Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Some forthcoming Gothic & Victorian titles

Recently our Gothic and Victorian catalogue has been a little neglected while we've been growing our list of 20th century and modern fiction, but we are working on some exciting stuff that fans of our 18th & 19th-century releases should be excited about!

Ruth the Betrayer; or, The Female Spy was first published serially as a 'penny dreadful' in 1862-63, meaning it was sold in weekly installments for 52 weeks for a penny each. Each issue was eight pages, with one engraving; at the end of the series' run, the publisher would bind up all the parts into a volume and sell it as a complete novel.

Originally published by John Dicks, the same publisher who issued G.W.M. Reynolds's classic penny dreadful The Mysteries of London (also available from Valancourt), the book is credited to "Edward Ellis" and is described by Wikipedia as the "first female detective story".

Which is sort of true, in that at the beginning of the book, Ruth is working as a spy for the police, but in fact during the course of the 1100-page novel, Ruth is many things: detective, spy, thief, murderess, but above all - as the title suggests - someone who betrays every person who gets close to her. Like the best dreadfuls, despite its enormous length the action never flags for an instant; it's a wild thrill ride from beginning to Ruth's ignominious end. The new edition is edited by Dagni Bredesen and will be out in late 2018. 

A page taken at random from the original edition, Chapter 71: "What Happened in the Chamber of Death":

Fans of late 18th-century Gothic fiction know about the hundreds, even thousands, of novels churned out to stock the shelves of the circulating libraries. But did you know that a huge amount of Gothic fiction was also published in magazines?

Valancourt is preparing a three-volume set, each volume devoted to a different periodical: The Lady's Magazine, The Lady's Monthly Museum, and La Belle Assemblée. Each volume will be edited by a university professor and will feature a broad range of Gothic material, including serialized novels, short fiction, and poetry.

The serialized novels in particular were a curious thing, since in a great many cases the writer died or disappeared before sending in the final installment, leading the editors to print impassioned pleas for the authors to contact them with the remainder of the story. The Forest of Alstone, An Original Tale, whose first installment (pictured below) appeared in The Lady's Magazine in April 1792, is one of these unfinished curiosities whose ending we're left to guess at. These volumes should be ready by early 2019.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

More 2018 October Horror Month titles unveiled!

Our annual Horror Month celebration is shaping up to be a big one this year.  In addition to our third volume of Valancourt horror stories, we also have several other great releases from the world of '70s and '80s paperback horror, including two by Harry Adam Knight: Slimer (1983) and The Fungus (1985).

Harry Adam Knight was the pseudonym used by John Brosnan (1947-2005) and Leroy Kettle (b. 1949) to write horror novels, though sometimes Brosnan authored them solo, as in the case of Carnosaur (1984). The two also teamed up to publish horror under another pseudonym, Simon Ian Childer, releasing novels like Tendrils (1986) and Worm (1987). Three HAK books were adapted for films: two British films, Beyond Bedlam (based on the novel Bedlam) and Proteus (based on Slimer), and the Roger Corman-produced cult classic Carnosaur.

The wonderful thing about the HAK novels is that although they're very imaginative and well-written, they have no pretensions to being considered serious literature. So when you read a HAK book, expect to find grisly horror and tongue-in-cheek humor in about equal measures.

Without further ado, here are the new cover designs by M. S. Corley:

Slimer has been out of print for many years and old paperback copies sell upwards of $50. It's the story of six drug smugglers whose boat trouble forces them to seek refuge on an abandoned oil rig in the middle of the sea. But almost immediately it's clear something is terribly wrong: everyone has vanished, leaving behind only empty piles of clothes with no bodies in them. There's something deadly loose on the rig, and the worst part of it isn't how it kills you, but what happens after . . .

The Fungus is an apocalyptic horror/sci-fi novel featuring a fungal plague that has spread across all of England. A scientist trying to solve the world hunger problem had thought it would be a good idea to grow genetically modified mushrooms (spoiler: it was in fact not a good idea), and after the spores escape, everything from a minor case of athlete's foot to the yeast at the bottom of your pint glass can result in a gruesome death. But as it turns out, the ones who die early on are the lucky ones . . .

Both novels are tremendously fun to read, and in addition to the great new Corley covers, both books feature introductions by the author, Roy Kettle. Coming Oct. 2 in paperback and ebook worldwide; pre-order options coming soon!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume 3: Lineup Announced!

Only two months until our annual October Horror Month celebration, and as we did in 2016 and 2017, we're kicking things off with a volume of horror stories by Valancourt authors. For the first time ever, the book will be available in variant cover editions, so you can choose your own nightmare! The standard edition, featuring the headless phantom, will be available everywhere, but the special alternate cover, featuring a Tiki theme inspired by a story in the book, will be available only direct via our website. Check out the designs by M. S. Corley:

And without further ado, here is a complete rundown of the book's contents (no spoilers, don't worry!)

"Don't Go Up Them Stairs" (1971) by R. Chetwynd-Hayes

From his 1971 collection The Unbidden (published in the U.S. in 1975, and not reprinted since), this tale by "Britain's Prince of Chill" is the story of a young boy who unwisely chooses not to follow his grandfather's advice never, ever, to go up them stairs . . .

"Courage" (1918/1941) by Forrest Reid

A young boy disobeys warnings not to enter an old house reputed to be haunted and undergoes a spooky experience. Though the original 1918 version has appeared in a couple anthologies over the decades, the 1941 version, entirely rewritten by Reid later in life, has to our knowledge not previously been reprinted.

"Pete Barker's Shanty" (1898) by Ernest G. Henham

This very rare tale by the author of the decadent spider-infested nightmare Tenebrae (1898) tells of two men who lose their way in the Canadian prairie and are forced to take refuge in a madman's shanty, where they pass a particularly terrifying night. Henham is the real name of the pseudonymous "John Trevena", whose tale "The Frozen Man" in our first volume of horror stories received a very positive reader response.

"The Parts Man" (2018) by Steve Rasnic Tem

If John Bunyan were a 21st-century master of weird fiction like Steve Rasnic Tem, his The Pilgrim's Progress might have looked something like this brand-new story, written especially for this volume, in which an aging man pays a terrible price for the opportunity to revisit the ghosts of his past.

"The Face in the Mirror" (1903) by Helen Mathers

This now-forgotten Victorian author began her career writing popular romance novels, but later in life she developed an interest for the occult and supernatural, including this story, a traditional Victorian ghost story featuring all the trappings of the genre, including a haunted chamber and unsettling visions seen in a mirror. We believe this to be the first-ever reprinting of the tale.

"The Life of the Party" (2013) by Charles Beaumont

This posthumous tale by the famous Twilight Zone screenwriter was first published in a now out-of-print limited edition a few years ago and has never been made available elsewhere. It's the story of a man who, after a lifetime of unpopularity, devises a macabre means of making new friends.

"The Poet Gives His Friend Wildflowers" (2018) by Hugh Fleetwood

Fleetwood, who contributed an original weird tale to volume 1 of our series, returns with another new contribution, this time a delectably macabre poem about a gift that is not exactly what it seems to be.

"Monkshood Manor" (1954) by L. P. Hartley

An elegant story set, as with the best traditional English ghost stories, in an old country manor house, where a party has gathered, including one man with an irrational terror of fire and another guest with knowledge of a centuries-old curse on the house.

"Blood of the Kapu Tiki" (2018) by Eric C. Higgs

Higgs, the author of the classic '80s horror novel The Happy Man, which reads something like an earlier and more enjoyable version of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, disappeared from horror writing three decades ago, leaving fans to wonder what happened to him. Well, he's back at long last, with a brand-new tale, and it's so much fun that we devoted our variant cover to it. Because, I mean, Tiki horror!

"On No Account, My Love" (1955) by Elizabeth Jenkins

This tale originally appeared in one of Lady Cynthia Asquith's legendary Ghost Book anthologies. It's the story of a young woman curious to know more about her great-grandmother, a woman who had a reputation as a cruel, controlling tyrant - and who may continue exerting her influence from beyond the grave. A slow-burn chiller that will linger with you.

"Underground" (1974) by J. B. Priestley

An uncommon foray into horror for the prolific playwright and novelist Priestley, whose collection of strange tales The Other Place (1953) goes on sale Tuesday and shouldn't be missed by any fan of classic weird fiction. Have you ever had a particularly bad experience in the subway, a real trip from hell? Trust us, it's nothing compared to the journey the guy in this story is going to take.

"Mr Evening" (1968) by James Purdy

Purdy, a literary outsider who has been acclaimed by Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Jonathan Franzen and many others, but who has rarely enjoyed much popular success except as a cult gay novelist, contributes this piece of Gothic horror, the story of a covetous young antique dealer who gets more than he bargained for when he tries to get hold of a priceless piece of porcelain from an eccentric old lady.

"Mothering Sunday" (1960) by John Keir Cross

This tale is from Keir Cross's anthology Best Black Magic Stories, and to our knowledge has not been previously reprinted. We won't say too much about it, but suffice it to say that it involves the Dark Arts, a strange white-haired boy with no soul, . . . and a snowman.

"The Bottle of 1912" (1961) by Simon Raven

Another elegantly told classic, this one by an underappreciated author of supernatural fiction, possibly best known for Doctors Wear Scarlet (1960), an innovative vampire novel that Karl Edward Wagner ranked among the best supernatural horror novels ever written. We'll say nothing to spoil this one; let's just say that, like the fine wine of its title, it's something to be sipped and savored.

"With What Measure Ye Mete . . ." (1906) by Ethel Lina White

After cruelly jilting her lover, a young woman gets a horrifying comeuppance. A very rare tale, perhaps the lone venture into the horror genre by this popular crime writer, author of the novels that inspired the films The Spiral Staircase and The Lady Vanishes.

"Beelzebub" (1992) by Robert Westall

Closing out the volume is this gem, which manages the tough feat of being both chilling and hilarious. To our knowledge, this tale hasn't been reprinted since its initial appearance; why it's not included in the various "best-of" collections of Westall's tales is beyond us. It's the story of a clerk in the Registry Office who finds herself in an odd predicament when she is called upon to register the birth of the spawn of Satan himself.

Both editions go on sale October 2, and preorder options will be up soon. The standard cover edition will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook; the Tiki edition will be paperback-only.