Freitag, 24. Mai 2013

Vintage Horror Paperbacks. Nothing but cover scans over at Tumblr!

Hi Folks,

Just a quick message here.
I have no idea how much of my traffic comes from people just interested in cover scans, most of it I'm afraid.
So I've started to scan my entire collection and you can view it over here at Tumblr! 

 Take care until next time and thanks for stopping by!

Mittwoch, 22. Mai 2013

Nine Horrors and a Dream by Joseph Payne Brennan

Nine Horrors and a Dream

By Joseph Payne Brennan
Ballantine Books. 1962. $0.35

                                                         My Copy!

                And I own four of the book advertised on the back cover!


This week’s book “Nine Horrors and a Dream” has been one of my most sought after books these last several years. I already have Mr. Brennan’s other paperback collection “The Shapes of midnight” and previously owned 3 hard back collections which I parted with during the great book purge of 2009. I finally found a “good” copy at for a very reasonable price. And I finally got to read it this past weekend thanks to some seriously lousy weather.

This edition is a reprint of the “Arkham House” hardback from 1958. The AH edition costs an arm and a leg and is extremely hard to find. To be honest though, all of Mr. Brennan’s short story collections are hard to find and at a high price. I think this shows how popular he is with collectors and fans (I don’t want to use the word connoisseur.) You can find 3 of his hardback collections at just a bit more than the two paperbacks are going for.  I also bet that the wonderful “Richard Powers” cover art has help to maintain the high interest in this specific collection. So I was very happy to get this book at a fair price. I love sellers who don’t bother to accurately describe their books. If the seller had done that then they could have gotten 3 or 4 times more than the amount that I paid.

Two of the stories in this collection are among the first horror tales that I can remember reading back when I was young. This must have been back around 1971 or so. I first read “Slime” and “Levitation” in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum” and in “Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural” respectively. I was so impressed with both stories back then that I have never forgotten either one.

What I enjoy so much about these stories is Mr. Brennan’s economy of word, sense of place and strong mood. Most of his stories a fairly short, but he stills manages to make them into fully fleshed out reading experiences. “Nine Horrors and a Dream” is a prime example of this. I read the entire collection last Sunday in one setting and yet I’m still mulling over each and every story. This shows how good these stories are considering that only 3 of the 9 tales can be considered some of Mr. Brennan’s best work, yet even the lesser stories are still circling around in my head days afterward. That calibre of writing is something you stumble across every day.

 You can go here and here if you are interested in Mr. Brennan’s life and works!

Now let’s take a look at those stories.


     “Slime” is one of the grand daddies of the “Shapeless horror” genre.

A storm washes up the titular creature from the oceanic depths and it goes about sating its appetite until it has a little run in with the National Guard and a flame thrower. This remains one of my all time favourite stories. It’s gruesome goodness through and through. This is also Mr. Brennan’s trademark story which has been anthologized 50 times!


     This is another good that’s seen quite a few reprints.  Its carnival time in a small rural town and  young farm hand accepts a dare from the carnival’s resident Hypnotist are he get called out for heckling. The Hypnotist puts the young man in a trance and convinces him that he can levitate. Things start out well, but it seems that the Hypnotist hasn’t been following his doctor’s advice and cut back on his cholesterol intake. As a 10 year old I thought that this had to be one of the most horrible fates that I could imagine. This is another powerful, but economical short story.

“The Calamander Chest”

     A young man buys a large and beautiful chest at an antique store at a ridiculously low price. The young fellow figures that there has to be catch since the price is too good to be true. He’s also bothered by the fact the antique dealer seemed to be desperate to be rid of the chest. Well, it turns out that there is a catch. A man was murdered and his body was stored in the chest that the young fellow purchased. It turns out that the dead guy’s spirit is still occupying the chest an he seems to be wanting a little company. This is a truly scary story with such an awful end, that even though it’s just a story, I was hoping to god that the guy was actually dead at the end of the story. Since if he wasn’t he suffered one of the most nightmarish fates that I myself can imagine. I wouldn’t even wish this on my worst enemy.

“Death in Peru

     “Death in Peru” is a fun and nasty little story that exceeds even “EC” comics at their grisliest. A white man has his way with a barely of consenting aged Peruvian girl. He suitor takes issue with this and has a curse placed on the explorer. The explorer’s partner tries to lift the curse and bungles in one of the most horrible ways possibly. You would think that the man would take more precautions when digging up the “voodoo” effigy of some one near and dear him.

“On the Elevator”

     “On the Elevator" is some seriously black comedy. A huge storm off shore from a resort town ends up washing up some thing from the ocean floor (sound familiar?) that he been better left un-washed up. It makes it’s way to an ocean front hotel where the night clerk spends the better part of the evening running up and down the stairs from floor to floor after the thing as it uses the elevator to visit a few guests. I love this story. It’s extremely creepy and funny at the same time. It raises more questions than it answers. I figure that that must have been Mr. Brennan’s intent. This is a great story that’s both frightening and playful. This is a very rare combination in the horror genre.

“The Green Parrot”

     This is the weakest story in the book and it’s still a fine, entertaining and minimalist horror story. A motorist travelling through some woods see a green parrot fly across the road.  He stops to investigate and is approached by a little old lady who emerges from the wood in pursuit of the bird. It seems that the bird is her sole companion and taking pity on her the narrator agrees to help her in the search. This turns out to be not one of the best ideas since he later learns that she’s been losing that parrot over and over again since the two of them perished in the big snow storm of 1860!

“Canavan’s Back Yard”

     “Canavan’s” has to be Brennan’s second most famous story. The premise is simple and simultaneously brilliant. Mr. Canavan, a New England book dealer”, has a house with a very interesting back yard. It seems to be infinite. He keeps being drawn to it and develops an obsession against his will to wander off into it and lose himself. It seems that his property is part of an old marsh were a convicted witch was hunted down by starved hounds a few centuries before. With her dying breath she curses the property and those who live upon it. I bet that you can figure out where this one might be going. Another superb tale in an overall great collection!

“I’m Murdering Mr. Massington”

     This has to be the strangest story in the book. A writer is asked by a chance acquaintance to write a story about him. The acquaintance, Mr. Massington, fears that once he dies there will be nothing to show that he ever existed. He’s convinced that if he is a character in a story then he won’t be completely forgotten. What he plans on doing after the publication of the story and the role that the reader of said story plays in Mr. Massington’s ultimate fate gives the story it’s fairly surprising twist ending.

“The Hunt”

     “The Hunt” is another story that even though it’s fairly playful still manages to be frightening and creepy. A man gets pursued across Connecticut by a stranger who saw him waiting for a train. I don’t want to give it away, so all that I can say is “The thrill of the hunt and the anticipation of the kill are more important that the results of the hunt.

“The Mail for Juniper Hill”

True to the old adage that “Neither wind, nor rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night can stop the U.S. Mail.” A drunk and stubborn mailman doesn’t even let death from keep him from his duties.

Looking back, I can only come to the conclusion that Mr. Brennan has been so unfairly neglected. As amazingly good that this collection is, the majority of his other stories are even better.

 So if you can find them do your self the great favour of (re)discovering this neglected master of the macabre!

Take care and thanks for stopping by.


Sonntag, 12. Mai 2013

The Boats of the Glen Carrig by William Hope Hodgson. A neglected proto-Lovecraftian classic.

The Boats of the Glen Carrig
By William Hope Hodgson

A neglected proto-Lovecraftian classic.

Ballantine Book. Adult Fantasy Series.
February 1971. $0.95
Cover art by Robert LoGrippo

My 1971 copy. 

Vacations over and I loaded my parents on the plane this morning for their flight back to Ohio. So that means it’s time to get back to the blog. Oh yeah!

Since I’ve had so much "William Hope Hodgson" on the brain lately I figured that I'd do another one of his books. This time, though, it’s a novel and not a collection of short stories.

I’ll be honest and say that my re-read of “The Boats of the Glen Carrig" was a little over two years ago. So I won’t be going into a highly detailed plot synopsis. I first read it back in the very early 1970s. As a 10 year old I had no idea who “Hieronymus Bosch” was, but the Bosch inspired cover art by “Robert LoGrippo” drove me on the spot into begging my parents to buy me the book. It didn’t hurt that I recognized Mr. Hodgson as being the author of, my favourite horror story at the time, “The Voice in the Night”. I knew that story from the copy of “More Tales to Tremble By” owned by the "Johnny Clem Elementary School" Library. I had borrowed it so many times that I considered it my own personal property. It’s a wonder that I never stole it.

Before I get I get into the story, I want to first talk about Mr. Hodgson’s writing style in general. I like it! I have read several reviews lately where people have complained that his language is archaic, that Mr. Hodgson sacrificed description in favour of mood and atmosphere and lastly that he loved run on sentences. Now I’ll agree that his “The Night Land” is an unreadable mess, but I knocked off “Boats” in one afternoon two years ago and had no trouble with it as a ten year old either. I don’t know if this means that your average modern/young reader will enjoy it today or not. As a child my only talent (and to be fair, my only talent in my entire life.) was that I learned to read at an early age and learned too read well. 40+ years ago the great majority of the genre writing that was considered appropriate for young readers was mostly stuff written between the 1890s and pre-WWII. There was no YA horror market/Industry ala R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series and the like. This means that back then we were cutting out reading teeth on the likes of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, Howard Philips Lovecraft and of course William Hope Hodgson.
That’s not a bad reading list for ten year olds! So I’m completely at home with Mr. Hodgson’s writing style. Come to think about it I’ve also seen such complaints being raised against “Abraham Merritt" lately. I think that this is a terrible shame that many people shy away from “old” novels and stories fearing that they will have trouble with the writing "style". These are all wonderful fantasists who aside from a few writers such as “Darrell Schweitzer” have no peers in the modern world are far as pure imaginative genius is concerned.

Let’s move on to the novel since I guess that that’s more than enough autobiographical BS and “opinionation” than any one is interested in hearing.

“Boats” was written back in 1907 and wasn’t reprinted until 1971 when the late great Mr. Lin Carter published it as the 25th volume in his legendary “Adult Fantasy Series” from “Ballantine Books”. It was also published in magazine form back in 1945 in the June issue of “Famous Fantastic Mysteries”. There were only 6 editions between 1907 and 1971, with the sixth edition being the Ballantine paperback edition. This Ballantine edition was the first true paperback edition which finally reached a mass audience who appreciated the book. I’m of the opinion that thanks to the efforts of Lin Carter “Boats” is still in print to this day.

I hadn’t read any “H. P. Lovecraft” yet when I first read “The Boats of the Glen Carrig”, but looking back one sees just how much of an influence Mr. Hodgson’s stories had on HPL. If you like your horrors to be nameless, oozing, tentacled and slimy then you just love this novel! Trust me; I wouldn’t lie to you about this!

The 1982 Orbit UK editon the a "Les Edwards" cover.

The novel jumps write into the middle of the action. We find the characters already manning the two remaining life “boats” from the abandoned “Glen Carrig”. There is absolutely no exposition explaining why they abandoned ship or even what has happened to the Captain and the rest of the crew. The narrator is a young English nobleman who had booked passage on the ship. After spending some time at sea the come upon a fairly large forested island that is extensively criss-crossed by streams and small rivers. The row up on of these streams and end up discovering an abandoned ship. The derilict ship seems, upon investigation, to have been abandoned in great haste. They find personal belongings, equipment and supplies that have been left lying by the original crew. They even find a very disturbing journal left by a female passenger. They decide to spend the night on the derelict and wisely barricade themselves in one cabin after becoming frightened by what they read in the journal and by the oppressive and frightening atmosphere hanging over the island it self. I said that this is a wise decision to barricade them selves in a cabin since the end up spending the entire night being besieged by some large, shapeless and tentacled horror that seems to be intent on making away with as many of the crewmen as possible. After spending an exhausting and nightmarish night fighting off the monster they go in search for a spring of fresh water that was mentioned in the journal they found. This doesn’t go as well as they had hoped. They do discover the spring from which they can replenish their supply of fresh water. Unfortunately they also come across some trees into which to have humans fused into them. These fused entities also emit horrible screams that have a paralyzing affect on the seamen and narrator. They decide that removing themselves from the island and taking their chances on the open sea would be the best course of action.

They end up being set upon by a Typhoon once both boats are back at sea. I find this to be a fascinating section since Mr. Hodgson himself spent many years at sea when he was a very young man. So when he describes how they skilfully ride out the storm for days at end is an education in itself. He speaks with knowledge and experience as he describes the technologies and skill that is needed to do this.

Once the storm subsides our narrator discovers that the 2nd boat has gone missing during the storm. Don’t let this worry you though, we discover in the afterward that they safely made their way back to England.

Our dauntless crew final come across another island which upon first view seems to be a much more promising safe haven than the previous island. But being a good horror novel we soon learn that they’ve gone from the frying pan into the fire.

This new island turns out to be even more dangerous and nightmarish than the first island. Even though there is plenty of food, water and even wood with which they can repair the boat so they can continue their homeward journey, it is also occupied by beings of the best Lovecraftian tradition even though “Boats” predates HPL by 20 years.

It’s the occupants of this island that cause the crew the greatest trouble. So instead of “man vs. nature” we get “man vs. the unnatural”. Mr. Hodgson really earns our money in the, the second half of the book. We have the following problems.

A life boat the need extensive repairs to be sea worthy again.

Some of the crewmen are either ill, injured or both.

Giant crabs! (YIKES!)

Mobile Giant Mushrooms! (YIKES²!)

Another vessel that has been trapped in seaweed off the island for several YEARS ALL THE WHILE BEING BESEIGED BY A GIANT KRAKEN!! (YIKES³!)

AND trouble with carnivorous slimy flippered and tentacled amphibious LEECHMMEN!! (2x YIKES³!!)

Seriously, this novel is firing on all cylinders during this last half. It’s a race against time, technological limitations and monsters. Lots and lots of monsters!
Trust me; this section has to be read to be believed! I don’t want to spoil your fun, so go out and find it! It’s available on-line since its public domain. You can also order it new from Amazon or used from Abebooks and Ebay.

The 1991 UK editon with a "Luis Rey" cover.

This book is a must read if you love the fantastic, horror and adventure. It also give us quite a bit of insight into how HPL developed his “vision”

Mainly though, this is a wonderfully fun and entertaining novel that will reward your efforts in obtaining a copy. To put it simply, I love this book!!

If you want to know a little bit more about William Hope Hodgson and his stories then please follow this link to my earlier post on his “Best of” collection. HERE!

Take care and thanks for stopping by!