Sonntag, 1. September 2013

Alfred Hitchcock's MONSTER MUSEUM edited by Robert Arthur

Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum
Edited by Robert Arthur
Random House 1965
Armada Lion 1973

My Random House 1965 hardback

                                    The 1973 Armada paperback "sissy" edition

· Introduction: A Variety of Monsters · Alfred Hitchcock · in
1 · The Day of the Dragon · Guy Endore · nv Blue Book Jun ’34
29 · The King of the Cats · Stephen Vincent Benét · ss Harper’s Bazaar Feb ’29
46 · Slime · Joseph Payne Brennan · nv Weird Tales Mar ’53
73 · The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles · Idris Seabright · ss F&SF Oct ’51
79 · Henry Martindale, Great Dane · Miriam Allen deFord · ss Beyond Fantasy Fiction Mar ’54
95 · The Microscopic Giants · Paul Ernst · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct ’36
114 · The Young One · Jerome Bixby · nv Fantastic Apr ’54
144 · Doomsday Deferred · Will F. Jenkins · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 24 ’49
162 · Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall · Theodore Sturgeon · ss Imagination Feb ’51
174 · The Desrick on Yandro [John] · Manly Wade Wellman · ss F&SF Jun ’52
188 · The Wheelbarrow Boy · Richard Parker · ss Lilliput Oct ’50
193 · Homecoming · Ray Bradbury · ss Mademoiselle Oct ’46

“Monster Museum” is my favourite of the three “Alfred Hitchcock” young reader’s horror anthologies that came out in the 1960s when I was just starting grade school. I’m still amazed to this very day that they got away with peddling such grizzly fare to little kids. Not that you’ll ever see me complaining.  I think that simply fact is that horror stories being offered to children was underneath any sort of PC radar that might have existed back then. There are some seriously grisly stories in this collection. Two tales deal with the probable end of the world, three with grisly agonizing deaths and one with child abuse. Those are some pretty heavy themes for a ten your old to wrap their mind around. Of course there’s nothing unusual when you realize that the stories are all pulp magazine reprints selected by Robert Arthur. All of these tales originally appeared in such magazines as Blue book, Fantastic and Weird Tales. Not a single one of them was written with children in mind. I’m extremely happy though that Robert Arthur and the folks at Random house decided that these stories were just the thing to get youngsters interested in reading. I know that these Alfred Hitchcock horror anthologies changed my life by turning me into a life long fan of the macabre.
Robert Arthur is probably the most read, but least known or appreciated anthologist of the 20th century. He was responsible for almost all of the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies up till the middle 1970s. He was also a fine writer of mystery and horror. His most famous novels have to be the firsts 20 or so books in the “Three Investigator” series that was released under the Alfred Hitchcock by-line.
Now let’s take a look at a few of the stories that left such an impression on me that I haven’t forgotten them even after more than 41 years.

Slime by Joseph Payne Brennan
     Mr. Brennan was one of the last great “Weird Tales” authors to arise during the magazines final years of its first incarnation. “Slime” is a wonderfully gory and chilling story of a living mass of slime, which due to a massive undersea earth quake, gets washed up on a New England beach only to wreck death and havoc on a small community before being roasted alive by a national guardsman wielding a flamethrower. Reading about hunters, boyfriends and hobos getting ingested alive in the most horrible manner imaginable makes this an excellent bedtime reading for small children. God bless you Mr. Arthur! I did feel sorry for one particular dog though.

“The Man who sold Rope to the Gnoles” by Idris Seabright (Margaret St. Clair)

     A rope salesman tries something that no other salesman before him ever succeeded at. He decides to sell rope to the Gnoles. The Gnoles are a race of gnome like beings. They are small in stature, tentacled and possessing jewelled eyes. It turns out that the Gnoles eat flesh and don’t like being cheated. The rope peddler doesn’t know this and goes about swindling the Gnoles to his regret. He is bound with his own samples, taken prisoner, put in the pens, fattened and slaughtered ( without being tortured) in the most humane manner.  The story is told in such a gleefully low key manner that makes it’s ending all the more horrible. I go back and re-read this one every few years.
Mrs. Sinclair was one of Weird Tales magazine’s most popular writers during its later years. She used the “Seabright” pseudonym when selling stories to other magazines.

“Doomsday Deferred” by Paul Ernst

     “Doomsday” has to be the first ant oriented horror story that I can remember reading. IA young and ambitious Lepidopterist is underway in the Amazon Basin looking for one of the worlds most valuable butterflies. He is contacted by a poor farmer from the interior who promise the young man all the butterflies and cocoons he wants in exchange for 50 head of cattle to be shipped upriver to the farmer’s small parcel of land lying between the river and the jungle’s edge.  To seal the deal the farmer even leaves a large amount of gold nuggets behind as collateral. The young Lepidopterist puzzled by the whole situation tells the farmer that with so much money he can buy all the cattle he needs with out also having to search for butterflies and cocoons. The farmer says he can’t stay away from his farm for such a length of time needed to travel down river to make the purchase on his own. The young scientist agrees to assist him. A few days later he visits the farmer’s small piece of land. Anyways it turns out that a colony of dreaded Army ants have finally become sentient and are using the farmer to assist them in obtaining enough food to be able to leave the jungle for the wider world outside.
This was written when the theory of “Hive Minds” was first publicized and uses this theory in a very effective manner. The story is genuinely frightening in its implications.  And once more it’s great to consider what they were thinking when they decided to add this one to a children’s anthology. You have various farm animals and a family getting eaten alive by ants before the story is over.  This is another masterpiece of “grue” chosen by Mr. Robert Arthur. Bravo Robert!

“The Desrick on the Yandro” by Manly Wade Wellman

     “Desrick” is the first “Silver John/John the Balladeer” that I ever read. Silver john was a balladeer who wandered the back ways of Appalachian North Carolina. s always coming to the assistance of the mountain folk who were being threatened by various supernatural entities and dangers. To combat these evils John would use his belief in God and his own knowledge of white magic. These have to be some of the most beautifully written fantasy/horror tales that have ever been written.  This particular story deals with disbelief, arrogance, greed, unrequited love and revenge, with some really cool Appalachian monsters thrown in.
These stories are still in print, so go to Amazon and buy the collection “Who Fears the Devil?”. You be glad that you did.

“Homecoming” by Ray Bradbury.

     “Homecoming” has to be one of Mr. Bradbury’s most famous stories. It is also the greatest Halloween story ever written. Did you know that the “Family” is also the inspiration for “The Addams Family”? Well now you do!
Timothy is the only mundane/mortal member in a family of immortal, but completely human in their own way, family of monsters. It’s Halloween and the “Family’s” once in a hundred years reunion is being held at timothy’s family house. The story describes Timothy’s excitement over the upcoming festival and also his sadness at being an outsider within his own family, and one who is doomed to die a mortal death one day. This story captures the feeling and spirit of Halloween and the autumn season. It’s spooky and bitter sweet. Just like many of the best childhood memories are.

     “Monster Museum” is a wonderful collection of stories culled from the pulps, by a master anthologist, which is by no means “just for young readers”. It’s fairly easy to find at affordable prices on EBay of Abebooks. So please do yourself a big favour and look it up.  I have to point out that only the hardback Random House edition has the monumentally cool interior art by Earl a. Mayan.

Take care and thanks for stopping by.

Donnerstag, 18. Juli 2013

Weird Tales and Worlds of Weird edited by Leo Margulies

Leo Margulies' Weird Tales Anthologies

Weird Tales
Pyramid Books. May 1964

Worlds of the Weird
Pramid Books , January1965
                                                 My copy

„Weird Tales“ Contents:

                                                                    My copy

„Worlds of Weird“ Contents:

It's „Weird Tales“ week here at the Bunker!

„Why“, do you ask, „Is it Weird Tales week?“

Well, I'll tell you.

Since last week I am the new „contributing editor“ over at Weird Tales Magazine!
It's true! The magazine that never dies is still alive and kicking and I'm officially part of it. And to celebrate this I figured that this would be “Weird Tales Week”!

Ok, and to be honest I needed to get off my lazy butt and provide some content here.

These two paperbacks first crossed paths with me during the early 70s. I was already aware of Weird Tales at the is time from the introductions and copyright pages of several other horror anthologies that I had read. So I new that the magazine must have been something special if it was home to H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard among many others. There was nothing that I loved more as a kid than to see the phrase “copyright Weird Tales Magazine 193*. Seeing that phrase guaranteed good time ahead.

Almost every major genre writer of the first half of the twentieth century appeared at one time or another between the covers of the Unique Magazine.

If I was to pick a definitive “WTs” collection from among the many that appeared since these, the first of many “WTs” tribute anthologies to be published, came out I would honestly say that to this day no one has topped the choice of Stories made by Mr. Margulies.

Leo Margulies was a master editor and anthologist. He reportedly edited 46 magazines. Among which were Startling Stories, Fantastic Universe, Thrilling Mystery and Thrilling Wonder Stories. Later on from the late 40s up to the middle 1960s he edited 12 paperback SF and Horror anthologies. Being from the pulp era gave him great familiarity with the writers and stories of that age. His choice of stories for these two anthologies were totally lacking in any pretensions other than picking stories that were well written, representative of the magazine and highly entertaining.
Another thing that I like about his choice of stories is that they are neither obscure Forgotten Treasures nor tales that had alredy been reprinted to death up to that time.

So if anyone ever asked me “what was Weird Tales about?” I would just hand them these to slim paperbacks.

Now let's take a look at some of those stories!

The Man who Returned by Edmond Hamilton

Even though Ed is most famous as a SF writer he was a heavy duty WTs contributor back in the 1920s and 30s. TMwR tells the story of some poor schmuck who wasn't quite dead when he was interred in the mausoleum. He wakes up an heads back to town where he does a bit of window peeping on his friends and family only to discover that even though he might not be better of dead,everyone else in his life is better off with him dead. The story ends with him returning to the mausoleum,climbing back in his casket and closing the lid on himself. This shook me up quite a bit when I read it back in 71 or so.

Spider Mansion by Fritz Leiber

Spider Mansion is so goofily bad that Mr. Leiber had to have been pulling a fast on and wrote this actually as a satire of Pulp Tropes without ever bothering to let anyone in on the joke. That just has to be the case here. Fritz Leiber never wrote a bad story in his entire career. Not a single one! So this piece of cheesy schlock just has to be on purpose.

A fellow gets invited out to an old school mates creepy Gothic mansion out in the boondocks. Upon arrival is seems that his old chum has been conducting some glandular experimentation. His friend isn't a insecure midget any more. It seems that he has some how become a muscle bound seven foot tall megalomaniac! Oh, and there's a spider the size of a Shetland pony running about the place eating people! This just has to be a non-self referential piece of satire. I just can't accept anything else.

Drifting Snow by August Derleth

I've probably mentioned this story half a dozen times since starting the blog. I'll say it again though. I love this story. It's one of the finest horror stories ever published and the 2nd best story that Auggie ever wrote.

A monied Wisconsin family is spending winter weekend t their country estate way out in the middle of no where. A blizzard come up and the men of the family are lured by a figure that they see out in the storm to their deaths. The end up being frozen solid and drained of blood. Yep, it's those pesky snow vampires. So what does the story teach us? Never go and kick out young servant girls during blizzard just because the are in a family way out of wedlock. Especially if you are the one who knocked them up. Brrrr! Good story!

Pigeons from Hell by Robert E. Howard

Old Two gun Bob shows us,that when he set his mind to it, that he could writing a genuinely chilling horror story with out having to resort to buckets “Blood and Thunder”.

What we get instead of Swords and Sorcery is two crazy old sisters and an ex-slave who turn out to be axe welding Zombies who love dispatching travelers who are foolish enough to spend the night in their decayed and seemingly deserted southern mansion. There's a lot more to it than that, I just don't feel like going into it at this time. Mr. Howard deliver with authentic seeming local color and history. An intriguing back story and suspenseful plotting. The story is a genuine classic and even got filmed on on the old Boris Karloff “Thriller” show.

Roads by Seabury Quinn

Well, it does qualify as Weird. A Roman soldier who was at Christ's crucifixion is cursed with immortality and becomes Santa Claus. This is what the creator of “ Jules de Grandin” considered lite fantasy circa 1938.

The Valley of the Worm by Robert E. Howard

That REH is he only author who appears in both volumes goes to show just how much impact he had on both the magazine and the genre itself.

Valley of the Worm is one of those stories that you will never forget if you read it a young enough age. Howard manages to unite his own Hyborian Age with HPL's Cthulhu Mythos. We get a world spanning migration of the Aryan race (no, not those Aryans!) as they seek a new home in a prehistoric world full of dangerous beasts and even more dangerous humanoids and their primeval Gods from beyond.
This is absolutely gorgeous story telling that only REH could write. Read it and you'll grok “Blood and Thunder”.

Mother of Toads by Clark Ashton Smith

Nobody did weird like CAS. His stories were so different from his contemporaries and so ahead of their time that it's no wonder (and a shame) that he's not nearly as adored today as his friends HPL and REH. If I wanted to be cynical, I'd say part of the problem with his lack of fame is that he didn't die young and tragically. He just lived to long to become a legend. His fantasy and horror stories have to be read to be believed. Imagine mixing REH and HPL together and then ad good doses of kinkiness and droll humor. That describes CAS in a nutshell.

Toads is one of his fantasies set in the imaginary medieval French province of Averroigne. A place of deep forests, magic, danger and kinky sex.

I'll sum the story up in one sentence. A young man gets tricked into carnally servicing a beautiful witch who turns out to be a ghastly frog woman.
Sadly this is the version that got butchered by, the at the time editor, Farnsworth Wright.

This is just the way I like them, weird and nasty.

The Thing in the Cellar by Dr. David H. Keller M.D.

This has to be one of the meanest f##king stories that I've ever read. It's been said by critics that Dr. Keller was a misanthrope. And after reading this story you will surely believe that yourself.

No one believes a little kids fear of the cellar and so as punishment his father forces the little boy sit sit alone evenings, alone in the kitchen ,in front of the cellar door. Well guess what! The little guy gets killed and eaten by what ever is in the cellar. This story completely blew my mind when I first read it. Stories aren't supposed to end that way. They should end with the little guy being saved by his repentant father. With lots of hugs, tears and forgiveness at the end. Well it sure a s shit doesn’t happen in this story. Thank you very much Dr. Keller you old bastard!

Seriously. This is a power house in only a few pages. One of the best genuine horror tales that I've ever read.

Well that's it this time around.

                                                 Weird Tales Issue 361 Front and Back covers

Take care and thanks for stopping by!


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013

The Lurking Fear by H. P. Lovecraft

The Lurking Fear and other Stories
By H. P. Lovecraft

Cry Horror (2nd Avon edition of “The Lurking Fear)
Avon Books. 1958. $0.35
WDL UK Edition. 1956 2/6

Panther 1970
Beagle Books Arkham House Edition 1971

Ballantine 1973
Ballantine 1982

Wordsworth Editions 2013

                                                              One of my copies (Richard Powers cover)
                                                                    Another of mine.(John holmes cover)

                                                           And still another of mine.

                                                                  Michael Whelan cover.

                                                         And this one should be arriving next week!

“The Lurking Fear” is one of my all time favourite HPL collections. These are mostly, but not all, transitional stories that bridge his Dunsany phase and his more mature “Cthulhu Mythos” phase.  Some of these tales are not Mr. Lovecraft’s best writing endeavours, but as sheer entertainment this isn’t a stinker in the bunch. It’s being re-released next week by “Wordsworth Books” next week and it’s available at And it’s a very affordable edition. What’s interesting about the publishing history of this collection was that it was first published by Avon back in 1947and then re-released in 1958 under the title “Cry Horror2 with an amazing cover by Mr. Richard Powers. One year later WDL in the UK published an edition that was identical to the Avon 1958 edition. This WDL edition is the book that introduced Mr. Ramsey Campbell to HPL and thus inspired Mr. Campbell into becoming a writer! Thank you WDL! The Beagle and Panther editions are also identical to one another. The l1973 Ballantine edition sports so extremely bizarre cover art by John Holmes (no not that John Holmes!) as part of a uniform series. The 1982 Ballantine edition was part of the uniform series which all had cover art by Michael Whelan.

Now let’s take a look at them there stories!
Inbred Dutch cannibal mole-men chow down on hillbillies while chewing of a few faces along the way. There’s lots of lightening in this one!
It seems that a house plagued by a century’s long series of unexplained deaths has a jelly vampire buried in the basement.
A cheapskate mortician gets locked in over night in a vault full of cheated customers and hilarity ensues.
  • 51 • Arthur Jermyn • (1939) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft (variant of The White Ape 1920)
  • A bigot’s worst nightmare comes true. Grandpa brought Grandma back from darkest Africa. Fellow discovers why< non one ever took any photos of granny and ends up doing the pissed of Buddhist monk trick.
  • 59 • Cool Air • (1928) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft
  • HPL’s nastier version of Poe’s “The Case of M. Valdemar”.
  • 66 • The Moon-Bog • (1926) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft
A rich Yankee moves back to Englad to restore his family old seat of power and drain the local bog. The villagers warn against it. He don’t wanna listen though. Only when it’s too late does he realize that maybe he should have listened after all.
An archaeologist goes digging in some ruins of a lost city in the Arabian Desert.  He ends up waking some lizard men. There’s tons of wonderful atmosphere in this one!
Puritan family locks up freak child in the attic. It naturally breaks out and kills a lot of folks after it grows up big and strong on the fish heads that they’d been feeding it. A couple of centuries later two knuckle head investigators  decide to spend the night on it’s graves. They almost get killed by something that attacks them in the middle of the night.
“And I was too dazed to exult when he whispered back a thing I had half expected—
      “No—it wasn’t that way at all. It was everywhere—a gelatin—a slime—yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were eyes—and a blemish. It was the pit—the maelstrom—the ultimate abomination.
Carter, it was the unnamable!”
Duuh! If you can describe it, then I’m also pretty sure that you can give it a name!
A stranded motorists seeks shelter in a New England Hillbilly shack.
Lesson: don’t give crazy old hillbillies picture books. They tend to get ideas!
In Kingsport there lives a crazy old recluse who pays his bills exclusively with old Spanish Doubloons and who the entire town is frightened of. A trio of burglars discover to their dismay that the “Terrible Old Man” turns out to have some serious home canning issues.
Two necrophile collectors of the bizarre just have to go and dig up something that should ever have been dug up. They then go and make matters worse by plundering the grave. It’s a shame that they didn’t count on “Repo-hound’ paying them a visit..

It’ beginning to look a lot like Fish-Men!!
Can you say Batrachain?
Sure, I knew you could!

Creepy mind swapping from the depths of time!
With a “GASP” shock ending that gets telegraphed from almost the very beginning.
What I do find really cool in this story is that even though Mr. Lovecraft wasn’t a continuity freak if you read it carefully enough he clearly states that Cthulhu will not rise up from the depths during many tenure on the Earth!

Well that’s it this time around.
Take care and thanks for stopping by!

Donnerstag, 27. Juni 2013

Richard Matheson: The passing of a Master

Hey all,
I didn't get around to posting this earlier this week,  here's my piece on Mr. Richard Matheson.

          Photo source: The Examiner

The passing of a Master
Richard Matheson passed away 2 days ago on the 23rd of June 2013. He was 87 years old.
This is pretty much the end of an era when you consider that he was one of the last living writers to have contributed to Weird Tales Magazine during it’s original incarnation. Mr. Matheson’s first published story was “Born of Man and woman” which was originally published in the July 1950 issue of “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction”. This would be 63 years ago next month. During the ensuing 63 years Mr. Matheson published 28 novels, the last of which, “Generations appeared in 2012. 21 collections of is short stories have also been published over that last 6 decades! If this literary legacy wasn’t awesome enough, he also wrote 22 screen plays during this time. Many of which were based upon his own novels and short stories. Many of these films have reached legendary status such as Duel, The Incredible Shrinking Man, I am Legend (filmed 4 times), The Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe classics; House of Usher and, The Raven , The Night Stalker and Trilogy of Terror. Who can ever forget the Zuni Fetish doll chasing Karen black around that apartment or Bill Shatner freaking out on that airplane as it gets taken apart by that gremlin directly outside his window seat? I was once asked to describe Mr. Matheson’s stories and I simply (if not completely accurate) said “Ray Bradbury with Teeth”. Mr. Matheson’s stories mostly dealt with horror in modern suburban settings. Very bad things happened in this universe to those who mostly didn’t deserve it. For a younger TV audience I’d say that you could sum up lots of his work as “Mad Men meets Hell Raiser”
Many of his stories were very hard going for me a youngster. Not because of his straight forward and unadorned writing style, but for the world he presented. It was a world of suburban families, modernity, station wagons and barbeque parties where just beneath the surface or around the next corner lay both natural and supernatural horrors. These stories were dead(ly) serious with no easy resolutions or happy endings. This isn’t to say that Mr. Matheson didn’t have a wicked sense of humor. You just had to look at his screen plays to see how funny he could be. Just take a look at “The Night Stalker”, “The Raven” or “Comedy of Terrors”. These are genuinely funny films of the blackest sort of humor.
Even if he is unknown to non-genre fans, Mr. Matheson’s work has become so iconic and culturally all persuasive that he has even been copied on the Simpson’s for one of the Halloween shows. That has to be the final proof that you have left your mark on our culture.
It’s genuine proof of Mr. Matheson’s talent and vision that even stories, novels and screen plays that he produced in the middle of the last century still maintain an edge and a relevancy that speaks to readers today in the second decade of the 21st century. Don’t forget that many of his most famous works were produced during the age of Eisenhower and they are just as powerful today as they were then. That to me, is a genuine timelessness that few other authors can match.

God bless you and thank you Mr. Matheson. Where ever you are.

You have enriched my life, greatly entertained me and lastly; you’ve scared the shit out of many a time.

I drink to your shade and celebrate your memory.

Dienstag, 25. Juni 2013

RIP Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson
The last of the greats has left us.
And the world is a lesser place because of it.
Thank you for that you have given us.