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Brisco
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About two years ago now, Between the Covers (a major rare book seller in NJ) bought an absolutely bonkers horror collection. Looking through their database, they have some of it still, including a bunch of really well conditioned Weird Tales. It's worth a look if you like that sort of thing. 

 

Cool. And fwiw, my pal Andy Richards at Cold Tonnage books is selling off Ken Cowley's Weird Tales collection for his widow. Ken was the major reviewer for horror/sf/fantasy in the UK for decades. Since he didn't have to pay for his books he spent his money on pulps. Probably one of the five or six best collections of Weird Tales in the world. The best collection is likely Frank Robinson's (the gent that wrote Towering Inferno), Frank started building the collection back in the 1950s when issues of Weird Tales could be had at three for a buck. He had finished the set by the mid-1960s, however, Frank is also a condition freak, so he's been upgrading ever since. I recall walking into the dealers' room at a WesterCon some years ago and seeing four tables of the nicest pulps I'd ever seen in my life, (1930s Weird Tales and Astounding that looked like they had just come off the newsstand, bedsheet issues of Weird Tales with no chipping to the cover over-hang, stuff like that) I knew the guy behind the table and knew they weren't his, and based on the exquisite condition, I assumed that they were Frank's and he was just displaying them for kicks., not so, I was informed that everything was for sale. I was aghast, Frank selling his collection would be like the Undertaker's streak ending... Then I was told: "These aren't collection copies, these are all duplicates that have been upgraded."

 

What the hell can you possibly say to something like that? I was at a loss for words then and am sure that if I were shown the same stuff today, I'd just mumble something and walk away. See, I have the worst condition collection of pulps anywhere in the world as I actually like to READ the things and from time to time work requires that I actually *gasp* make copies of some of the material. So, if one of my copies gets trashed in the copying process, (usually doesn't as I'm very careful), no big deal, I'm out a cheap copy of that particular pulp and hundreds of other people are going to get to read it.

 

I really don't understand the purpose of reading material that one is afraid to read. For example, those guys that slab comic books should all be kicked in the balls repeatedly. (A baseball card I can see slabbing, it just has a front and a back, so nothing's lost. A Golden Age comic has some 64 pages between the covers, and those pages are sort of the purpose for having the thing in the first place.

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Guess I should have been more specific and said "the limited of Queen of Bedlam has just been announced". Many years ago Subterranean announced that they had struck a deal with McCammon to do editions of all his books. I have the firsts of everything except Baal (actually have an extra of the limited, 224 copy edition if anyone has $160 burning a hole in their pocket), and I figured on just sort of ignoring the Nightbird stuff as it didn't sound like my thing. So I have been oblivious to the existence of the trade hard covers,and just rely on Subterranean for signed editions of anything else he writes, (much as I do with Bentley Little at Cemetery Dance), they're eventually going to do everything so I've stopped chasing after scarce British hardcovers that are printed on the shittiest paper imaginable (you can see noticeable deterioration in five years or even less), and now I just wait for CD to do their thing, I'd rather get a signed copy of a well-made book anyway.

 

Anyway, seriously folks, that's a great deal on Baal, considering that I was able to control myself all these years and not drop $750 on the British first edition I pulled the trigger too quickly when this limited edition was announced, I ordered one immediately not knowing that my wife had already ordered one because she had long since tired of my carping about having all firsts of McCammon except for Baal.  She told me the next day and I didn't say anything... I know when silence is golden. ;-)

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  • 5 months later...

Anyone here into Tim Curran? He's totally in the specialty press, but the man is good... Haven't read anything that I haven't liked as of yet. Oh, and John Llewelyn Probert has a massive collection out for a mere twenty-six bucks in hardcover, order one, you'll be glad you did!

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Anyone here into Tim Curran? He's totally in the specialty press, but the man is good... Haven't read anything that I haven't liked as of yet. Oh, and John Llewelyn Probert has a massive collection out for a mere twenty-six bucks in hardcover, order one, you'll be glad you did!

 

I've read some of his stuff and he's good. I really liked Skin Medicine and The Devil Next Door. I read Resurrection and it's ok. The premise is good but it's overly long.

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For an excellent period piece that's completely free of anything extraneous, check out The Corpse King. Tim also has a massive (455 pages) collection entitled Bone Marrow Stew, it was published in Australia, so you get dinged a bit due to shipping costs, but well worth the money.

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But for REAL hardcore horror: the name is Bentley Little.  He is the true crack-smoking, reader-alienating, not-giving-a-single-fuck demagogue of the entire genre.  The University, The Ignored, and his short story anthology The Collection are probably his best works.  But be forewarned, his stuff is REALLY GODDAMN SICK and is absolutely not for anyone who's easily offended by pretty much anything.  Especially his frequent use of sexual violence, which sometimes works perfectly in its shock-your-socks-off intended manner but sometimes goes over the line into "alright motherfucker, that's the SEVENTH rape scene in this book, enough already!" kind of territory.  

 

I like Bentley,but find his stuff to be not nearly as shocking and graphic as say Ed Lee or Wrath James White. Or hell even some of the Ketchum stuff or select stuff from Richard Laymon.

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Okay, true confession time... In looking over my notes for Volumes 1 & 2 of The Century's Best Horror,I see that I noted a couple of years (1906 & 1993)  and one decade (1930s) as being hella hard to do. I'm not going to bother explaining the 1930s unless someone sincerely doesn't know why that decade would be so tough, in which case, be prepared for a super-lengthy post. 1906 simply had three of the best the genre has ever seen doing some of their best work, believe it was Edward Lucas White, Arthur Machen and William Hope Hodgson...

 

Well as anyone who has the books can see, my choice for 1993 was "The Family Underwater" by Lucy Taylor, a very controversial choice. Why controversial? Well, other than deal with topics such as rape, incest, alcoholism and domestic violence, there was also the matter of Nancy Holder really finding her voice as a writer and producing some kickass work that year including "I Can Hear Mermaids Singing", a story that would be a career high point for most authors it not even have been Nancy's best that year! Well, what's all this got to do with Bentley Little? Well, I rarely second guess myself and I'm damn proud of the way that anthology turned out, but I have to keep looking at 1993 and the story "The Woods Be Dark" and realizing that I re-read the damn thing at least once every three months and have been doing so for a decade... There's just something about the story that creeps me out years after first reading it. I can't think of more than a handful of tales that have had that profound an impact on me, the only one that really comes to mind is Karl Wagner's "Sticks"...

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I got me that Bentley Little collection.  At first I wasn't feeling it.  Kinda R.L. Stine-y.  Then I got to Life With Father and it had me chuckling like I was readin' Mad Magazine at school.  Then the more I thought about how fucked up it was that I was laughing so much made me laugh even more.  I'm at work smiling on a Friday even though I have to go in on goddamned Saturday.  If only they knew.

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I got me that Bentley Little collection.  At first I wasn't feeling it.  Kinda R.L. Stine-y.  Then I got to Life With Father and it had me chuckling like I was readin' Mad Magazine at school.  Then the more I thought about how fucked up it was that I was laughing so much made me laugh even more.  I'm at work smiling on a Friday even though I have to go in on goddamned Saturday.  If only they knew.

 

(pulls The Collection back out)

 

(re-reads "Life With Father")

 

...yeah, I get it.  I found it more gross and shudderingly disconcerting than funny, but I understand laughing at it.  Personally, I found the next story, "Bob", to be hilarious; and "Roommates" is just an out-and-out laugh riot, if you're the right kind of sick bastard (like me).  

 

But, uh, how much rape and incest and cannibalism and child murder was in all those Goosebumps books that I never read?  The very few installments of Fear Street that I bothered to consume as a child (by the time I had the taste for horror, I was already moving up the ladder a step of two from the likes of Stine with Christopher Pike and Dark Horse Comics) didn't have anything that even came close to the shit in "The Woods Be Dark" or "The Washingtonians" (although those are admittedly kinda tame by Little's standards).  

 

I've had multiple people recommend me Edward Lee recently.  Thing is, of the three different libraries I patronize, they have NONE of his books.  Why is that?  It's not that they're completely allergic to horror, they've got a little Little and a whole shitload of Stephen King and plenty of books which are fairly nasty.  

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HOW gory and sexualized?  These same libraries have countless True Crime serial killer/rapist books, forensic detective stuff, Bentley Little, and two of 'em even stock Alan Moore's Lost Girls which is the porniest porn that ever porned.  What puts THAT guy beyond the pale?  

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HOW gory and sexualized?  These same libraries have countless True Crime serial killer/rapist books, forensic detective stuff, Bentley Little, and two of 'em even stock Alan Moore's Lost Girls which is the porniest porn that ever porned.  What puts THAT guy beyond the pale?  

 

He's pretty far out there but probably nothing worse than what you mentioned. I guess what I meant was he might be a little too fringe for a library to stock his stuff. You should definitely check him out though.

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Jingus- I was at a book fair today and bought a copy of Bentley Little's Dominion since it was a dollar and he as an author seems highly recommended in these parts. This particular book, however, doesn't seemed to be one if the ones mentioned by you. How does it stack up to his general work? Will I get a good feel for Little with this book, even if it's not his best, or is it a major departure for whatever reason?

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Dominion is pretty typical Little, though it's not one of his better works.  It does an odd POV-shift at one point which kinda hurts the momentum of the book, and its understanding of Greek mythology seems weak at best.  Still, yeah, when you get to those "multiple women raped to death" parts, that's pretty much par for the course for him.  

 

Personally I've always felt his best book was The Ignored, which IS a major departure for him but it's playing with a lot more subtle and genuinely horrifying themes than most of his other work, which tends to rely on bombastic violence on an epic scale.  Along kinda similar lines, his short story compilation The Collection lets you see multiple facets of his style as he finally does something more than All Rape, All The Time.  However, even his rape-heavy stuff CAN work when he's in the zone, and lets him produce something legitimately disturbing rather than just feeling like he's exploiting sexual violence for the sake of pure shock.  Sadly, by far his best novel in that vein that I've read was The University, which has been out of print and hard to find for long years now.  (I haven't kept up with his new work in a while now, so it's possible he's done some better things in recent years.)

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Forgive me for derailing the talk about Bentley Little and my pal, Edward Lee, but Brian asked about the 1930s, and I just found out that I need to write a new novelette by mid-November, so in order to get the writing muscles turning, a bit about why the 1930s was such a bitch when preparing The Century's Best Horror.

 

What made the 1930s so special? Simple, the Great Depression created the demand for cheap entertainment, and you can't go too far wrong with spending ten or fifteen cents on a pulp like Weird Tales, Strange Stories, Dime Mystery Magazine, Terror Tales, or Horror Stories. This says nothing about the horror content that was present in any of the dozens of general fiction magazines or the British story-papers or lending-library targeted books such as the "Creeps" series. More on that a bit later...

 

So, on this side of the pond we not only had some of the very best to ever grace the field at their most productive, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Seabury Quinn (yeah, his star has fallen considerable over the years, but in the 1930s he was over in the clover), Henry S. Whitehead, Greye La Spina, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith to name but a few. Consider, Smith, who is now nearly as deified as Lovecraft wrote over 75% of his career output in the 1930s (most of that in a five-year span).

 

Were this not enough, we have a whole genre created in late 1933 and effectively becoming extinct by 1941 that featured a bunch of crap, but also some  really excellent material by Wyatt Blassingame, Hugh B. Cave, Arthur J. Burks, John H. Knox, Wayne Rogers, Russell Gray, Donald Dale, Arthur Leo Zagat, Ralston Shields, and the Gregory brothers. Consider that all but Shields and the Gregorys were quite prolific, even Donald Dale (Mary Dale Buckner) who wrote for only five years produced over sixty stories, most of which were in the 10,000+ word range and you're looking at a ton of material. The more prolific authors like Zagat averaged over a million words a year for the entire decade, that's production that makes Stephen King look like a mere dabbler. The "weird menace" genre has been unjustly overlooked for decades, but in recent years people have started to discover that there was actually a lot of really tremendous material published, particularly in the "big three" Dime Mystery, Terror Tales, and Horror Stories.

 

Now on the other side of the pond we had story-papers as well as monthly magazines such as Hutchinson's Mystery and general fiction mags that carried a lot of horror and supernatural material. The UK also had something unique in their lending-library market, where publishers would produce books as cheaply as possible specifically for this market. The folks at Philip Allan asked young editor, Charles Birkin to produce a string of anthologies on a close to zero budget and he responded in fine form with a series of books that pushed established Phillip Allan authors such as Tod Robbins, H.R. Wakefield, L.A. Lewis and mixed in work by newer writers (including Birkin himself, writing as "Charles Lloyd"), all to great success.

 

So how did all this make the 1930s so difficult a decade for my anthology? Simple, a plethora of riches... Ground rules said that no author could be used more than once, and obviously, there are some names that you just have to include... Most years in other decades would wind up with a short list of three to four stories and usually it was pretty easy to pick a winner. 1934-1939 produced short lists of anywhere from eight to a dozen stories and it often became a case of figuring out how to include someone without snubbing an equally deserving choice. Sadly, the whole weird menace genre wound up just missing out. Had I the opportunity to redo the book, I don't know that the results would be way different, but I think that somehow I'd try to get at least a Blassingame, Shields, and/or Dale story in there somehow.

 

So, when all is said and done, I don't think that we'll ever see such a golden age for short fiction of any type as we did during the 1930s. It's also a truism that during times of peace the horror genre booms and this was certainly true then. Keep in mind that there really wasn't a "horror" genre at the time, even with the special interest titles such as those I've cited above, the general fiction magazines were far and away the leaders in circulation. Horror as a genre didn't really exist until the early 1970s when it became a full-fledged marketing category. The 1980s saw a huge boom in horror as a marketing category, but that was for novels only. In the 1930s a trip to the newsstand gave you over a dozen general fiction mags to check out as well as a half-dozen titles that were all or at least partially horror in content.

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Dude mentioned Wrath James White which led to me looking him up on google which led to Deadite press website which led to me seeing the cover to Bigfoot Crank Stomp which I purchased immediately and have just read.  Damn near every book on that website looks like something I'd want to take to school.

 

 

Recommended.  Even with all the typos.

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