Marsh, The Complete Adventures of Judith Lee (1911-16)

Vintage Thrills and Chills
Riccardo Stephens, The Mummy (1912)
Alexander Laing, The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck (1934)
Edwin Greenwood, The Deadly Dowager (1935)
Thomas Burke, Night-Pieces (1935)
Gabriel Marlowe, I Am Your Brother (1935)
Gerald Kersh, Night and the City (1938) and Prelude to a Certain Midnight (1946)
John Mair, Never Come Back (1941)
Roger Manvell, The Dreamers (1958)
Frank Baker, Stories of the Strange and Sinister

Horror, Weird Fiction and Science Fiction
Robert Aickman, The Late Breakfasters (1964) and Selected Stories
John Blackburn, Blow the House Down (1970)
John Blackburn, A Book of the Dead (1984)
Stephen Knight, Requiem at Rogano (1978)
Michael McDowell ("Axel Young"), Wicked Stepmother (1982)
Michael McDowell ("Axel Young"), Blood Rubies (1983)
Christopher Priest, The Space Machine (1976)
Christopher Priest, A Dream of Wessex (1977)
Archie Roy, Devil in the Darkness (1978)
Alan Ryan, Cast a Cold Eye (1982)
Robert Westall, The Wheatstone Pond/Yaxley's Cat/Blackham's Wimpey

Rediscovered LGBT Literature
Edward Prime-Stevenson, Left to Themselves (1891)
Charles Jackson, The Fall of Valor (1946)
Robin Maugham, Behind the Mirror (1955)
James Ramsey Ullman, The Day on Fire (1958)
Paul Buckland, A Chorus of Witches (1959)
Geoff Brown, I Want What I Want (1966)
Philip Ridley, Crocodilia (1988)
Philip Ridley, In the Eyes of Mr Fury (1989)
Philip Ridley, Flamingoes in Orbit (1990)

Neglected Literary Classics
H.E. Bates, Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944)
Philip Callow, Common People (1958)
Stephen Gilbert, Bombardier (1944)
Thomas Hinde, Mr. Nicholas (1952)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving / Black Friday Sales

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dreading a long day of political arguments with your family while trying to choke down your sister-in-law's gelatinous cranberry sauce? Wondering how on earth, after all the booze you downed to get through Thanksgiving, you're going to get up at 4 a.m. to get to Best Buy in time to get your hands on a discounted flatscreen TV?

Why not just cozy up with a good book instead? Fortunately, we've got you covered!

BLACK FRIDAY eBOOK SALE!

Today and tomorrow only (Nov. 26-27, 2015), take 50% off ALL e-books on our Gumroad store: www.gumroad.com/valancourtbooks using the code GOBBLEGOBBLE. IMPORTANT: For the code to work properly, first add ALL books that you want to your cart, and input the code at checkout. N.B. Some titles have territorial or copyright restrictions and may not be available in every country. Please feel free to email us or send us a Facebook message or Tweet if you experience any difficulty with the code.

SAVE ON PAPERBACKS & HARDCOVERS!

Take 30% off ANY Valancourt print book (paperback/hardcover) on Amazon.com using the code HOLIDAY30 at checkout (the total maximum discount is $10). Regrettably, this offer is only available on the Amazon US site. UPDATE: We've been informed the code can only be used once per person.

Don't like Amazon? No worries: you can also save at Barnes and Noble using the code 30BFRIDAY at checkout. Can only be applied to one book per order.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Happy Halloween!

This is our favorite time of the year, and probably the favorite of many of you as well. We hope you're enjoying our numerous Halloween-season releases, which include the ultra rare (only one known surviving copy) Gothic novel The Vaults of Lepanto (1814), as well as three titles from the Golden Age of storytelling: Henry Chapman Mercer's M.R. James-style antiquarian weird tales, November Night Tales (1928), E. Temple Thurston's occult mystery Man in a Black Hat (1930), and that legendary work of supernatural horror Fingers of Fear (1937) by J.U. Nicolson. 

For those interested in more modern fare, you won't want to miss our two-volume set of David Case's tales, which total 530 pages and include new introductions by Stephen Jones and new afterwords by Kim Newman. These stories are absolutely fantastic: strikingly original and written in a highly literate style that will have you reaching for your dictionary. If you can't get enough David Case, we'll also be publishing his werewolf potboiler Wolf Tracks (1980) as an e-book later this month. Finally, fans of our gay-interest titles can also get into the Halloween spirit with Foreign Affairs (1973) by Hugh Fleetwood, whom one critic called 'the master of modern horror'. Though I'd characterize it more as a thriller than a horror novel, it certainly does have its nasty, horrific elements and might be classed as a horror novel in the same vein as Stephen King's Misery.

It's been brought to our attention that we haven't been updating this blog much. We don't get much interaction from readers on the blog, and only a couple people have signed up as 'followers', so we've been focusing our efforts in other areas: our once-monthly email newsletter, which is the best way to keep up with what we're publishing, our Goodreads page (add us as a 'friend' and join our group!), and our Facebook, Twitter, Booklikes, and other social media pages. We'll try to blog more in the near future, but in the meantime, we encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter and find us on the above-mentioned social media websites.

And Happy Halloween!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Prestige e-book and some forthcoming title announcements!

We're celebrating the release of our e-book edition of Christopher Priest's The Prestige (1995), which went live yesterday. The book, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the World Fantasy Award and was adapted for a 2006 Christopher Nolan film, has never been out of print in paperback, but for some reason the United States was the only place on earth where you couldn't get it as an e-book. So we fixed that.

Whether you've seen the film version or not, you really should check out the novel. It's brilliantly constructedlike the stage illusions its plot deals withand a very compelling read. As fans of Victorian Gothic works by writers like Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker, and Richard Marsh, we also enjoyed the book's structure, with multiple narrators and parts of the story told through diaries, etc.

Read all about it over on its book page: http://www.valancourtbooks.com/the-prestige-1995.html

This is the e-book cover by M.S. Corley:


...and, speaking of Christopher Priest, we're delighted to announce that we'll have the honor of publishing three more of his titles in late 2015 or early 2016: The Space Machine (1976), A Dream of Wessex (1977) (the author's revised edition; the book originally came out in the U.S., for some reason, under the title The Perfect Lover), and The Separation (2002), which won both the Arthur C. Clarke and BSFA Awards. The first two will be available in US & Canada; The Separation will be US only.




And we're pleased to welcome a number of new Valancourt authors!

We're extremely excited about Iain Sinclair's highly acclaimed White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987), which weaves two plotlines, one involving shady book dealers in modern-day London and one involving the Jack the Ripper slayings of 1888. Though oft reprinted in the UK (currently by Penguin), Sinclair's novel has curiously never been available in the US. It was the runner-up to that year's Guardian Fiction Prize (his second novel, Downriver, would win both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Encore Award). It's a terrific book, written in a unique, highly poetic prose style, and I found it a most enjoyable and rewarding read.


Russell Hoban (1925-2011) is probably best known for his children's books, but his novel Riddley Walker (1980) is regarded in many circles as a masterpiece, and his other novels—which are often unclassifiable, containing elements of humor, science fiction, fantasy, and even horror—have a large and well-deserved cult following. NYRB Classics recently reprinted his novel Turtle Diary (one of two novels he wrote with no supernatural or fantastic themes), but otherwise his works have been long unavailable in the US & Canada. We're very pleased to report that we'll be reissuing three of his very best—The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (1973), Kleinzeit (1974) and Pilgermann (1983). We'll post more about all these later on, but for now, some vintage covers:





Here at Valancourt, we publish a lot of good books—and even quite a few great ones—but only a handful are so beautifully done, so compelling, so perfect that they're actually impossible to put down. Philip Ridley's In the Eyes of Mr Fury (1989) is one such novel, and we're very excited to have it as forthcoming. It's a bibliographic oddity: it never had a hardcover edition but went straight into paperback from Penguin as part of their short-lived Penguin Originals series. Also odd is the cover, which doesn't have the title or author's name. The book never appeared at all in the US, so we're thrilled to make it available here for the first time, as well as making it available again in the UK and worldwide. We don't want to run the risk of spoiling anything for you, so we won't say more about this one herejust trust us: do not under any circumstances miss it!




From the oldie-but-goodie category is Nightmares and Geezenstacks (1961) by Fredric Brown, who was great at writing everything from crime novels to sci-fi to horror to.... well, just about anything. This collection was first published as a now-scarce paperback original in 1961 and reprinted in the late 1970s. Both editions are hard to find and because of the pulp-quality materials used, most copies are falling to bits. The 1961 paperback contains 47 stories but is only about 130 pages long: most of the stories are only 1-3 pages long, but though very short, they pack a very powerful punch. Few if any writers are better at the "short short story" than Brown was.


And last, but by no means least, the rediscovery of Hugh Fleetwood's fine novels has been begun by the folks at Faber Finds, who publish his John Llewellyn Rhys Prize-winning The Girl Who Passed for Normal (1974) and several others. We're pleased to add his Foreign Affairs to our list: it's a book that showcases perfectly why the Sunday Times called Fleetwood "the master of modern horror" and illustrates what the Scotsman meant when they wrote "He reaches down and stirs up with venomous delight the nameless, faceless things swimming far below the levels of consciousness." Like Ridley's novel, Fleetwood's will appeal both to those who enjoy our literary fiction offerings as well as those of you specifically interested in our gay-interest titles.

Look for more info on all these titles and authors coming soon, and, as always, we have dozens more titles under consideration or in the works, so expect more announcements soon!

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!