Sonntag, 27. Mai 2012

The Lancer Lovecraft editions

The Lancer Lovecrafts: An Author’s Pick!
(Or Purple Edged Eldritch Horror!)

Hey folks,
     Being the self confessed publicity whore that I am, when it comes to this blog that is, I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase the readership. So my newest brilliant idea was to write all the famous writers, artists and editors who I have access to and asked them if they have fond memories of any particular horror anthologies from 50s, 60s or 70s. I even promised to only moderately exploit their kindness my not mentioning their names. And so far several have been very kind and answered. The great Chet Williamson even went out of his way to tell me that he didn’t mind having his name dropped! So here it is……..

How’s that for impressive! 

Anyways, Mr. Williamson replied that he greatly enjoyed, among several others, the H. P.Lovecraft editions published by Lancer Books. Yes, the folks who gave us the famous Robert E. Howard               " Conan" paperbacks with the iconic Frank Frazetta covers and the controversial editorship of L. Sprague DeCamp and Lin Carter. Those people who gave us paperbacks with purple dyed edges were also the first folks to bring out successful HPL paperbacks. There were a few before, but the Lancers were responsible for introducing HPL to masses of paperback readers. Now if only they had done this for Clark Ashton Smith. To my knowledge there were 3 volumes. They were “The Dunwich Horror”, “The Colour out of Space” and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Since I only own the first two they’ll be the only ones covered today.
If you are reading this blog then I’m pretty sure that you know all about HPL and the “Cthulhu Mythos”. But I’ll go over it real quick just to play it safe in case some of you actually have no idea about what I’m writing about.
So here’s the “Cliff Notes” Lovecraft……

HPL was a reclusive man from Providence Rhode Island who wrote wonderful stories for “Weird Tales” magazine. He invented his own mythology, which forms the backdrop to many of his stories, dealing with a group of ancient powerful god like beings who used to rule the earth gazillions of years ago. They got banished to dimensions unknown and to this day and they, with the help of cultists and human/frog-fish men hybrids, are still trying to come back. Most of these SF Horror tales take place in and around New England. These were written as contemporary stories at the time which gives them a really nifty retro 1920s/1930s groove. Most of Mr. Lovecraft’s protagonists usually ended up dead, insane, mutated or some combination of the 3. They also liked to write journal entries while being eaten alive by unspeakable horrors from other dimensions. Mr. Lovecraft’s stories and life have been psychoanalyzed to death so we won’t go into it here. Mr. Lovecraft has a bazillion imitators since he allowed other writers to add to and to use the already existing pantheon of beings he created for his stories. Mr. Lovecraft liked the words “eldritch” and "batrachian" quite a bit. In Mr. Lovecraft’s universe there were lots of very old books full of forbidden prehistoric lore which were contantly kept under lock and key in big European libraries, but which every inbred hillbilly wizard seemed to have a copy of.  Mr. Lovecraft, who died sick and poor, is now a multi million dollar industry today.

Now back to the books.
I can’t begin to describe how much I love ALL of Mr. Lovecraft’s stories. My first introduction to HPL was through the “Scholastic Book club” and then the post “Lin Carter”/ pre “Michael Whelan”, “John Holmes” editions from the early7middle 1970s.

 They aren’t for everyone and have, sadly, almost become clichéd jokes thanks to critical over emphasis on his writing style and his odd themes and monsters being used for humor. The abundance ofCthulhu references in modern culture  has dulled the over all impact of Mr. Lovecraft's stores and “Cthulhu Plush Toys" hasn’t helped matters either. “Cthulhu” even makes guest appearances on “South Park”. So we have millons of people who know his monsters, but not nearly enough people who actualy know his writings. I find this sad. If you didn’t discovery him as a kid, then I don’t think you could get into him as an adult. Lovecraft was an avid amateur astronomer and (I think) atheist who was fascinated by, at the time, new theories on the immensity and age of the universe. So he didn’t bother writing about ghosts and vampires. He wrote about an immense, unknowable universe that was, if not hostile, then at least totally indifferent to humanity. Great stuff,, which was, for it’s time, totally mind blowing and groundbreaking. I love this stuff so much!! 

(This time I mean it…)
Now back to the books.
 With quickie synopses. 
                                    My copies.

The Dunwich Horror
Lancer Books. March 1969. Second edition.
     H. P. Lovecraft and His Work by August Derleth
  In the Vault
    (I steal from dead people!)
 Pickman's Model
     (You are what you pose. or Children shouldn't eat (with) dead things.)
 The Rats in the Walls
     (A  moving plea for Veganism.)
 The Music of Erich Zann
     (Crazy old man makes crazier music for the Spheres.)
The Haunter of the Dark
     (Don’t break into old abandoned churches in the Polish part of town.Don't even bother, just move on down the bloch. .)
 The Dunwich Horror
    (If your crazy daddy fixes you up on a blind date with an extra-dimensional monster   god then for god’s sake take a pack of Trojans along!)
 The Thing on the Doorstep
    (Transgender fishman-hybrid necrophilia honeymoon. Kinda.)

The Colour Out of Space and Others.
Lancer Books. March 1969. Third edition

The Colour out of Space
(Don’t drink the shiny water!)

The Picture in the House
(You eats what you is.)

The Call of Cthulhu
(Don’t answer!!!)

Cool Air
(Without proper refrigeration (dead) things tend to spoil quickly.)

The Whisperer in Darkness
(There’s  fungi lobstermen from Pluto in them thar hills!)

The Terrible Old Man
(Yeah, go ahead and break into the weird old guys house.)

The Shadow Out of Time
(Proves that Cthulhu will not return during mans tenure on this planet!)

These two volumes are more or less an “HPL’s Greatest Hits”. They are a breakdown of “Arkam House’s”  “The Dunwich Horror and Others”. For some stupid reason both “The Outsider” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth” have been omitted. Even though these are a “best of” collection”, they neglect his earlier stuff that is just as good (in my opinion).
As far as the covers go, these are pretty pedestrian. What was coming a few years later from Lin Carter’s “Adult Fantasy Series” from Ballantine would blow these out of the water and set new standards for “Lovecraftian” cover art. All in all though, you have to give Lancer credit for making these available for a mass public and for helping make HPL a household name. At least in better houses that is.

Original Arkham House contents:
  1. H. P. Lovecraft and His Work by August Derleth
  2. In the Vault
  3. Pickman's Model
  4. The Rats in the Walls
  5. The Outsider
  6. The Colour out of Space
  7. The Music of Erich Zann
  8. The Haunter of the Dark
  9. The Picture in the House
  10. The Call of Cthulhu
  11. The Dunwich Horror
  12. Cool Air
  13. The Whisperer in Darkness
  14. The Terrible Old Man
  15. The Thing on the Doorstep
  16. The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  17. The Shadow Out of Time
Well, that's it for this weeks installment.
Thank you very much for stopping by.
And thank you very much Mr. Williamson!

What's that? There's something breaking through the barrier! It's! Unspeakable!  Tentacles are reaching across tying to draw me through!! Must type faster! Help! Must use the spell! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!!!!! ARRRGHHH!!!!!!!!! SLURP!!!! Nom! Nom! nom! Thud!

Sonntag, 20. Mai 2012


an unsung Hero of my Childhood.

                         My Collection of books by Mr. Hurwood.

It must have been in 1970 or 71 that I realized that books without illustrations were much better than those with illustrations. Or at least a book with only a few illustrations was better than one full of illustrations. I was only 10 at the time and it wasn’t all that easy to find (young) adult horror books. Be they hardback or paperback. I had almost memorized all of the “Robert J. Arthur” edited anthologies by the end of the 3rd grade. I had received a whopping $5.00 for my birthday that year and spent it all on paperbacks at the chain bookstore in the Eastland Mall in Columbus. Those 5 bucks purchased me 10 “AceDoubles”! Being the undiscerning young man that I was, I went and picked the books purely by their covers. Sadly, while the covers were actually neat, the books were simultaneously a tad too complicated and not exploitive enough for my unrefined reading tastes. So I ended up being mighty disappointed with my picks.
This was at the time we were being introduced to the “Scholastic Book club” at school. Every few months the teacher would pass out these small 4-5 page flyers with a selection of paperbacks selected and printed by “Scholastic books”. I can’t say that I was overwhelmed by the selection. I remember it being mostly stuff like “Curious George”, Clifford the Big Red Dog” and stuff like that. As luck would have it my friend Rod, who was 2 years ahead of me, showed me the catalog/flyer that the older kids were given. Now this was the good stuff that they were keeping from the 1st-3rd graders! This stuff was more to my liking! They had “Encyclopaedia Brown”, “The 3 Investigators”, “Homer Price”, “H.G. Wells and best of all, HORROR STORIES! And not just any Horror Stories, they had “Edgar Allan Poe”,”H P Lovecraft” and “BERNHARDT J. HURWOOD”!!!!!!  Poe was too dry and Lovecraft was too trippy for my 10 year old soul, but Mr. Hurwood hit the spot, scratched the itch, tripped my trigger and blew my gaskets!
     I think it’s a great shame, but Mr. Hurwood isn’t exactly a household name. He deserves to be one though. He was a writer who specialized mostly in the Occult and Erotica during the early 60s to late 70s. Several of his books on the occult were short snappy retellings of European and Asian legends of ghosts, demons and various Monsters such as werewolves and vampires. Several of the collections were cannibalized and repackaged by the Scholastic Book club under such titles as “Ghosts, Ghouls and other Horrors” and “Vampires, Werewolves and other Demons”. Now those are great titles for books being peddled to little kids! But then again this is a publisher who sold Lovecraft to children. Respect!
     Now back to my friend Rod. When I saw the cool books that were available I went and begged the teacher to let me order these instead of the “little kid” books. She finally caved in and allowed me to order the older kid books.  I can’t remember which book I ordered first. It was either the “Vampires and Werewolves” or “Ghosts and Ghouls”. It didn’t matter though. I was in hog heaven regardless. Mr. Hurwood´s genius was that the retellings that he wrote were faitly short. Only 3 to 5 pages long and that they were so entertainingly disgusting that I almost went insane with glee. Here are a few excerpts from the tales…..

“Before long the town was in a state of panic. People were afraid to sleep in their own houses for fear of these nightly assaults, but nothing they did seemed to have any effect on the “vrykolakas”. Abandoning exorcisms and prayers, they took to stabbing the body with repeated sword thrusts, but this too proved fruitless.
     Finally they took the body from it’s coffin, smeared it with tar and pitch, placed it atop a huge pyre, and burned it to cinders”

“Lying on its side, the corpse was ruddy and fresh looking. The hair and nails had grown long, the jaws gaped open, and the lips, damp with blood, glistened as the thick red liquid dribbled down the corners of the mouth.”

“To their horror they found a corpse inside that had the face of a living man. It’s body was covered with hideous white hair, and clutched in it’s hands was the severed head of  the unfortunate Liu. The corpse held the head so tightly that they had to chop of it’s arms in order to free it. When this was done fresh blood gushed out from the arm sockets. Liu’s head, however, was completely dry.”

“The previous occupant of the house had been a senile old man who had grown  incredibly fat. It had been a number of days after his death that he had been found, and even then, his immense size made it impossible to remove his remains without cutting holes in the doorways to permit getting him through them. When this has finally been accomplished, decay and putrification had set in to a considerable extent.”

“The rats had come! This time there was no escape. Dropping to his knees, Hatto began to pray, but his prayers were not answered. When the thousands of furry horrors him his screams were drowned out by the gnawing, the tearing, the squealing and the grinding. And by the time they had finished, there was nothing left of him but a pile of white bones.”

     You can not imagine how much I loved these books. I have all 5 of his Scholastic editions and 3 regular paperback editions. Of the scholastic, 2 are original stories and 3 are retellings of traditional folk tales. The 3 volumes of retelling were mostly originally printed in “Monsters and Nightmares” from Belmont Books and “Vampires, Werewolves and Ghouls” from Ace Books. The collections with original stories are “Haunted Houses”, “Ghost Ghouls and other Horrors” and “Vampires, Werewolves and other Demons”. “Eerie tales of Terror & Dread” and “Chilling Ghost Stories” are original stories written by Mr. Hurwood.

Mr. Hurwood passed away in 1987 of cancer.

Bernhardt Hurwood Is Dead; Wrote on Variety of Subjects

Published: January 26, 1987
Bernhardt J. Hurwood, the author of 64 books on a wide variety of subjects, died of cancer Friday at Beth Israel Medical Center. He was 60 years old and lived in Manhattan.
Mr. Hurwood's most recent book was ''Writing Becomes Electronic: Successful Authors Tell How They Write in the Age of the Computer.'' His earlier works included ''My Savage Muse,'' an imaginary autobiography of Edgar Allan Poe; ''Vampires, Werewolves and Ghouls,'' ''Passport to the Supernatural,'' ''The Golden Age of Erotica'' and ''The Whole Sex Catalogue.''
Mr. Hurwood was born on July 22, 1926, in New York, and attended Northwestern University. He served one term on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America. He was also a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Authors Guild, the Computer Press Association and the Writers Guild of America, East.He is survived by his wife, Marci Vitous-Hurwood; and a brother, Theodore, of Pacifica, Calif.

Thank you so much for these wonderful books Mr. Hurwood where ever you are. I am in your debt for all of the wonderful hours of reading pleasure and gory fun!

Here are to "Berhardt J. Hurwood" links:

Bernhardt J. Hurwood at "Fantasic fiction"
Bernhardt J. Hurwood at "ISFDB"

And now for a little “aside”.
A few weeks ago I received a copy of “Eerie Tales of Terror & Dread” from a Canadian book Dealer through Abebooks. When my copy arrived I saw from the inscription on the title page that it was originally owned by a girl named “Roswitha  Pilz” who was in Mr. Campbell’s 5th grade class.

 While thumbing through the book a small slip of paper feel out. At first I thought it was just a piece of paper that had been used for a book marker. I had a pleasant surprise when I turned it over!

I truly hope that the girls had a good time that day almost 37 years ago.

Take care and thanks for stopping by.

Samstag, 12. Mai 2012

Richard Matheson's SHOCK Series

Richard Matheson’s "SHOCK" Series
                                My copies.....

Thirteen terror-charged tales served from the imagination of a master storyteller
Dell Books.
November 1966. $0.50

  • · The Children of Noah · ss AHMM Mar ’57
  • · Lemmings · vi F&SF Jan ’58
  • · The Splendid Source · ss Playboy May ’56
  • · Long Distance Call [“Sorry, Right Number”] · ss Beyond Fantasy Fiction Nov ’53
  • · Mantage · nv Science Fiction Showcase, ed. Mary Kornbluth, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959
  • · One for the Books · ss Galaxy Sep ’55
  • · The Holiday Man · ss F&SF Jul ’57
  • · Dance of the Dead · ss Star Science Fiction Stories #3, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, 1954
  • · Legion of Plotters · ss Detective Story Magazine Jul ’53
  • · The Edge · ss F&SF Aug ’58
  • · The Creeping Terror [“A Touch of Grapefruit”] · ss Star Science Fiction Stories #5, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, 1959
  • · Death Ship · ss Fantastic Story Magazine Mar ’53
  • · The Distributor · ss Playboy Mar ’58

Thirteen Tales to haunt the Imagination
Dell Books.
October 1964. $0.50

  • · A Flourish of Strumpets · ss Playboy Nov ’56
  • · Brother to the Machine · ss If Nov ’52
  • · No Such Thing as a Vampire · ss Playboy Oct ’59
  • · Descent · ss If May ’54
  • · Deadline · ss Rogue Dec ’59
  • · The Man Who Made the World · ss Imagination Feb ’54
  • · Graveyard Shift [“The Faces”] · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book #1 ’60
  • · The Likeness of Julie [as by Logan Swanson] · ss Alone By Night, ed. Michael & Don Congdon, Ballantine, 1962
  • · Lazarus II · ss Fantastic Story Magazine Jul ’53
  • · Big Surprise [“What Was in the Box?”] · ss EQMM Apr ’59
  • · Crickets · ss Shock May ’60
  • · Mute · nv The Fiend in You, ed. Charles Beaumont, Ballantine, 1962
  • · From Shadowed Places · nv F&SF Oct ’60

Thirteen electrifying Tales by a Master of the far-out and the bizarre
Dell books.
March 1966. $0.75

  • · Girl of My Dreams · ss F&SF Oct ’63
  • · ’Tis the Season to Be Jelly · ss F&SF Jun ’63
  • · Return · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct ’51
  • · The Jazz Machine · pm F&SF Feb ’63
  • · The Disinheritors · ss Fantastic Story Magazine Jan ’53
  • · Slaughter House · nv Weird Tales Jul ’53
  • · Shock Wave [“Crescendo”] · ss Gamma #1 ’63
  • · When the Waker Sleeps [“The Waker Dreams”] · ss Galaxy Dec ’50
  • · Witch War · ss Startling Stories Jul ’51
  • · First Anniversary · ss Playboy Jul ’60
  • · Miss Stardust · ss Startling Stories Spr ’55
  • · Full Circle · ss Fantastic Universe Aug/Sep ’53
  • · Nightmare at 20,000 Feet · ss Alone By Night, ed. Michael & Don Congdon, Ballantine, 1962

"The weird, the Wild, the horrifying-thirteen terror trips by a master
Dell Books.
1970. $0.75

  • · A Visit to Santa Claus [“I’ll Make It Look Good”, as by Logan Swanson] · ss AHMM Mar ’57
  • · Finger Prints · ss The Fiend in You, ed. Charles Beaumont, Ballantine, 1962
  • · Deus Ex Machina · ss Gamma #2 ’63
  • · The Thing · ss Marvel Science Stories May ’51
  • · The Conqueror · ss Bluebook May ’54
  • · A Drink of Water · ss Signature, the Diner’s Club Magazine Apr ’67
  • · Dying Room Only · ss Fifteen Detective Stories Oct ’53
  • · Advance Notice [“Letter to the Editor”] · ss Imagination Jan ’52
  • · Wet Straw · ss Weird Tales Jan ’53
  • · Therese [“Needle in the Heart”] · vi EQMM Oct ’69
  • · Day of Reckoning [“The Faces”] · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book #1 ’60
  • · Prey · ss Playboy Apr ’69
  • · Come Fygures, Come Shadowes · nv *
  • · The Finishing Touches · ss *

Back in the 1960s Dell books published 4 collections of Richard Matheson horror and thriller stories, each of which contained 13 stories. I guess 13 seem a lot creepier than a normal dozen. As amazing as the stories are in these collections, I think that the covers are pretty uninspired. What I do like though are the 1960s flair to the blurbs of “SHOCK III” and “SHOCK Waves”. They use the words “trips” and “far-out”. I actually find this to be really groovy!

     Richard Matheson, for the un-initiated, was at one time a seriously major power in the horror genre.He was also one of the last “Weird Tales” writers.  Even though they aren’t collected here in these 4 volumes, his stories “Blood Son” and “Born of Man and Woman” are/were two of the most heavily anthologized horror stories of all time. And even if his name is not so well known to younger readers nowadays, everyone who owns a television set has been exposed to the works of Mr. Matheson at one time or another. Here’s a little list.

I am Legend”: Matheson book and screenplay (The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price.)
TheIncredible Shrinking Man”:  Novel and Screenplay.
(The Legendof )Hell House”: Novel and Screenplay.
Somewherein Time”: Novel and Screenplay.
Duel”: Screenplay and short story.
Twilight Zone“theMovie”: screenplay and the short story “Nightmare at 20,000 feet
 "A stir of Echoes": just the novel.
"What Dreams may come": just the novel.
 And he did the screenplays to the following films…
Burn WitchBurn!”which is the film adaption of "Fritz Leiber's" "Conjure Wife"
The NightStalker”  (Damn right! KOLCHAK!!!"
16 Episodes for the original “Twilight Zone” series!!!!
 "Real Steel" with Hugh Jackman is loosely based on Matheson's "Steel" which was also filmed as a "Twilight Zone" episode! 

The late "Charles Beaumont" was on of Mr. Matheson's screenplay co-writers. Mr. Beaumont will be having his very own post in a few weeks!

These are some seriously classic films here folks!!

And the list goes on and on and on. He was a very busy man!
So even if you don’t know him you actually do know him.

Now about his stories....
  What I’ve always enjoyed about Mr. Matheson’s stories is how mean they can be. In Mr. Matheson’s universe very bad thing happen to undeserving people. I also can’t seem to think of a single Richard Matheson story that doesn’t take place in the modern world. This adds to the weirdness of many of his stories. Many are out and out horror. He just eschews are the classical trappings. Many of his stories seem to be episodes of “Madmen” where things just happen to go terribly terribly wrong.  I think that Stephen king owes a lot to Mr. Matheson.

One of my all time favourite Matheson stories is “The Distributor”. It deals with a man who moves into neighbourhoods and then destroys them by turning everyone on the block against each other by using lies, innuendo, sabotage and subterfuge. This has to be where Stephen King got the idea for “Needful Things”.

      We’ve all seen “Nightmare at 20,000 feet”. The story is as much fun as the TV and film version. I just love seeing this guy flip out on the airliner because a “gremlin” is dismantling the wing directly outside of his window. This story has become such an archetype that there is even a Simpson’s Halloween episode riffing on the story. That goes to show how much this story has become a part of the cultural sub-consciousness. The Simpson’s also spoofed “I am Legend (Filmed the 2nd time as “The Omega Man”) on another Halloween episode.
     “Lemmings” is so simple a story that it is even more nightmarish because of this. Everyone heads for the sea shore, abandon their autos in the massive traffic jams on the freeways and continue on by foot to the beaches and just keep on walking. You can’t believe how creepy this story is.
   “Witch War” is a very appropriate title. Cute idea uses teen witches in modern warfare where the US has been invaded.
First Anniversary”, which Matheson also adapted for “The Outer Limits (new series), is not horror. Instead it’s a very sad SF story. It poses the question “What do you do when your wife starts tasting funny?”
   “No Such Thing as a Vampire” is the only Matheson story I can think of that uses a demi-gothic eastern European setting. A nice Dr. is married to a nice vampire lady and needs the help of his fiend (her “ex”-lover) friend to trap the vampire. The story has a wonderful “worm turns” cuckold’s revenge twist ending.

     I truly wish that I was good enough of a writer to put into words how amazingly good these stories are! Mr. Matheson’s style of writing is that he has no “style”. I mean that his stories and how he uses words are bereft of decorations and show offiness. There is none of that “look at me! I’m writing!” in his stories. This matter-of-factness makes them that much more effective. The man is a true giant and even though his stories and films are so iconic and famous it seems that many readers have no idea that these are all “Richard Matheson stories”.
And that is an honest to god crying shame!
Mr. Matheson is a winner of "The World Fantasy Award" and a member of the "Science Fiction Hall of Fame"

Luckily he is still in print and even better, he’s still alive!!! 

You won't be sorry! Trust me! would I lie? No I wouldn't! and if you think that i would, then you don't know me very well!

Thanks for stoping by!
But before you go, check out these Richard Matheson film clips!


TAKE CARE!!! Come Back next week!


Sonntag, 6. Mai 2012

Ghosts and Things (Eleven weird tales of the ghostly and the supernatural)

Ghosts and Things“
(Eleven weird tales of the ghostly and the supernatural)
Berkley “Medallion” Books.
 4th printing. August 1965. $0.50
Edited by Hal Cantor.
                                          My Copy.


"The Romance of Certain Old Clothes" by Henry James;
"Caterpillars" by E. F. Benson;
"Markheim" by R. L. Stevenson;
"The Ghost Ship" by Richard Middleton;
"The Novel of the White Powder" by Arthur Machen;
"Night Doings at 'Dead man’s: A Story That Is Untrue" by AmbroseBierce;
"Running Wolf" by Algernon Blackwood;
"The Music on the Hill" by Saki;
"Phantas" by Oliver Onions;
"The House" by Andre Maurois;
"The Lovely House" by Shirley Jackson

“Ghost and Things” is one of those classic collections that entered my awareness back in the early 1970s by way of the ads for Horror paperbacks that they used to have in the back pages of “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. They sold tons of cool stuff through “Captain Company” which was “Warren Publishing’s” in-house mail order firm. Sometimes those ads were better than the main contents of Jim Warren's magazines.
And take a look at that amazing cover. I can’t find it credited anywhere, but that just has to be the work of the great “Richard Powers”. And even though I’m more partial to the covers of “Paul Lehr”, the great thing about the covers done by Mr. Powers is that you could recognize his work from all the way across the bookstore, yard sale or rummage sale. And if you recognized Mr. Powers then you also knew that it was a SF or Horror paperback from the late 1950s or early 1960s. My copy is the 4th printing from 1965, but it originally came out in 1962 at the height of Mr. Power’s career.
     I just love to take this book down from time to time just to admire the amazing cover. It’s so colourful and eerie at the same time. It shouts “old school Halloween” at you. I don’t know if Mr. Powers read the stories first, but the cover does match the mood set by the stories extremely well. Most of the stories in the collection are from much earlier in the century and even late in the last. (The 20th and 19th ones respectively that is.). I just can’t figure out if that is brains oozing out of the dead guy’s skull or the just buried him with an awful rug. I also love the text style used for the cover.  I guess that you could call the cover style “subdued flamboyance”. What ever it is, it sure as hell tripped my trigger. That’s what I love most about these old covers. They were done by artists and not graphics designers. They knew how to compete for you half a buck.

Now let’s take a look at some of the stories.

"The Romance of Certain Old Clothes" by Henry James;
     I hate to have to admit that this is the only thing that I’ve by Mr. James, even though I have seen “The Innocents” several times which is based on “The turn of the Screw”.
This is a neat little story of a man who marries the sister of his late wife and ends up breaking a promise to his first wife on her death bead concerning a trunk full of dresses. Needless to say, the promise gets broken and “hilarity ensues”. Ok, not hilarity, but rather revenge from the great beyond. It’s a good story, even if only a complete idiot wouldn’t see the end coming.

"Caterpillars" by E. F. Benson;
     Oh God! Oh God! Oh God, how I love this story. E. F. Benson was one of the greatest ghost story writers ever in any century or language. He is much better known in the UK even though he shows up fairly regularly in US anthologies. The great news for fans of this stuff is that “Words Worth Editions” is bringing out an affordable omnibus collection this summer!
Anyways, “Caterpillars” is about a plague/curse/manifestation of what else, caterpillars, which are actually the personification of something much more deadly than nasty, furry little worms. I’d give this story 3 Thumbs up if the Doctor hadn’t corrected things right after my birth. So we’ll just have to settle for 2 thumbs.

"Markheim" by R. L. Stevenson;
      This is a good one that impressed the hell out of me when I was young. A man turns to evil deeds by committing a murder which might have been influenced by a magic mirrors he was considering purchasing from an antiques dealer. He gets confronted by a supernatural entity who could very well be the Devil. He man tries to justify his actions to this strange person who ends up showing the murderer the he has become an evil man and the only way he can save his skin is to commit another act of murder. The man tells the stranger that even though he has turned his back on goodness and decency he still has no love for evil either. He then decides that he can only partially redeem himself by not committing the 2nd murder and by turning himself in to the authorities. This last act of goodness seems to please the strange whom we assume to be the Devil. So maybe he was an agent of evil after all. That is a question which remains open and adds to the enjoyment of this story.

"The Novel of the White Powder" by Arthur Machen;
      “Arthur Machen” deserves an entire blog entry which I don’t have time for. Needless to say, you should go out and find anything that he has written. Mr. Machen was a HUGE influence on H. P.Lovecraft. Horrible transformations, hidden races and forbidden knowledge were specialties of Mr. Machen. You won’t be disappointed. “White Powder” is fairly short for a Machen story, but still delivers 100% in the creepiness department. Without giving too much away, all I’ll say is don’t always blindly trust you pharmacist/chemist. Professional incompetence can be deadly. Here’s an excerpt from the story.

 “I looked, and a pang of horror seized my heart as with a white-hot iron. There upon the floor was a dark and putrid mass, seething with corruption and hideous rottenness, neither liquid nor solid, but melting and changing before our eyes, and bubbling with unctuous oily bubbles like boiling pitch. And out of the midst of it shone two burning points like eyes, and I saw a writhing and stirring as of limbs, and something moved and lifted up what might have been an arm. The doctor took a step forward, raised the iron bar and struck at the burning points; he drove in the weapon, and struck again and again in the fury of loathing.”

"Running Wolf" by Algernon Blackwood;

     You can never go wrong with an “Algernon Blackwood” story. His stories that take place in the Canadian wilderness are favourites of mine. He was a journalist as well as an author and lived quite a while in Canada before returning to England. His stories have such a strong sense of place which gives them that extra thrill of believability. His famous story “The Willows” is another fine example of his ability to make a location come alive. And it takes place on a small island in the Danube. “Running Wolf” uses native Indian lore to such good effect that it reminded me immediately of the similar stories that “Manly Wade Wellman” wrote.  “Running Wolf” is, I think, one of Mr. Blackwood’s most benevolent stories. Compare it to “The Wendigo” and you’ll see what I mean. Here are the links to both stories on-line.

And here's "The Willows"

     Well, that’s it for this week. I’m running out of time and don’t want to wear out my welcome. But before I go, take a look at these two books that arrived in the mail this week. These are excellent and typical examples of “Richard Powers” cover art.

Take care and thanks for stopping by!