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Thursday, November 11, 2010

World Fantasy Classics

World Fantasy Classics was an odd little series published by World Distributors in 1950-51. The editors drew their stories from a number of sources, inadvertently creating a number of collectable books. The most infamous is The Whispering Gorilla by David V. Reed, the title alone attracting a lot of collectors. Typically of the slipshod attitude of British publishers at the time, the book isn't actually a reprint of Reed's original pulp novel, which appeared under the pen-name Don Wilcox in Fantastic Adventures in 1940; rather, it reprinted the sequel, "The Return of the Whispering Gorilla", which appeared in the same magazine in 1943.

Other titles were also drawn from the American SF pulps, mostly from Startling Stories: Tharkol, Lord of the Unknown was originally "The Prisoner of Mars" (May 1939), The Monsters of Juntonheim was originally "A Yank in Valhalla" (Jan 1941) and The Beast from Beyond was originally "Stranger on the Heights" (Sum 1944); Devil's Planet (Jan 1942) and Shadow Over Mars (Fall 1944) retained their original titles.

Whilst these were good, solid adventures by some of the best writers from the pulps, two of the titles were reprinted from the Australian "Scientific Thriller" series published by Sydney-based Transport Publishing Co., which had already gained some notoriety amongst Aussie fans for producing Thrills Incorporated, written by authors more comfortable with tough crime yarns or westerns and, in some cases, printing stories plagiarized from American magazines. The two (not very scientific) thrillers reprinted by World Distributors were both written by Belli Luigi (a house name used here by G. C. Bleeck) and featured a police officer called Bill Douglas.

The final two stories were originals published under the Germanic-sounding pseudonym Karl Mannheim and formed an odd pair of linked stories. The first, When the World Died, set in 1998, describes how Barry Lassiter, on the run from the Empire Police, is rescued by a group of scientists who intend to save a handful of people from the inevitable war between the western Confederation and Eastern Empire by setting up a colony on Venus. The second novel, Vampires of Venus, is set twenty years later amongst the few survivors of the Earthian (sic) race as they battle giant vampire birds and try to discover the motives of a visiting Martian.

I've included here the reprinted versions of these two novels which appeared in 1972 from a World Distributors subsidiary, PBS Ltd. Anyone reading the Five Star paperback edition of When the Earth Died were in for a surprise: if you can manage to fight your way through the novel, which is pretty tortuous, the book comes to a very abrupt end as PBS missed the last page.

Shadow Over Mars by Leigh Brackett
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), (Mar) 1951, 128pp, 1/6.

The Monsters of Juntonheim by Edmond Hamilton
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950, 160pp, 1/6. Cover by R. A. Osborne?

Tharkol, Lord of the Unknown by Edmond Hamilton
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), (Jul) 1950, 160pp, 1/6.

Master-Mind Menace by Belli Luigi (Sydney, Transport Publishing, 1950)
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Maurice Bramley

The Metal Monster by Belli Luigi (Crime Flies, Sydney, Transport Publishing, 1950)
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Maurice Bramley

When the Earth Died by Karl Mannheim
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950 (Apr 1951), 128pp, 1/6.
PBS (Five Star Paperback), 1972, 127pp, 25p.

Vampires of Venus by Karl Mannheim
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950 (Apr 1951), 128pp, 1/6.
PBS (Five Star Paperback), 1972, 128pp, 25p.

The Whispering Gorilla by David Reed
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950, 160pp, 1/6.

The Beast from Beyond by Manley Wade Wellman
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by R. A. Osborne?

Devil's Planet by Manley Wade Wellman
World Distributors (World Fantasy Classic), (Mar 1951), 128pp, 1/6.

5 comments:

Mike W said...

The metallic monster on the front of the 'Tharkol' book looks like Robot Archie!

Paul said...

Nice! Got an artist for Leigh Brackett's Shadow over Mars? All I have is the name "Osbourne". Thanks.

Steve said...

Hi Paul,

I'm not wholly convinced that Shadow over Mars is by Osborne. If you look at his work here it looks staged, as if he was using photos. I think you can see this in, say, The Beast From Beyond and The Monsters of Juntonheim but I'm pretty sure all the covers are not by the same hand.

I'll see if I can find some of the Leroi covers that I believe are also by Osborne. Maybe a comparison there would be useful... if I can find them.

Paul said...

Steve,

I'll take your word for it! I don't own a copy of the Brackett book and I probably got the name Osbourne out of ISDB or off of AbeBooks. If you do figure out the artist, please let me know. Thanks.

Von Rothenberger said...

Turns out that the writer of the original "The Whispering Gorilla" in 1940 WAS Don Wilcox; Reed crafted the sequel story years later. Wilcox wrote numerous short stories in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1905s, and is considered an early pioneer of the science fiction/fantasy genre.