So there's this feisty little publisher here in Los Angeles which has begun charming its way into the hearts of readers of discernment all over the globe. Shadowridge Press technically started up several years ago but really began throwing its weight around just in the last twelve months or so. They boast books by Sarah Pinborough & F Paul Wilson, Tracy L Carbone, Stephen Woodworth, and Gardner Goldsmith among their catalog and have recently embarked on the ambitious project of bringing all of Dennis Etchison's collections back into print in attractive uniform editions.
Clearly, they've been doing everything right. So it must be in the spirit of the master carpet makers of ancient Persia -- who routinely introduced a deliberate flaw into their otherwise perfect creations so as not to offend the gods -- that they decided to slip a bit of Atkins into the mix.
In what is both the first American print edition and -- astonishingly, at least to me -- the twentieth anniversary edition, they've dressed my novel BIG THUNDER up in a stylish trade paperback and sent it back out into the world. It's "a neglected masterpiece", says Glen Hirshberg. And the fact that I have certain photographs in my possession shouldn't make you doubt his word.
Refusing to learn from their mistakes, Shadowridge are also unveiling the first USA edition of my short story collection, RUMORS OF THE MARVELOUS, previously only available -- as I'm sure you loyal blog readers remember -- as a rather lovely signed limited edition from the magnificent (and now award-winning) Alchemy Press in the UK. That edition was of course called RUMOURS OF THE MARVELLOUS because ha-ha you Brits are so funny and quaint.
Along with a bunch of my Shadowridge stablemates, I'll be at Dark Delicacies in beautiful downtown Burbank on July 8th at 4pm ready and willing to sign these books and, as usual, anything else you might care to put in front of me (local bylaws permitting). Please swing by and say hello if you can. And if you can't, I'm sure those nice people at Amazon would be happy to sell you the books anyway: amazon.com/author/peter_atkins
"It's all well and good, repackaging your old neglected masterpieces, Pete," I hear the less pleasant of you mumble. "But haven't you got anything new for us to neglect?" Well, as a matter of fact I have, Mr and Mrs General Public, as a matter of fact I have. So pipe the fuck down. Come this October, THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: WAITING will hit the shelves of the fourteen brick and mortar bookstores left in the continental United States and will feature -- among sterling work by Angela Slatter, Brian Hodge, Reggie Oliver, Michael Marshall Smith, Steve Rasnic Tem, Richard Gavin, Jay Russell, Thana Niveau, Stephen Baxter, and Kim Newman -- a new novelette-length contribution by yer 'umble servant called "The Stuff that Dreams are Made of". The book is the brainchild of the illustrious Stephen Jones, not only one of the most respected editors in our field but a mate of thirty years standing. We contributors had a lot of fun working on this one and I hope you all might enjoy it too. To whet your appetite, check out this fantastic pulp-throwback cover from Doug Klauba:
Friday, 20 January 2017
Two or three years back, I marked the occasion of Dennis Etchison's seventieth birthday by reprinting here my introduction to his FINE CUTS collection, leading no doubt to a massive upswing in sales for the lucky Mr. E. I am ashamed to say that this time last year I neglected to do the same favor for another then-brand-new septuagenarian, my dear old mate and living-fucking-legend, the great Ramsey Campbell.
Well, Ramsey turned seventy-one a couple of weeks ago and as seventy-one is the new seventy, or so I'm reliably informed by those who make the decisions about these things, it seems that it's not too late for another bit of burrowing through the archives.
2008 marked the twentieth anniversary of Ramsey's magnificent novel The Influence and Jerad Walters of Centipede Press was both wise enough to publish a superbly designed anniversary edition and kind enough to ask me to scribble down some thoughts about it and its author.
I'll inflict said thoughts on you in just a moment, but first ...
BEST INSCRIPTION EVER
I was browsing the bookcase in a thrift store a year or two ago and, stumbling upon a copy of the american edition of Ramsey's collection GHOSTS AND GRISLY THINGS, I was charmed by (and a little envious of) a lovely christmas-gift inscription from a sweet old grandmother to her beloved grandson.
In case you're reading this on your phone and are too dumb to zoom, it says: "Noah - Hope this book will scare the shit out of you. Love, Grandma". Wherever and whoever you are, Noah's Grandma, we love you.
A visit to centipede press is always a good idea for lovers of fine books and creepy shit and a search through their backlist might reveal a copy or two still available of their beautiful edition of The Influence. In the tiny hope it may drive some traffic their way, I offer the following:
CHOOSING YOUR DARK
You know that guy who can’t tell a joke to save his life? You know who I mean. He’s either a relative or somebody who works with you or went to school with you or whatever. You know, that guy. We’ve all got one. Let’s call him Jim, for now. Jim’s the idiot who, two minutes into the joke and half a sentence away from the punchline, suddenly pauses, has a little think, and then says “Did I mention that the Bartender only had one leg and the dog was blind?” Yeah. Jim. We hate Jim.
Or then there’s that other asshole, Jim’s mate Fred. Fred’s the one who wouldn’t know a spoiler if it bit him in the bollocks. The one who, upon recommending, say, Citizen Kane to someone who hasn’t yet seen it, will open with “It’s about this kid who’s got a sled called Rosebud . . .”
Well, writing an introduction to a novel as wonderfully constructed and as full of secrets and surprises as The Influence places one at risk of being one or the other of those two morons. You feel, on the one hand, obliged to convey certain pieces of narrative or thematic information in order to celebrate it properly and, on the other, constrained from giving too much away in order not to rob the novel of some of its power.
All of which means only this: Caveat Lector. Reader Beware. If you are lucky enough to be coming to The Influence for the first time, you might want to consider reading the novel itself before reading this introduction. I won’t be offended, I promise. Go on. Off you pop. I’ll still be here when you get back.
The Influence was first published in 1988 and was Ramsey Campbell’s eighth novel under his own name (there’d also been a couple of very good novelisations of old Universal monster movies, written under the house name Carl Dreadstone, and The Claw, written as Jay Ramsey*). There have been another fourteen novels since and the books divide, fairly evenly, into those that are tales of psychological suspense and those that are stories of the supernatural. The Influence is one of the latter and is, in my opinion, one of the very best, not just of Ramsey’s but of the field as a whole.
The novel is set in the author’s native Merseyside and tells the story of a significant year in the lives of the Faraday family – Alison and Derek and, particularly, their young daughter Rowan. In some ways the book could be described as a “domestic”, a tale of small lives and small dreams. It is the story of one family in one provincial town and takes place in relatively few locations. It is, of course, much more than that and the novel announces the scale of its secret ambition very early. There is a moment – one could call it passing, even throwaway, were one foolish enough to assume that Ramsey Campbell doesn’t always know precisely what he’s doing – on the very first page. Let’s enjoy it:
(Alison) fought her way along the narrow street beneath sodden embers of sodium lamps. Darkness several stories high carried windows past the end of the street, as if Queenie’s house had floated loose from its foundations. It was a ship beyond the dunes, and the dark bulk from behind which it had sailed was Queenie’s house, towering massively over its neighbors.
Isn’t that great? It’s at once a specific moment, a real moment – eerily and poetically described, perhaps, but accurate to the realistic circumstance that birthed it – but at the same time evocative of so much more. The careful reader is right there (on page one, for Christ’s sake!) put on notice that the darkness in which our characters will find themselves is vast, and that within it move things of enormous power – things barely glimpsed and less understood.
Curiously, transcribing those sentences from the novel, I find that, out of context, they actually seem clearer – and a little less powerful because of it. Which just goes to show that deconstruction or decontextualisation is no friend to Art – because, in context, they are gloriously disorienting; although Alison knows where she is (a street that faces the River Mersey), the reader, as yet, does not and thus the dark mass sliding past the end of the street is even more disturbing and mysterious to us than it is to her. It is a part that presents, in microcosmic prefiguring, the ultimate meaning of the whole. Like a fractal kaleidoscope endlessly revealing itself, it is a moment in which the literal and the metaphoric, the present and the prefigured, exist simultaneously, time and timelessness mutually infecting each other.