Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 31 October 2018.

2000AD Prog 2105
Cover: Tiernen Trevallion
JUDGE DREDD: THE SMALL HOUSE by Rob Williams (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK: HIGH SOCIETY by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT: 1812 by Ian Edginton (w) Dave Taylor (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: LEGION by James Peaty (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Dylan Teague (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
KINGDOM: ALPHA AND OMEGA by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Scream! & Misty Halloween Special 2018
Following the success of last year’s fright-filled outing, the Scream and Misty Special returns this Hallowe'en!With a creepy cover by Kyle Hotz and a 2000AD webshop exclusive cover by Lenka Šimečková, two of Britain’s best loved comics reunite for an anthology of brand new tales - guaranteed to terrify and entertain you!
    With more treats than tricks, this issue features Black Max by Kek-W and Simon Coleby, 13th Floor by Guy Adams, John Stokes and Frazer Irving, Black Beth by Alec Worley and DaNi, Best Friends Forever by Lizzie Boyle and Yishan Li, and Decomposition Jones by Richard McAuliffe and Steve Mannion.

* This was released on 17 October, but for some reason not listed on Rebellion's weekly advance previews. I've only just managed to get hold of a copy so I thought I'd include it here as it's Halloween.
    Two strips pick up from last year's special which reintroduced 'The Thirteenth Floor' and 'Black Max', the latter showing former 'Rat Trap' raspberry-blower Dr Rat in a whole new light this time round while the former makes clever use of the very different art styles of John Stokes and Frazer Irving. 'Black Beth', a sort of Axa-inspired female warrior, is revived from an old Scream!! Holiday Special, and it's clearly intended that she'll be coming back for more.
    'Bookworm' is a genuine Misty reprint, brought to beautiful new life in colour by Barbara Nosenzo, who was responsible for colouring the recent Halo Jones reprints, while 'Mint Condition' by Smuzz smartly inserts a Misty collection into a tale of teen girls set in 2040; the latter is probably my favourite strip here, although 'Decomposition Jones' comes a close second, an outrageous super-fly seventies disco cop throwback with a horror twist.
    This is well worth picking up; I had some reservations about last year's special, but this year it's all gold.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Space Ace #11 (October 2018)

The latest issue of Space Ace returns to the slightly longer story format, thanks to the appearance of two 12-page stories from the third Lone Star Annual (1957), 'Space Ace and the Black Pirate' and 'Space Ace and the Tyrant of Trathane'. In between is a 7-pager, 'Space Ace and the Tower of Tongaylar' from Lone Star v.5 no.3 (1959).

The earlier tales are interesting in that they refer to Space Ace under his former name – when Lone Star began publication in 1952, it introduced ex-stratosphere pilot, scientist and Sheriff (!), Space Squadron Commander Ace Hart. Unfortunately, there was already a character named Ace Hart ("the Atom Man"), who had been active since 1948 in the pages of World Distributors' Super Thriller. The strip and its hero became Space Ace, a rather odd name, but it stuck...

Why did Space Ace revert to Ace Hart in Turner's two stories? It might (and I emphasize might) be because Western Super Thriller (as the rival magazine had become) folded in 1956 and Turner or his publisher might have been attempting to re-establish the earlier name. However, Ace Hart subsequently turned up in text form in the Super Thriller Annual, making this a one-off reappearance.

In 'The Black Pirate', a space miner has his cargo of lithanium stolen and barely escapes with his life. Space Ace and Bill are soon on the trail of the Kelly gang, led by "Killer" Kelly, a gangster with an eye-patch and a base on Deimos, where miner "Digger" Dimes pays our heroes back for earlier saving his life, by saving theirs... twice!

Ron Turner's love of science fiction comes through in the creation of "Digger" Dimes, who owes something to "Noisy" Rhysling, a character created by Robert A. Heinlein, who roams the spaceways, singing songs. Heinlein's 'The Green Hills of Earth' is directly alluded to in one of Dimes' songs.

The shorter yarn of this latest trio relates how Ace and Bill pick up a message from the rightful ruler of Ralkor, a planet that has been taken over by the ruthless Kelvax. After a thrilling prison break-out, Ralkor and his Earthman rescuers take the battle right to Kelvax's headquarters.

'Tyrant of Trathane' also begins with an alien in distress, in this case the son of the ruler of the peaceful southern half of the planet Trathane. Its northern neighbour is ruled over by a tyrant named Timar who is about to launch a strike against the south. Ace and Bill investigate and discover that Timar is using a huge, mobile, burrowing bomb to lead his forces.

The issue also has a brief article about a very scarce Ron Turner project from 1954, Into Space with Ace Brave!, a pop-up book compiled and illustrated by Turner. I imagine that the illustrations will be new to most of the magazine's readers (they were to me!).

You can get hold of this latest volume of Space Ace for £8.95 (UK) or £12.50 (Europe) and £14.50 (International) including p&p — and that's pretty much at cost, I can assure you — with payments through Paypal via spaceace.54 AT or by cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.

John tells me that he has some back issues available from volume 7 onwards, but it is best to check for availability before trying to order.

In his editorial, John Lawrence announces that this is the penultimate issue of Space Ace. The next will be the last for now, although he already has another project up his sleeve. Replacing Space Ace will be Ron Turner's Tit-Bits SF Comics, which will reproduce, with John Ridgway's superb colouring, Turner's contributions to the scarce 1953-54 Pearson comic. The smaller paperback format made it impossible to reprint the stories in the same format as Space Ace without extensive cropping and resizing. One story from the first issue will be the previously unpublished (in English) 'Diamonds of Death', which has only ever appeared in France.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Tales of the Weird (British Library)

From the Depths and Other Strange Tales of the Sea, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35236-9, 19 July 2018, 318pp, £8.99.
From atop the choppy waves to the choking darkness of the abyss, the seas are full of mystery and rife with tales of inexplicable events and encounters with the unknown.
    In this anthology we see a thrilling spread of narratives; sailors are pitched against a nightmare from the depths, invisible to the naked eye; a German U-boat commander is tormented by an impossible transmission via Morse Code; a ship ensnares itself in the kelp of the Sargasso Sea and dooms a crew of mutineers, seemingly out of revenge for her lost captain
    The supernatural is set alongside the grim affairs of sailors scorned in these salt-soaked tales, recovered from obscurity for the 21st century.

Haunted Houses. Two Novels by Charlotte Riddell, ed. Andrew Smith
British Library 978-0712-35251-2, 30 August 2018, 354pp, £8.99.
From the once-popular yet unfairly neglected Victorian writer Charlotte Riddell comes a pair of novels which cleverly upholster the familiar furniture of the haunted house story. In An Uninhabited House, the hauntings are seen through the perspective of the solicitors who hold the deed of the property. Here we find a shrewd comedic skewering of this host of scriveners and clerks, and a realist approach to the consequences of a haunted house how does one let such a property? Slowly the safer world of commerce and law gives way as the encounter with the supernatural entity beRcomes more and more unavoidable In Fairy Water, Riddell again subverts the expectations of the reader, suggesting a complex moral character for her haunting spirit. Her writing style is succinct and witty, rendering the story a spirited and approachable read despite its age.

Glimpses of the Unknown. Lost Ghost Stories, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35266-6, 20 September 2018, 336pp, £8.99.
A figure emerges from a painting to pursue a bitter vengeance; the last transmission of a dying man haunts the airwaves, seeking to reveal his murderer; a treasure hunt disturbs an ancient presence in the silence of a lost tomb.
    From the vaults of the British Library comes a new anthology celebrating the best works of forgotten, never since republished, supernatural fiction from the early 20th century.
    Waiting within are malevolent spirits eager to possess the living and mysterious spectral guardians a diverse host of phantoms exhumed from the rare pages of literary magazines and newspaper serials to thrill once more.

Mortal Echoes. Encounters with the End, ed. Greg Buzwell
British Library 978-0712-35281-9, 4 October 2018, 288pp, £8.99.
A strange figure fortells tragedy on the railway tracks. A plague threatens to encroach upon an isolated castle. The daughter of an eccentric scientist falls victim to a poisonous curse. The stories in this anthology depict the haunting moment when characters come face-to-face with their own mortality. Spanning two centuries, Mortal Echoes features some of the finest writers in the English language including Edgar Allan Poe, Graham Greene, May Sinclair and H. G. Wells. Intriguing, unsettling and often strangely amusing, this collection explores humanitys transient existence, and what it means to be alive.

Spirits of the Season. Christmas Hauntings, ed. Tanya Kirk
British Library 978-0712352529, 18 October 2018, 288pp, £8.99.
Festive cheer turns to maddening fear in this new collection of seasonal hauntings, presenting the best Christmas ghost stories from the 1850s to the 1960s.
    The traditional trappings of the holiday are turned upside down as restless spirits disrupt the merry games of the living, Christmas trees teem with spiteful pagan presences and the Devil himself treads the boards at the village pantomime.
    As the cold night of winter closes in and the glow of the hearth begins to flicker and fade, the uninvited visitors gather in the dark in this distinctive assortment of haunting tales.

The Platform Edge. Uncanny Tales of the Railways, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35203-1, 18 January 2019, 256pp, £8.99.
Howling down the tunnels comes a new collection showcasing the greatest stories of strange happenings on the tracks, many of which are republished here for the first time since their original departure.
    Waiting beyond the barrier are ghostly travelling companions bent on disturbing the commutes of the living, a subway car disappearing into a different dimension without a trace, and a man's greatest fears realized on the ghost train of a carnival.
    An express ticket to unforgettable journeys into the supernatural, from the open railways of Europe and America to the pressing dark of the tube.

The Face in the Glass. The Gothic Tales of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, ed. Greg Buzwell
British Library 978-0712-35208-6, 1 February 2019, 352pp, £8.99.
A young girl whose love for her fiance continues even after her death; a sinister old lady with claw-like hands who cares little for the qualities of her companions provided they are young and full of life; and a haunted mirror that foretells of approaching death for those who gaze into its depths.
    These are just some of the haunting tales gathered together in this macabre collection of short stories. Reissued in the Tales of the Weird series and introduced by British Library curator Greg Buzwell, The Face in the Glass is the first selection of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's supernatural short stories to be widely available in more than 100 years.
    By turns curious, sinister, haunting and terrifying, each tale explores the dark shadows beyond the rational world.

The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson, ed. Xavier Aldana Reyes
British Library 978-0712-35233-8, 4 April 2019, 288pp, £8.99.
A splash of something huge resounds through the sea-fog. In the stillness of a dark room, some unspeakable evil is making its approach.
    This new selection offers the most chilling and unsettling of Hodgson's short fiction, from encounters with abominations at sea to fireside tales of otherworldly forces from his inventive `occult detective' character Carnacki, the ghost finder.
    A master of conjuring atmosphere, when the horror inevitably arrives it is delivered with breathtaking pace and the author's unique evocation of overwhelming panic.

Doorway to Dilemma. Bewildering Tales of Dark Fantasy, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35263-5, 3 May 2019, 272pp, £8.99.
Between horror and fantasy lies a world in which the inexplicable remains unsolved and the rational mind is assailed by impossible questions. Welcome to the realm of Dark Fantasy, where safe answers are beyond reach and accounts of unanswerable dilemma find their home.
    Delving deep into the sub-genre, fiction expert Mike Ashley has gathered an unsettling mixture of twisted tales, encounters with logic-defying creatures and nightmarish fables certain to perplex, beguile and of course, entertain.

Evil Roots. Killer Tales of the Botanical Gothic, ed. Daisy Butcher
British Library 978-0712352291, 22 August 2019, 272pp, £8.99.
Strangling vines and meat-hungry flora fill this unruly garden of strange stories, selected for their significance as the seeds of the 'killer plant' trope in fiction, film and video games.
    Before the Demogorgon of Stranger Things and the appearance of Mario's iconic foe the Piranha Plant, writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were exploring the lethal potential of vegetable life, inspired by new carnivorous species discovered on expeditions into the deep jungles of the world and breakthroughs in the grafting and genetics disciplines of botany.
    Suddenly, the exotic orchid could become a curiously alluring, yet unsettlingly bloodthirsty menace; the beautifully sprawling wisteria of the stately home could become anything but civilized, and the experimentation of botanists weening new shoots on their own blood could become fuel for a new genre of horticultural nightmare. Every strain of vegetable threat (and one deadly fungus) can be found within this new collection, representing the very best tales from the undergrowth.

Promethean Horrors. Classic Stories of Mad Science, ed. Xavier Aldana Reyes
British Library 978-0712-35284-0, 19 September 2019, 240pp, £8.99.
From the imaginations of Gothic short-story writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley and later weirdists such as H.P. Lovecraft came one of the most complex of villains - the mad scientist.
    Promethean Horrors presents some of the greatest mad scientists ever created, as each cautionary tale explores the consequences of pushing nature too far. These savants take many forms: there are malcontents who strive to create poisonous humans; technologists obsessed with genetic splicing; mesmerists interested in the way consciousness operates after death and inventors who believe in a hidden reality. United by an unhealthy obsession with wanting to reach beyond their circumstances, these mad scientists are marked by their magical capacity to alter the present, a gift that always comes at a price. . .

Roarings From Further Out. Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood, ed. Xavier Aldana Reyes
British Library 978-0712-35305-2, 3 October 2019, 288pp, £8.99.
From one of the greatest and most prolific authors of twentieth century weird fiction come four of the very best strange stories ever told.
The Willows: Two men become stranded on an island in the Danube delta, only to find that they might be in the domain of some greater power from beyond the limits of human experience.
The Wendigo: A hunting party in Ontario begin to fear that they are being stalked by an entity thought to be confined to legend.
The Man Whom the Trees Loved: A couple is driven apart as the husband is enthralled by the possessive and jealous spirits dwelling in the nearby forest.
Ancient Sorceries: In conversation with the occult detective and physician Dr. John Silence, a traveler relates his nightmarish visit to a strange town in Northern France, and the maddening secret from his past revealed by its inhabitants.

Tales of the Tattooed. An Anthology of Ink, ed. John Miller
British Library, 1 November 2019, £8.99.
The excruciating beauty, exoticism and mystery of tattoos is laid bare in this new collection of 12 stories ranging from the 1880s to 1940s.
    Uncovering the history of the tattoo in classic fiction for the first time, this original selection depicts the tattoo as a catalyst for scandal in society, as a symbol for an unknowable supernatural force, and as transcendent living art merging the spirits of a tattooer and his or her living canvas.
    Featuring previously hidden works from the pages of rare literary magazines such as 'The Starfish Tattoo' alongside such classics of the genre as Tanizaki's 'The Tattooer' and Saki's 'The Background', this exploration of the tattoo in fiction is guaranteed to leave an indelible impression.

The Outcast and Other Dark Tales by E. F. Benson, edited by Mike Ashley
British Library 978-071235386-1, 19 March 2020, 288pp, £8.99.
By a selection of disturbing details it is not very difficult to induce in a reader an uneasy frame of mind which, carefully worked up, paves the way for terror. — E. F. Benson
    A grisly spirit turns travelling companion for the unwitting passenger of a London bus; a repulsive neighbour returns from the grave, rejected by the very earth; an innocuous back garden becomes the stage for a nightmare encounter with druidic sacrifice.
    From deep in the British Library vaults emerges a new selection of E. F. Benson's most innovative, spine-tingling and satisfyingly dark 'spook stories'. Complete with an introduction exploring the fascinating story of Benson's life, and including the never-before-republished story 'Billy Comes Through', this volume hails the chilling return of an experimental master to whom writers of supernatural fiction have long been indebted.

A Phantom Lover and Other Dark Tales by Vernon Lee, edited by Mike Ashley
British Library 978-071235381-6, 16 April 2020, 288pp, £8.99.
"...Lee is as dangerous and uncanny as she is intelligent, which is saying a great deal."—Henry James
    During her lifetime Violet Paget, who wrote as Vernon Lee, was referred to as 'the greatest of modern exponents of the supernatural in fiction', and yet today she remains on the periphery of the genre. This collection of her uniquely weird short stories and dark fantasies proves why she was once considered among the best of the genre, and why she deserves to return to those ranks today.
    From modernised folk tales such as 'Marsyas in Flanders' and 'The Legend of Madame Krasinska' to ingenious psychological hauntings such as the titular 'A Phantom Lover' and 'A Wicked Voice', Lee's own voice is just as distinctive and captivating - her weird imaginings just as freshly unsettling - as in her fin-de-siècle heyday.

Into the Darkening Fog, Eerie Tales from the Weird City, edited by Elizabeth Dearnley
British Library 978-071235376-2, 20 August 2020, 320pp, £8.99.
'Outside, where the air was foggy, the square was noiseless, save for an occasional hoot of a motor passing into the streets. By degrees I found the light growing rather dim, as if the fog had penetrated into the room...'
    As the smoky dark sweeps across the capital, strange stories emerge from the night. A séance reveals a ghastly secret in the murk of Regent's Canal. From south of the Thames come chilling reports of a spring-heeled spectre, and in Stoke Newington rumours abound of an opening to another world among the quiet alleys.
    Join Elizabeth Dearnley on this atmospheric tour through a shadowy London, a city which has long inspired writers of the weird and uncanny. Waiting in the hazy streets are eerie tales from Charlotte Riddell, Lettice Galbraith and Violet Hunt, along with haunting pieces by Virginia Woolf, Arthur Machen, Sam Selvon and many more.

Weird Woods. Tales from the Haunted Forests of Britain, edited by John Miller
British Library 978-071235342-7, 27 August 2020, 240pp, £8.99.
Folk horror meets classic ghost stories in this new Tales of the Weird anthology
    Woods play a crucial and recurring role in horror, fantasy, the Gothic and the weird. They are places in which strange things happen, where it is easy to lose your way. Supernatural creatures thrive in the thickets. Trees reach into underworlds of pagan myth and magic. Forests are full of ghosts.
    Lining the path through this realm of folklore and fear are twelve stories from across Britain, telling tales of whispering voices and maddening sights from deep in the Yorkshire Dales to the ancient hills of Gwent and the eerie quiet of the forests of Dartmoor. Immerse yourself in this collection of classic tales celebrating the enduring power of our natural spaces to enthral and terrorise our senses.

Queens of the Abyss. Lost Stories from the Women of the Weird, edited by Mike Ashley
British Library 978-071235391-5, 24 September 2020, 352pp, £8.99.
This new anthology follows the instrumental contributions made by women writers to the weird tale, and revives the lost authors of the early pulp magazines along with the often overlooked work of more familiar authors.
    It is too often accepted that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was the male writers who developed and pushed the boundaries of the weird tale, with women writers following in their wake - but this is far from the truth. This new anthology follows the instrumental contributions made by women writers to the weird tale, and revives the lost authors of the early pulp magazines along with the often overlooked work of more familiar authors.
    See the darker side of The Secret Garden author Frances Hodgson Burnett and the sensitively-drawn nightmares of Marie Corelli and Violet Quirk. Hear the captivating voices of Weird Tales magazine contributors Sophie Wenzel Ellis, Greye La Spina and Margaret St Clair, and bow down to the sensational, surreal and challenging writers who broke down the barriers of the day. Featuring material never before republished, from the abyssal depths of the British Library vaults.

Chill Tidings. Dark Tales of the Christmas Season, edited by Tanya Kirk
British Library 978-071235323-6, 15 October 2020, 224pp, £8.99.
'The tiles of the hall floor were as pretty as ever, as cold as ever, and bore, as always on Christmas Eve, the trickling pattern of dark blood.'
    The gifts are unwrapped, the feast has been consumed and the fire is well fed -- but the ghosts are still hungry. The ghosts are at the door.
    Welcome to a new collection of Christmas nightmares, ushering in a fresh host of ghastly phantoms and otherworldly intruders bent on ruining, or partaking in, the most wonderful time of the year.
    With classic tales from Algernon Blackwood, Elizabeth Bowen, Charlotte Riddell and L. P. Hartley jostling with rare pieces from the sleeping periodicals and literary magazines of the British Library collections, it's time to open the door and let the real festivities begin.

Dangerous Dimensions. Mind-bending Tales of the Mathematical Weird, edited by Henry Bartholomew
British Library 978-071235368-7, 21 January 2021, 336, £8.99.
'I have stood on the dim shore beyond time and matter and seen it. It moves through strange curves and outrageous angles. Some day I shall travel in time and meet it face to face.'
    Unlike nineteenth-century Gothic fiction, which tends to fixate on the past, the haunted and the ghostly, early weird fiction probes the very boundaries of reality the laws and limits of time, space and matter. Here, unimaginable terrors lurk in hitherto unknown mirror dimensions, calamities in ultra-space threaten to wipe clean all evidence of our universe and experiments in non-Euclidean geometry lead to sickening consequences.
    In twelve speculative tales of our universe's mathematics and physics gone awry, this new anthology presents an abundance of curiosities and terrors with stories from Jorge Luis Borges, Miriam Allen deFord, Frank Belknap Long and Algernon Blackwood.

Heavy Weather. Tales of Stranger Climes, edited by Kevan Manwaring
British Library 978-071235358-8. 18 February 2021, 320pp, £8.99.
Since Odysseus' curious crew first unleashed the bag of winds gifted to him by Aeolus, the God of Winds, literature has been awash with tales of bad or strange weather. From the flood myths of Babylon, the Mahabharata and the Bible, to twentieth-century psychological storms, this foray into troubled waters, malicious heat waves, vengeful winters, hurricanes and hailstones, offers the perfect read on a rainy day - or night.
    Featuring tales of unearthly climatic phenomena from some of the finest writers in the English language including Algernon Blackwood, Herman Melville, William Hope Hodgson, Edgar Allan Poe and more, this collection of weird tales will delight and disturb.

Minor Hauntings. Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker
British Library 978-071235319-9, 20 May 2021, 272pp, £8.99.
There was a faint rustling sound, like some small silk thing blown in a gentle breeze. He sat up straight, stark and scared, and a small wooden voice spoke in the stillness.
    “Pa-pa,” it said, with a break between the syllables.

From living dolls to spirits wandering in search of solace or vengeance, the ghostly youth is one of the most enduring phenomena of supernatural fiction, its roots stretching back into the realms of folklore and superstition. In this spine-tingling new collection Jen Baker gathers a selection of the most chilling hauntings and encounters with ghostly children, expertly paired with notes and extracts from the folklore and legends which inspired them.
    Reviving obscure stories from Victorian periodicals alongside nail- biting episodes from master storytellers such as Elizabeth Gaskell, M. R. James and Margery Lawrence, this is a collection by turns enchanting, moving and thoroughly frightening.

Crawling Horror. Creeping Tales of the Insect Weird, edited by Daisy Butcher & Janette Leaf
British Library 978-071235349-6, 17 June 2021, £8.99.
‘Its long antennae waved inquiringly back and forth, its tiny eyes sparkled black with crimson points, and then it began to run. The Professor caught it in his hand as it toppled from the edge of the counter. It bit him.’
    A brush with a killer hornet upends a reverend’s life. A moth wreaks a strange vengeance on an entomologist. Bees deliver a supernatural dilemma to a mother-to-be. This new anthology offers a broad range of stories from the long history of insect literature, where six-legged beasts play many roles from lethal enemies to ethereal messengers.
    With expert notes on how each tale contributed to insect horror literature, Janette Leaf and Daisy Butcher are your field guides for a tour through classic insect encounters from the minds of Edgar Allan Poe, E. F. Benson, Clare Winger Harris and many more.

Cornish Horrors. Tales from the Land's End, edited by Joan Passey
British Library 978-071235399-1, 22 July 2021, 384pp, £8.99.
A mariner inherits a skull that screams incessantly along with the roar of the sea; a phantom hare stalks the moors to deliver justice for a crime long dead; a man witnesses a murder in the woods near St. Ives, only to wonder whether it was he himself who committed the crime.
    Offering a bounty of lost or forgotten strange and Gothic tales set in Cornwall, Cornish Horrors explores the rich folklore and traditions of the region in a journey through mines, local mythology, shipwrecks, seascapes, and the coming of the railway and tourism.
    With stories by Gothic luminaries such as Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe, this new collection also features chilling yarns of the haunted peninsula from a host of underappreciated writers from the past two centuries.

I Am Stone. The Gothic Weird Tales of R. Murray Gilchrist, edited by Daniel Pietersen
British Library 978-071235400-4, 19 August 2021, 320pp, £8.99.
‘The first thing my dazed eyes fell upon was the mirror of black glass... She held it so that I might gaze into its depths. And there, with a cry of amazement and fear, I saw the shadow of the Basilisk.’
    Through odysseys across dreamlike lands, Gothic love affairs haunted by the shadow of death and uncanny episodes from the Peak country, the portrait of a unique writer of the strange tale emerges. With his florid, illustrative style and powerful imagination, R. Murray Gilchrist’s impact on the weird fiction genre is unmistakable – and yet his name fell into obscurity following his death.
    Exploring tales of annihilation and shattered identities, fatalistic romances, bewildering visions of the sublime and mythological evils preying on the innocent, this new anthology is a journey through an entrancing and influential oeuvre essential for any reader of the weird.

Randall's Round. Nine Nightmares by Eleanor Scott, edited by Aaron Worth
British Library 978-071235405-9, 15 September 2021, 240pp, £8.99.
'These stories have all had their origins in dreams... Terrifying enough to the dreamer... I hope that some readers will experience an agreeable shudder or two in the reading of them.'
    A malignant entity answers the call of an ancient curse on the coast of Brittany; a traveller’s curiosity delivers him to an abominable Hallowe’en ritual; the curious new owner of a haunted mansion discovers something far worse than ghosts in the night.
    Randalls Round has long been revered by devotees of the weird tale. First published in 1929, its stories of ritualistic folk horror and M. R. James-inspired accounts of ancient forces terrorising humanity are thoroughly deserving of wider recognition. This collection includes a new introduction exploring Eleanor Scott’s impact on weird and folk horror fiction, and two chilling stories by N. Dennett – speculated to be another of the author’s pseudonyms.

Sunless Solstice. Strange Christmas Tales for the Longest Nights, edited by Lucy Evans & Tanya Kirk
British Library 978-071235410-3, 21 October 2021, 288pp, £8.99.
Like any other boy I expected ghost stories at Christmas, that was the time for them. What I had not expected, and now feared, was that such things should actually become real.
    Strange things happen on the dark wintry nights of December. Welcome to a new collection of haunting Christmas tales, ranging from traditional Victorian chillers to weird and uncanny episodes by twentieth-century horror masters including Daphne du Maurier and Robert Aickman.
    Lurking in the blizzard are menacing cat spirits, vengeful trees, malignant forces on the mountainside and a skater skirting the line between the mortal and spiritual realms. Wrap up warm – and prepare for the longest nights of all.

Shadows on the Wall. Dark Tales by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, edited by Mike Ashley
British Library 978-071235406-6, 20 January 2022, 304pp, £8.99.
Suddenly he began hastening hither and thither about the room. He moved the furniture with fierce jerks, turning ever to see the effect upon the shadow on the wall. Not a line of its terrible outlines wavered.
    The disquieting tales of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman explore a world of contrast, where the supernatural erupts out of authentically drawn portraits of New England life. This is a world of witchcraft, secrecy, domestic spaces turned uncanny and ancestral vengeances inflicted upon the unfortunates of the present.
    Collecting the best of the author’s strange tales – including 'The White Shawl', which was unpublished during her lifetime – this volume casts a light on an underappreciated contributor to weird fiction and the shadowy corners of a dark imagination.

The Ghost Slayers. Thrilling Tales of Occult Detection, edited by Mike Ashley
British Library 978-071235416-5, 24 March 2022, 288pp, £8.99.
Occult or psychic detective tales have been chilling readers for almost as long as there have been ghost stories. This beguiling subgenre follows specialists in occult lore – often with years of arcane training – investigating strange supernatural occurrences and pitting their wits against the bizarre and inexplicable.
    With tales featuring the most prominent psychic detectives such as William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki, the Ghost Finder and Algernon Blackwood’s Dr. Silence, this new collection also includes rare and never-before-reprinted cases investigated by the likes of Flaxman Low, Cosmo Thor, Aylmer Vance and Mesmer Milann.

The Night Wire and Other Tales of Weird Media
, edited by Aaron Worth
British Library 978-0712354110, 31 May 2022, 320pp, £9.99.
A mysterious radio signal reports cosmic doom from an otherworldly location. Photography and X-ray evidence suggests there may be some truth to a sculptor’s claim that he has created a god. A spectral projection sows terror amid the flickering light of the cinema. From the whispering wires of the telegraph and ghostly images of the daguerreotype to the disembodied voices of the phonograph and radio, the new technologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gave their users miraculous new powers – and new nightmares. After all, if Graham Bell’s magical device could connect us with loved ones a half a world away, what was to stop it from reaching out and touching the dead – or something worse?
    Tracing this fiction of fear from the 1890s to the 1950s, this new collection brings together the best tales of haunted or uncanny media from classic – and unjustly neglected – writers of the supernatural.

Our Haunted Shores. Tales from the Coasts of the British Isles
, edited by Emily Alder, Jimmy Packhamm and Joan Passey
British Library 9
78-0712354219, 23 June 2022, 320pp, £9.99.
The sea that night sang rather than chanted; all along the far-running shore a rising tide dropped thick foam, and the waves, white-crested, came steadily in with the swing of a deliberate purpose.
    From foreboding cliffs and lonely lighthouses to rumbling shingles and silted estuaries, the coasts of the British Isles have stoked the imaginations of storytellers for millennia, lending a rich literary significance to these spaces between land and sea. For those who choose to explore these shores, generations of ghosts, sea-spirits, fairies and tentacled monsters come and go with the tide.
    This new collection of fifteen short stories, six folk tales and four poems ranging from 1789 to 1933 offers a chilling literary tour of the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man, including haunting pieces by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Bram Stoker and Charlotte Riddell.

The Horned God. Weird Tales of the Great God Pan
, edited by Michael Wheatley
British Library 978-0712354967, 18 August 2022, 288pp, £9.99
The pipe music shrilled suddenly around her, seeming to come from the bushes at her very feet, and at the same moment the great beast slewed round and bore directly down upon her.
    In 1894, Arthur Machen’s landmark novella The Great God Pan was published, sparking a resurgence of literary fascination with the figure of the pagan goat god. Tales from a broad spectrum of writers - from E M Forster to prolific pulpsters such as Greye Le Spina - took the god’s rebellious and chaotic influence as their subject, spinning beguiling tales of society turned upside down and the forces of nature compelling protagonists to ecstatic heights or bizarre dooms.
    Selecting an eclectic cross-section of tales and short poems from this boom of Pan-centric literature – many first published in the influential Weird Tales magazine – this new collection examines the roots of a cultural phenomenon and showcases Pan’s potential to introduce themes of queer awakening and celebrations of the transgressive into the thrillingly weird stories in which he was invoked.

Spectral Sounds. Unquiet Tales of Acoustic Weird
, edited by Mannon Burz-Labrande
British Library 9
78-0712354172, 22 September 2022, 288pp, £9.99
My bell had rung. I sat up, terrified by the unusual sound, which seemed to go on jangling through the darkness. My hands shook so that I couldn’t find the matches... I began to think I must have been dreaming; but I looked at the bell against the wall, and there was the little hammer still quivering...
    From the ringing of a disconnected bell to footsteps in the halls of an abandoned house and the whisper of an unexplained voice in the ear, uncanny sounds are often the heralds of danger and terror in Gothic and supernatural fiction. Yet, when examining the range of stories which best manipulate our aural sense it is clear that there is more room to explore how significant sound is to our experience of fear.
    This new collection presents tales in which ghosts interact with the corporeal world through noise, bodiless voices wander through the ether, and the objects whose sounds we trust, like the telephone, betray us. Featuring obscure pieces alongside some of the pioneers of the weird including B M Croker, Algernon Blackwood, H D Everett and Sheridan Le Fanu.

Haunters at the Hearth. Eerie Tales for Christmas Nights
, edited by Lucy Evans and Tanya Kirk
British Library 9
78-0712354271, 13 October 2022, 288pp, £9.99
In the comfortable coffee-room of the old Boar’s Head, half a dozen guests, principally commercial travellers, sat talking by the light of the fire. The talk had drifted from trade to politics, from politics to religion, and so by easy stages to the supernatural...
    In the winter months, the cosiness of the hearth and armchair – or reading nook of choice – comes together with tales of creeping horror to form an enduring irresistible tradition of supernatural tales told – and read – in the long hours of darkness.
    Pairing up once again, Lucy Evans and Tanya Kirk present a new selection of vintage hearthside chillers, including strange tales of souls on the boundaries of life from W F Harvey and A M Burrage, a piece in which Christmas tree shopping leads to dire misfortune from Mildred Clingerman and a tale of jolly carolling gone sinister by L P Hartley.

Polar Horrors. Thrilling Tales From the Ends of the Earth
, edited by John Miller
British Library 978-0712354424, 10 November 2022, 256pp, £9.99
Fired up by the accounts of exploring parties in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, writers of the weird and supernatural began to construct a literary Arctic and Antarctic in which terrors lay undiscovered in the ice and gateways to bizarre hidden worlds were waiting. From James Hogg’s lurid North Pole narrative of life amongst polar bears in ‘The Surpassing Adventures of Allan Gordon’ to tales of mad science and ghostly visitations among the wind-blown expanse of the southern continent, this new collection showcases a wealth of neglected material and an overlooked niche of literature obsessed with the limits of human experience.
    Pulp tales of alien forces emerging from the ice and a battle between hunter and invisible man-eating duck creature drift alongside modern horror from indigenous Arctic voices to show the extent and endurance of the lure of these sublime landscapes.

* originally published 17 October 2018; revised, 19 April 2019; 19 March 2022; 18 June 2022.)

British Library Classic Thrillers

A spin-off from the successful British Library Crime Classics series.

The Traitor by Sydney Horler
British Library 978-0712-35614-5, September 2015, 256pp, £8.99.
‘War is coming – and that means our secret agents must get busy.’
    August 1918. On his way to the Western Front, Captain Alan Clinton spends a night in Paris with a young Frenchwoman, Marie Roget. Seduced by Marie’s charms, Clinton discloses British military secrets – with disastrous consequences.
    Seventeen years later. The central European state of Ronstadt is ruled by the ruthless dictator Kuhnreich, and Europe is inching towards another war. Clinton’s son Bobby travels to Europe as the political situation grows tenser, and seems dangerously close to repeating the sins of his father – leaving only his girlfriend to prove his innocence in a race against time.
    This thriller from 1936 is here republished for the first time in almost 70 years, with an introduction by the award-winning expert on inter-war popular fiction, Martin Edwards.
    Since Sydney Horler’s death in 1954 his work has fallen into neglect, partly because of the outmoded political opinions that are often expressed in the novels. This new edition gives contemporary readers a long overdue chance to rediscover an early thriller that is plotted with dash and verve – a book that helps to explain the author’s phenomenal popularity in his own time.

Trouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges
British Library 978-0712-35603-9, (Sep) 2015, 288pp, £8.99. Cover photo by akg-images/Imagno
‘A literary craftsman, who could spring surprises with his humour and sense of suspense.’ The Times
    Owen Bradwell is a courageous naval officer who returns to England in the 1930s. He believes that his career is over because he has become colour-blind – but with Nazi Germany an increasing menace, the authorities cannot do without Bradwell, and he is assigned a special mission.
    A former acquaintance of Bradwell’s has been trapped into betraying his country’s secrets by a Nazi agent. Bradwell is sent to spy on the spy, and travels down the Thames on a surveillance trip under cover of a fishing weekend. Things soon take an unexpected turn, and Bradwell finds himself in the company of a dead man, and a pretty young interior decorator called Sally.
    Will Bradwell triumph over the villains, and will he and Sally fall in love?
    This neglected thriller novel from 1945 is a pacy and entertaining read, rich with the classic twists of the genre: amnesia, blackmail, and a convict’s escape from Dartmoor.

The Light of Day by Eric Ambler
British Library 978-0712-35650-3, March 2016, 256pp, £8.99.
Arthur Simpson - 'British to the core', but without a passport to prove it - lives in Athens, scraping by as a driver, journalist and petty thief. When Simpson spots Harper at the airport he recognises him as a tourist new to the city and in need of a private driver. But an ill-judged attempt to relieve Harper of his traveller's cheques reveals him to be a highly sophisticated criminal, and entangles Simpson in a complex double blackmail.
    Simpson becomes an unwilling member of an armed gang in Istanbul, tasked with driving a suspicious car across the border. Soon he is an even less willing agent for the Turkish secret police, who suspect Harper of planning a coup - but his plans are far more audacious than that, and Simpson is in very deep water indeed.
    The Light of Day won the Edgar Award for best novel in 1964, and was the basis for the classic film Topkapi. Like much of Ambler's finest work, the novel focuses on an innocent man caught in a web of intrigue and deceit, and Simpson is one of the most memorable heroes in any classic thriller.

A Kind of Anger by Eric Ambler
British Library 978-0712-35645-9, March 2016, 256pp, £8.99
A car hurtles down the driveway of a luxury villa in Switzerland. The driver is a young woman, Lucia Bernardi. Inside the house, police find the body of her lover on the bedroom floor. The dead man – Ahmed Fathir Arbil – was an Iraqui refugee, who has been tortured and killed. Lucia vanishes into hiding in the South of France.
    Piet Maas, a journalist for the World Reporter, sets out on Lucia's trail, hoping for a scoop. Soon he must decide whether to publish his story – which will lead to Lucia's exposure and almost certain death – or join her in executing a perilous scheme that could net them both a fortune.

Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler
Brtish Library 978-0712-35655-8, March 2016, 256pp, £8.99
Some men take to gun-running because they have a longing for danger and adventure. Girija Krishnan, an Indian clerk, is not one of them. Deep in the Malayan jungle, Girija stumbles on a cache of arms hidden during the communist insurgency. Selling the arms will help Girija achieve his lifelong dream of founding a transport company.
    Two American tourists in the Far East find more adventure than they bargained for when they get entangled in Girija's plans. Greg and Dorothy Nilsen had wanted to go on an adventurous trip, to see some out-of-the-way places. So when Mr Tan in Hong Kong asks Greg to travel to Singapore and help with a business deal, Greg is surprisingly receptive. All he has to do is sign some papers and collect a handsome fee - but this is Greg's first step into the dangerous world of post-colonial rebellions, Chinese gun smugglers and Islamic revolutionaries.
    This classic thriller won the Crime Writers' Association gold dagger in 1959.

The End of the Web by George Sims
British Library 978-0712-35682-4, 21 September 2017, 192pp, £7.99.
Leo Selver, a middle-aged antiques dealer, is stunned when the beautiful and desirable Judy Latimer shows an interest in him. Soon they are lying in each other's arms, unaware that this embrace will be their last. Popular opinion suggests that Leo murdered the girl, a theory Leo's wife - well aware of her husband's infidelities - refuses to accept. Ed Buchanan, a former policeman who has known the Selvers since childhood, agrees to clear Leo's name. Selver and his fellow antique dealers had uncovered a secret and it is up to Ed to find the person willing to kill in order to protect it. This exhilarating and innovative thriller was first published in 1976.

The Last Best Friend by George Sims
British Library 978-0712-35684-8, 21 September 2017, 192pp, £7.99.
At 2pm on a Monday in 1966, Ned Balfour wakes in Corsica beside a beautiful woman. In the same instant, back in London, fellow art dealer and Dachau survivor Sam Weiss falls ten stories to his death. Ned refuses to believe that Sam's death was intentional, and his investigation thrusts him into the deceit and fraudulence of the art world, where he unmasks more than one respectable face. First published in 1967, this thrilling tale of vertigo, suspicion and infidelity is a long-forgotten classic with an intriguing plot twist.

(* Previously posted 3 August 2015.)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Comic Cuts - 26 October 2018

Now I've managed to get over the impasse of the Introduction, the text for the fourth volume of Forgotten Authors is almost done. I've indexed over 150 pages and might even have finished all 235 pages by the time you read this. I've still got some work to do (the print and e-book versions have to be reformatted in different ways, mostly involving the 300 footnotes), but I'll hopefully have it finished shortly.

Having actually sold a few of the books listed last week, I've been listing a few more items on Ebay. Go take a look: there's some Modesty Blaise items, a Dan Dare book, a couple of Frank Bellamy spares I've had to clear from my shelves... a right old mixture.

Having watched quite a lot of grim thrillers of late, I fancied something a little lighter for my downtime, and began watching Bones season one. I've seen the show before, back in the days when we had cable TV from Virgin. It was one of a number of shows that was caught up in a spat between Virgin and Sky back in 2007, after which I lost track of it. I've seen DVDs around and picked one up cheaply in a charity shop a month or so ago.

Apart from some gruesome-looking skeletons, the show has a lighter edge to it. somewhere in the middle of the scale – which has X-Files at one end and Moonlighting at the other – of shows featuring bickering male/female partners. It's about on the level of Castle, if you've seen that.

The skeletons are inevitably delivered to The Jeffersonian Institute in Washington for examination by their leading forensic anthropologist, Dr Temperance Brennan, nicknamed "Bones" by her reluctant FBI partner Seeley Booth. She is detached and lacks social skills; he is an ex-Army Ranger sniper who relies on instinct and distrusts "squints", as he calls Brennan's team. He's impatient, unhappy with his assignment, but grows to understand the quirks of the team, tolerating them without necessarily liking them.

The whole show hinges on the relationship between Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David 'Angel' Boreanaz) and there's enough spark between them to keep the series lively without you wanting to bang their heads together all the time. There were a couple of episodes where we begin to explore some of the characteristics of the leads to learn more about them, and these are handled better than most, producing three dimensional rather than two dimensional characters, the sum of more than one part rather than defined by a single incident. I noticed Noah Hawley was a writer and script editor on the series, and I've loved his more recent work on Fargo and Legion. Wikipedia has him working on the first three seasons of Bones, so I reckon it'll be worth grabbing the next two when I see them.

The other show I've been watching is season 3 of Daredevil from Netflix. I thought the first two seasons were fantastic and The Defenders, with Daredevil as one of the team, was pretty good. We've had to wait for ages for this third season and let's hope it's not the last. Iron Fist and Luke Cage have both been cancelled, the first perhaps not a surprise, but cancelling the latter has been a real shock, especially as the writing team was already delivering scripts for the third season. Something is going on between Marvel Studio and Disney and I'm not sure what it is.

One of the reasons I found the first season so compelling was that it... well, I can tell you exactly what said back in October 2015:
Well, Daredevil didn't disappoint. It retains the darkness of the DD 1998 reboot and the feel of those Brian Michael Bendis or Ed Brubaker series' that appeared in the 2000s. The characters are all integral to the story... Foggy isn't just a comedy sidekick to be wheeled out when the mood needs to be lightened; Karen Page isn't just wheeled out when the story demands a screaming woman for DD to save; and their actions have consequences, sometimes deadly. I'm really looking forward to the next season.
The same applies to this, the third season, which takes elements of 'Born Again', the 1986 serial from the monthly Daredevil title. Frank Miller was bought back to work with David Mazzucchelli on the series, Miller having rescued the character from certain doom a few years earlier. It also reminds me of the 1998 Daredevil reboot, which is where I really came onboard as a Daredevil fan. Sister Maggie, the fight with Bullseye in the church... it's all out of that 'Guardian Devil' storyline.

The reappearance of Vincent D'Onofrio is also to be celebrated. Kingpin is the personification of the criminal mastermind, the spider at the centre of the web, and D'Onofrio is a terrifying presence, the embodiment of self-control, with none of the histrionics that some actors bring to table when they're asked to play a villain.

What I like about the series is that Matt Murdoch, beyond his heightened other senses that allow him to "see" his surroundings, he doesn't have a power punch or invulnerable skin. He's as frail as the next guy. And Kingpin wants control of the city and its rackets, not some ridiculous high tech McGuffin machine or mystical stone. It's all grounded in the real. Oh [quick spoiler alert], and I'm glad to see that the costume has been ditched in favour of the black mask from the first season. Nobody looks heroic in a red leather onesie.

Randoms scans this week inspired by devils of one sort or another...


Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books