It’s not only vintage paperbacks I obsessively collect, I sometimes buy new books too – although not the kind you may see at your local supermarket or petrol station. They are mainly limited edition titles from small independent presses, the number of which never ceases to amaze me as when I find a new one, another seems to leap out from the woodwork. Here are are a few of my recent purchases which should hopefully help spread the word a little further.
Strange Tales Volume IV
2014 – Tartarus Press
I was guided to Tartarus Press by my fellow book enthusiast Teece last year via the short story writer Robert Aickman. His recommendations are never to be taken lightly and so when I found out that Tartarus had the only full collection of his ‘strange stories’ in print, I decided to treat myself to all seven volumes. The books were truly things of beauty – all sewn hardbacks, lithographically printed and featuring silk ribbon marker, head and tailbands. I was immediately smitten and soon began a collection of other titles by the likes of Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Denton Welch, E.T.A. Hoffmann and others.
This volume is number 4 in an occasional series of “new stories in the fields of fantasy, horror, decadence and the supernatural” edited by Rosalie Parker and is constructed to the same incredibly high standards of the above Aickman titles. All Tartarus Press dust jackets are of a pale creamy yellow with an inset illustration, here’s a close up of the plate for Strange Tales Volume IV by Stephen J. Clark;
The real shock came when I removed the dust jacket to affix a protector (book pedant – I know) and discovered that the cover was embossed with a similar design to the one used on the jacket;
I really can’t recommend Tartarus enough for their selection of titles in print, prices and publication standards so do yourself a favour and head over to their website (here) for a taste of the strange and fantastical.
In Delerium’s Circle by Stephen J. Clark
2012 – Egaeus Press
It was only a matter of time before I followed up the work of Stephen J. Clark after admiring his illustrations for Strange Tales Volume IV and the Aickman collections for Tartartus. This is his first novel and is billed as “an unsettling tale of secrecy and obsession, of haunting memories and spiralling madness”. The book is richly illustrated throughout by Clark’s strange ink and pencil drawings;
The endpapers are also illustrated by Clark and are chillingly beautiful;
I haven’t yet read this rather odd sounding novel but the review on the Egaeus website calls the book “detailed, dense, bleak and involving” – just my type of fiction! The book is once again a lithographically printed, sewn hardback and is limited to just 300 copies so visit the website (here) and order a copy for yourself.
The Phantasmagorical Imperative & Other Fabrications by D.P. Watt
2014 – Egaeus Press
Whilst I was on the Egaeus website, I had to have a quick look around and found this intriguingly titled volume which I also purchased. The book collects two novellas and eight short stories by D.P. Watt and is best summed up by Victoria Nelson’s foreword extract, again taken from the website;
“The Phantasmagorical Imperative and Other Fabrications is D. P. Watt’s wonder cabinet of obsessive, carefully written supernatural stories told by a breed of bachelor narrators who are a cross between M.R. James’s buttoned-down antiquarians and H.P. Lovecraft’s high-strung, slightly hysterical misfits—with a dash of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Bruno Schulz thrown in. The collective fate of these characters is to bend matter or be bent by it into strange new dimensional realities…”
This is another gorgeously constructed, lithographically printed sewn hardback with stunning endpapers;
There are only 250 copies of this beautiful book to be had so once again, navigate to the Egaeus website (here) for more details of how to order.
‘Delicate Toxins’ (A Collection of Strange Tales)
2011 – Side Real Press
I’m not sure how I stumbled across this one to be honest but that’s not important now. This is an “anthology of all new tales taking the life, work and cultural milieu of Hanns Heinz Ewers as their inspiration”. Ewers wrote numerous short stories, one volume of which largely concerns itself with “pornography, blood sport, torture and execution”. Once again, I was hooked and decided to purchase the volume. It was then that I noticed that buyers through the website could also order a tipped in stamped bookplate signed by the editor John Hirschhorn-Smith;
Once again, the book is a fantastically constructed hardback featuring a three colour embossed cover, printed in black with red titles and initial letters throughout. This is once more a limited run – just 350 individually numbered copies available but be quick, my copy was number 321! Order your copy from the Side Real website directly (here) before this little treasure sells out.
Ritual by David Pinner
2011 – Finders Keepers
I’m a huge fan of both the Finders Keepers record label and The Wicker Man film (more on this later) so when I learned that this book was being republished after many years out of print I just had to have a copy. David Pinner was a RADA trained playwright who penned this novel of Cornish child murder, ancient religious practices and nightmarish ritual between other work with the sole view of having it adapted to film. It was eventually turned down by all directors who looked at it including Michael Winner according to legend.
Several years later however, the film rights to the book were secured by Anthony Schaffer and Christopher Lee who transformed the tale into a screenplay which would become Robin Hardy’s 1973 rural folk horror epic The Wicker Man.
Finders Keepers have done a sterling job reproducing the hardback print run from Pinner’s own personal copy, even down to the wonderfully strange woodcut cover art. Copies are still available from the Finders Keepers website (here) or from other less esoteric online booksellers.