Sonntag, 3. Juni 2012

SLEEP NO MORE edited by August Derleth


Edited by August Derleth

Original „Holt, Rinehart & Winston" Hardback Edition: September 1944.
PantherBooks. December 1964. 188 pages.  Price: 3 ´6
Bantam Books. February 1967. 148 pages. Price: $0.60

                                                                 My Copies front. 
                                             
                                                                 My Copies back.

                                                             
                                                                  Later UK edition.


                                                                      Original Hardback


                                                     WWII "Armed Services Edtion"






Hardback contents:

Panther “Sleep no More”
Edited by August Derleth

Contents:
Bantam “Stories from SLEEP NO MORE”
Selected by August Derleth

Contents:


Hi Folks!
 This weeks books are two paperback editions of „Sleep no More“, another outstanding Anthology edited/selected by the late Mr. August Derleth. What I’ve always enjoyed about anthologies from Mr. Derleth is the fairly wide selection of story styles. They tended to include everything from fairly highbrow Edwardian ghost stories to pure pulp trash from the pages of “Weird Tales” and everything in between. And I can tell you that “sleep no More” is no exception. I’ve yet to read on of Mr. Derleth’s anthologies that failed to deliver plenty of enjoyment. If there is one major drawback to these anthologies then it’s that fact that since most of them were originally published between the 1940s and 1960s, there are many tales that have been anthologised to death since then. Not that I’m not going to loose any sleep over that!
     The UK edition from Panther is the more complete of the 2 paperbacks. It reprints 15 of the original 20 stories from the 1944 hardback, where as the Bantam edition only reprints the first 9 stories from the hardback. To be fair to Bantam though, the called their edition “Tales from SLEEP NO MORE”. What I do find odd is that the UK edition is “edited” by Derleth and the US edition is “selected” by Derleth. That’s a strange choice of words. Even though I think that "selected” may be more accurate. “Edited” can apply that changes have been made and I’ve never read anywhere that Mr. Derleth monkeyed around with others peoples works. Ok, except for maybe a few minor “post humus” collaborations if you know what I mean.
 Have to also admit that the cover on the Bantam edition is no “eye grabber” and wouldn’t impel me to pick it up off the shelf and take a look at it. I like my covers a little bit more obvious.
     Now let’s take a look at some the stories……

"Count Magnus", by M. R. James
     This is a fairly good vampire story by Mr. James. What I love the most about the Stories written by Mr. James is he is a perfect example of the “tell, don’t show or less is more” school of story telling. Think of some old cheap ass horror or SF film where it’s scary as hell  up to the end where they ruin the whole thing by showing the monster. Well Mr. James never show the monster. But everything that is implied is 10x scarier than anything he could shove in your face. It is mostly true that what we don’t see is scarier than what we do see. I consider myself lucky that when I cut my teeth on stuff like this when I was learning to read. Mr. James’ stories, because of his writing style, might be a tiny bit difficult for younger readers to get into these days. Don’t let this discourage you though. Take you time with his stories and read them at a leisurely pace. These are some of the most rewarding horror stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

"Cassius", by Henry S. Whitehead
     I love the stories from Henry S. Whitehead!  His having lived on the Virgin Islands comes through in every word he wrote. I’m also a sucker for half way authentic stories concerning the “Vodun” religion and “Obeah” practices. The writing style is very modern considering that he wrote back in the 1920s. I think that the only  problem younger readers might have is that even though he treats the people of the “West Indies” with great respect and open mindedness that is rare for the time, he can be somewhat condescending  to the island inhabitants and even though acknowledging the evils of Colonialism he seems not too upset by them.. And the only time I’ve ever seen the word “nigger” in one of his stories, Mr. Whitehead was commenting on another’s use of the word. And his portrayal of this person who used it was not very flattering at all.
Anyways, “Cassius” is an early example of the “Body Horror” genre. I don’t want to give too much away. Here’s a hint though. Think of the “Devil doll” story which appeared in the old “Trilogy of Terror” film from the early 70s, but being written and directed by “David Cronenberg”. One of the narrator’s servants has a growth removed from his back and then later becomes terrorized by some small vicious animal at night. Nuff said!




"The Occupant of the Room", by Algernon Blackwood
     Now this is one disturbing story! A teacher on vacation in the Alps stays overnight in an Inn and is given the room currently being booked by an Englishwoman who disappeared 2 days before while mountain climbing but still officially holds the room since she hasn’t checked out. The teacher can’t sleep and is plagued by horrible feeling of hopeless and despair. Since the room isn’t officially his he isn’t allowed to use the locked wardrobe containing the Englishwoman’s belongings. He eventualy develops a strong compulsion to force the lock on the wardrobe and must finally demand the key from the night staff. It still creeps me out just thinking about this story! Yeah Mr. Blackwood!


"He Cometh and He Passeth By", by H. Russell Wakefield
     This is also a great story! It’s the first story I’ve read by Mr. Russell and I find it to be a first class revenge story. It reminds me a lot of “A Casting of Runes” by M. R. James. In Mr. Russells story an English gentle befriends a shady character (based upon “Aleister Crowley”) who turns out to be not just a sponging pervert, but also a Black Magician who places a curse on him without him knowing of it. He subsequently dies and his best friend takes it upon himself to study up on the black arts and fight fire with fire. I enjoyed the hell out of this one.

"Thus I Refute Beelzy", by John Collier
     This is an oft reprinted classic by Mr. Collier. It’s fairly short, but straight to the point.  If you know what is good for you won’t scoff at the imaginary playmates your children bring home!

"The Mannikin", by Robert Bloch
     This is a fun little pulp story by Mr. Bloch when he was still under the influence of H P lovecraft and hadn’t developed his own style yet. It’s another “body horror” story set with in the “CtulhuMythos”. So we get to see words like “eldritch”. It also contains the book of forbidden lore “De Vermis Mysteriis.“, Bloch’s version of the “Necronomicon”.  It’s a variation of the theme that appears in Whitehead’s “Cassius” and would eventually be brought to it’s high point in Tom Reamy’s  “TheDetweiler Boy” forty some years later.

"The Horror in the Burying Ground", by Hazel Heald
     This was actually ghost written by H P Lovecraft on order from Miss Head. It’s a nice liitle story of backwoods New England gothic concerning undertaking, poisoning, reanimation experiments, premature burial and madness. Just the themes you’d expect from Mr. Lovecraft.

This is one of REH’s finest stories where he’s at his manic kinky best. It’s also a great “Cthulhu Mythos” story. I covered it extensively a few months ago when I discussed the the REH anthology “Wolfshead”.

"The Yellow Sign", by Robert W. Chambers
   „The Yellow sign“originally appeared in Mr. Chamber’s collection “The King in Yellow” which describe a play the drives insane anyone who reads it. “The Yellow sign” tells the tale of a creepy old man who is not at all what he appears to be. He’s even worse than you can imagine. He destroys the lives of an artist and his model in a terribly decaying manner! It’s easy to see why Mr. Lovecraft credited this series of stories as a great influence on his own works. Think "Cool Air" and "The Thing on the Doorstep"

“Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa."
—"Cassilda's Song" in The King inYellow Act 1, Scene 2


"The Hand of the O'Mecca", by Howard Wandrei
     This story is one of the oddest and best werewolf stories I’ve every read. It’s the dream like courtship of a farmer and one of his neighbours.  It’s also the earliest story I ever read where a woman’s nipples are describes in an admiring manner. Good story if slightly hindered by a flashback within the flashback.

All in all “Sleep no more” is an excellent anthology with even enough unfamiliar stories for those who read lots of horror.
The only thing missing are the wonderful Illustrations by “Lee Brown Coye” which appeared in the original hardback.
You can see them here at "Old School Records"

the Weird Art of Lee Brown Coye



And on a closing note:
I‘ve made some changes in my Blog introduction. Originally my purpose of writing this was to try and recapture and share some of the joy these books gave me when I was young. It has now become clear that a large number of these stories need to be remembered and brought to people’s attention because many of them have never been reprinted since these anthologies first appeared. And it’s most likely that the will never ever be reprinted again and will thus disappear forever and be forgotten when these books are no longer being read or reread. That’s a very sad thought.

Take care and thanks for taking the time to stop by.
Doug














    













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