Yellow Book interview

Sometime earlier this year I posted the news that Spectral is going to publish a pamphlet of poetry in April 2016 (via Theatrum Mundi), reminiscent of the Yellow Book journals of the late 19th century and based around the King in Yellow mythos, edited by John Allen, called Songs of the Shattered World: The Broken Hymns of Hastur. Here’s an interview with the editor, originally posted to Thomas Ligotti Online, which gives an interesting insight into the interpretation of Robert W. Chambers’ creation. 

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A King in Yellow Q & A With John Thomas Allen

John Thomas Allen is a part of the online weird fiction community, maintaining Facebook pages devoted to surrealism and Richard Chambers’ King in Yellow. As a result of this devotion, he and a group of fellow-minded writers now have an anthology of poetry centered around the Yellow King and all things Carcosian appearing in the near future. Over the course of our discussions, I had the opportunity to ask Allen a number of questions about everyone’s favorite golden-hued otherworldly monarch, to explore some of the mysteries, and explain his own fascination with the Yellow King.

Q: How and when did you first encounter The King in Yellow, and what sort of effect did it have on you?

I borrowed an edition that was a dark yellow hardback, no cover illustration, from a University library and I don’t think I ever returned it. I was feeling especially forgetful at the time. That got to be a big thing. I got in trouble for not returning the book, serious financial trouble.
It wasn’t just that book, but they almost brought me to court on that one and a few others. Let me tell you something, when you have a guy at your door with a ticket for a prospective court date and on the summons is something for the King In Yellow, you’ll think about it a lot more.

Q: At the time Chambers was writing, the color yellow had become associated with corruption and decadence ( The Yellow Book , etc.); what sort of significance, if any, does ‘yellow’ possess for you?
Yellow is an inherently fascinating color, I think. I don’t why, specifically, but when I hear about the word “yellow” I think of madness, decay, death before I think about anything beautiful in nature. I grew up reading decadent poets like Ernest Dowson, Thomas Beddoes, etc.
Like probably every other quote on quote “literary” person, I’ve fantasized about drinking absinthe with Verlaine or snorting something with Sara Teasdale in the rain or whatever and dying some fanciful death you can never really die.

Q: Speaking of the Decadent movement itself, do you think it shares any special connections or connotations with the King in Yellow mythos?
I’m in love the idea of the King In Yellow; there’s something of a color coordinated majesty about Chambers’ idea that synthesizes the blood starved, ghastly iridescence of the so called “Decadent movement”. I like my idea of the Decadent movement probably more than what I would see if I went back and saw Maurice Rollinat bang away on his piano or, tangentially, watched the habits of Isidore Ducasse for a few days. To answer your question I absolutely do see a connection between Chambers’ stories and the collection of individuals who were later negatively termed “decadents”.

Q: The creations of some authors of weird fiction, such as Lovecraft’s ‘Great Old Ones’ and Machen’s ‘little people’ for example, can be read as expressions or embodiments of the personal beliefs of their creators; did Chambers intend the King in Yellow to retain a similar meaning? If so, how do you interpret him?


As a person who aspires to be an individual artist and write supernatural prose (Though I’m ordinary and boring enough to have started a surrealist group and stood with that group as one of them; ergo I’ll never be cool as Paul Valery and his disciples.), I don’t believe you can write anything with that kind of sustained genius and not attach a personal meaning to it. For all I know, the King In Yellow might exist in a non ironic and non symbolic and non reductionistic way.

KIY01

Q: While The King in Yellow is typically categorized as ‘supernatural fiction’, Chambers’ stories also contain such elements as Poesque psychological horror, near-­future alternate history, symbolist/proto-­surrealist phantasmagorias, and the conte cruel; it is fair then to classify Chambers amongst the authors of weird fiction, or does he deserve a different place in the literary canon?
Whatever play is being read by the characters in Chambers stories is not something one could reproduce. It drives people mad (it doesn’t give them a mental illness treatable by a psychotropic; it drives them mad, a word brought into question by the NIMH) and creates a venereal, polluted atmosphere.
I couldn’t go buy that at Barnes and Nobles and no amount of discouraging logical positivism is going to drive one mad either. Therefore, I personally conclude it is supernatural..which is to say a phenomenon outside the bounds of space, time, and any kind of limitation whatsoever by physics or human and natural laws.

Q: Throughout its history, The King in Yellow has become a sort of collective creation; Chambers originally created the ‘Yellow King’ stories by dramatically expanding upon several short Ambrose Bierce pieces, HP Lovecraft in turn incorporated Chambers’ mythology into his own fictional universe, and numerous writers since have used these texts to build and flesh out further connections. What is it about The King in Yellow that lends itself to this sort of group effort?

To use a bit of hippy jargon, I think Chambers takes us for a moment into the forbidden zone philosopher Norman O. Brown wrote about and suggests what might happen if every degenerate, cackling impulse flew out of the ovulating giggles of our really strange, semiotically balanced psyches.
Mr. Castaigne, for instance, in “The Repairer of Reputations” is a hilarious caricature of a brain damaged nutcase. Ever met anyone with a brain injury who behaves quite like that? Probably not. But Chambers’ suggestion, that an event as simple and horrific as falling off a horse could bathe one in the fetid areas of the psyche permanently is so believable when you read the story.
He does what great horror writers do: he makes us fear ourselves, the world around us, and above all, the world within.
“In the Court of the Dragon” takes a bunch of young artists and makes their Sturm und Drang real. At first they have the average sort of ‘let’s paint something or do something but gave affairs first.’ Somehow, someone gets a copy of ‘The Yellow Book’ and boy, do things get real.

yellow-historical

Q: The King in Yellow is not just the title of a book; it is also the title of a play and the name of an otherworldly entity appearing within that book; what does this interplay of meaning and identities (potentially metatextual) suggest or conjure up for you?
I suspect that the color yellow is no more inherently disturbing than any other color, but I like to think it actually is because of my literary enthusiasms and the imaginative potency it now possesses. The King In Yellow could just as easily have been some obscure 60’s band, like The Crystal Chandelier or the Velvett Fog, or been a song lyric in one.
But Robert W. Chambers put this uncanny phrase into a series of powerful stories (as powerful, to my mind, as anything Lovecraft wrote) that Derleth later called mythos. Me? to me it suggests some sort of supernatural, immaterial, immanent antihero composed of spectral hues with an unfathomably disgusting book written in bitter calligraphy. I love it!

Q: Characters in The King in Yellow who read that titular play find afterwards find reality undergoing strange mutations; have you ever felt haunted by any of Chambers’ tales, and in what way?

Yes. Once, in college, I was watching a movie that every dystopic or antinatalistic or pessimistic would love called Pate by directorAgnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo.
It really should be on DVD, as it is a horrific and slow meditation on the nonsense of social mores and a sort of elegant, refined cannibalism–as elegant and refined as that can get.

A friend of mine who was slightly sinister offered me some Kava tea, claiming Kava was known to calm people down. I just had this thought: it’s kinda weird, us watching this beyond desolate movie and everyone being lulled to sleep with the herb which I hated. Then I noticed the 1989 Dedalus copy of The King In Yellow on his bookshelf. I got creeped, and I actually left after awhile…..with the copy of the book I’d given to him.

Q: Which of Chambers’ Yellow King stories and has had the greatest effect upon you, and why?
In the Court of the Dragon.”
Just how he rips away youth and innocence. It’s like someone threw acid on the immortal souls of everyone in the story.

Q: Many other notable weird writers, including the likes of Karl Edward Wagner and Joe Pulver, have also fallen under the spell of Carcosa; what is your favorite contribution to the King in Yellow canon not written by Chambers?
Hands down, Don Webb’s short “Movie Night At Phil’s.” That story explored this world where a fictional movie with Vincent Price entitled “The King In Yellow” drives a fairly normal household insane. It was perfect.
Don is going to be in our anthology Songs of the Shattered World: The Broken Hymns of Hastur, which has a stated release date of April 1st, 2016 from Spectral Press. Simon Marshall Jones is a warrior, one of the finest publishers I’ve ever worked with. He took this project on very short notice and displayed a generosity one rarely sees.
Yeah, Joe Pulver put that collection together, A Season In Carcossa, I just remembered. I enjoy fiction and poetry that’s more about suggestion and less about an outgoing, look at the violence here, that kind of thing, though of course that has a place.
And Karl Edward Wagner, definitely! I love what he did for Howard, who I think had a beatifically manic case of the crazies. He’s still not appreciated enough (though of course some of that is his own fault.) Wagner was like the Roky Erikson of the KIY “mythos”.

Q: What is the significance of the actual King in Yellow himself to you? What does he mean, and why is he frightening?
To me, he represents that which has absolutely no context. An embodied obscenity that embosses SIN across everything, like Mucha. He’s like Keyzer Soze in a less corny, postmod movie. Also I associate him more with poetry than macabre fiction, and I’m primarily a poet.

Q: A year after the whole True Detective affair, what do you feel about the show in connection to The King in Yellow ; has the effect it has had on the Carcosa mythos been negative, positive, or somewhere in between?
I certainly would not have seen a Barnes and Nobles edition of The King In Yellow without True Detective. That made my day, just seeing it there like that. The thing about True Detective I loved was that it brought that Ligottian feel in a way I hadn’t seen before anywhere.
The thing is when a philosophy–and I’m mostly friends with antinatalists, though I happen to be a Roman Catholic–tries to attach itself to everything, some of the pure magic of horror is lost. And while I loved a lot of True Detective, I don’t think everything always has to point to the perceived worthlessness of existence. It gets old. When we insist that this is what that writer meant by this story, etc etc, and everyone falls in lockstep, that dangerous magic get sealed up. Funny, one might think, or God forbid a Catholic talk like that. We are old enough!
But, like my friend Mark Samuels (also in the anthology), I feel mysticism has a place that can never be annihilated. One might say nihilism needs mysticism, and the reverse. Plus, Machen, Blackwood and James, you know, weren’t atheists or antinatalists or anything like that.
I personally wouldn’t want St. Thomas Aquinas to be the philosophical lynchpin of everything I read in terms of theology, you know? But Thomas Ligotti wrote such a great book with the Conspiracy. Every word weighed, everything taken into the most minute consideration.

People posting antinatalist videos doesn’t bother me a bit, even on my YouTube channel.

Q: Conceivably, what is the impact you would like to have this anthology to have, both as poetry and as a contribution to the Yellow King canon?

I hope this will be a fallback to Aubrey Beardsley’s Yellow Book; that’s the goal. An authentic Yellow Book filled with some of the most talented Yellow poets you could imagine, decadent as Mario Praz would have had it.
Thinking about this even makes a Coldplay song sound good. I want it to be an ultra-refined treat for fans of poetry AND fans of the macabre, as I think Chambers was thinking more of poetry than prose when he wrote his stories—or the spirit of poetry.
Speaking of music, I’m surprised none of the champions of the KIY have discovered an acoustic/ambient group entitled “Thus Sayeth The King”; you can download their first album on Bandcamp for 10 bucks.

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Something a little different…

 

DAF Turbo artic Spectral Press 01

As is often said, “From small acorns do great trees grow…” and our esteemed chief editor and publisher Simon Marshall-Jones took that to heart. As a collector of diecast vintage commercial vehicles from the years 1900 – 1970, the promotional item pictured above was a natural choice – although, disappointingly, no vintage vehicle models were available to customise. Instead, however, we have this DAF Turbo artic instead in 1:87th scale, which is still verily imposing. We all have to start somewhere…

Many thanks to Taff of Oxford Diecast Models for sending me in the right direction – and thanks also to Tony Graham of Code 3 Models for producing the model. Now, next step is to make the real thing happen – now that WOULD be imposing…

DAF Turbo artic Spectral Press 02

The Spectral Book of Horror Stories Vol. 2: submissions open

Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris - ©2014 respective individual authors/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Vincent Chong

Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris – ©2014 respective individual authors/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Vincent Chong

Mark Morris has just announced the following:

“I’m pleased to announce that THE 2ND SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES is now open to submissions! Stories can be any length (though the preferred length is 2000-8000 words) and payment is £20 per 1000 words, up to a maximum of £100, which means that if you submit a story that’s over 5000 words it will be on the understanding that you’ll be giving us those additional words for free. The closing date for submissions is June 30th, and the book will be launched at FantasyCon in October. Due to the volume of stories I’m expecting to receive over the next few months it may take a while for me to get back to you, and my responses may, by necessity, be brief (I have my own writing deadlines to meet, after all). All submissions should be sent to

spectralhorror2@gmail.com

and stories should be double-spaced in a clear, readable font. There’s no theme for the anthology – all I’m looking for are well-written, original, disturbing stories that push my buttons. If you want further clues as to the kinds of stories I like, I recommend you buy and read a copy of the inaugural volume of THE SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES, which is available from Spectral Press. Thanks – and good luck!”

The Spectral Book of Horror Stories will once again feature a cover by Vincent Chong. 

PRICES WILL REMAIN THE SAME AS LAST YEAR AND WE WILL ACCEPT ADVANCE ORDERS – EMAIL spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com for details.

Thank you!

THE SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES VOL 1

£12.50 UK

£15 EU

$30 US & RoW

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Spectral Christmas E-card

We here at Chateau Spectrale (all two of us…) would like to wish all authors, contributors, collaborators, artists, customers, and sentient beings across the multiverses, past, present, and future, the very highest blessings for the holiday season and beyond into 2015. We can guarantee that next year is going to be crazy (in the best way, of course)… stay tuned!

Graham Joyce 1954 – 2014

Graham Joyce 1954 - 2014

Graham Joyce 1954 – 2014

“Why can’t our job here on earth be simply to inspire each other?”

These simple words resonate very strongly in the hearts of many today. I very rarely struggle with words, but today I am having difficulty in finding the right ones. Yesterday, someone I was privileged enough to call a friend who also happened to be a giant among his peers, Graham Joyce, passed from this mortal plane at the age of just 59 due to aggressive lymphoma. The outpouring of grief on Facebook from his many friends and acquaintances stands as testament to just how much he was loved, respected, and admired.

I can’t say I knew him well, but I DID know him well enough to call him a friend. A very gentle man, full of inspiration, humour, and mischief, a twinkle always in his eyes and a smile ready to grace a handsome face. His was an extraordinary talent, able to turn the mundanities of the everyday into something magical and exciting, enabling us to view the world through different, perhaps clearer, eyes. Graham looked beyond the superficial to see the real core of the matter, performing the literary equivalent of alchemy, turning the base material of what he saw around him into the gold of the phantastique. My first encounter with his work was The Silent Land, a tale of a young couple going on a skiing holiday, only to find themselves in a strangely quiet, abandoned ski resort after an avalanche, which they find impossible to leave. The story is told with astounding simplicity, yet the grace and quiet power of the man’s prose is undeniable, leaving one profoundly affected on some primal emotional level. The one over-riding aspect of Graham was that he carried those qualities of simplicity, grace, and quiet power into his everyday life. Once met, never forgotten.

I first met him at alt.fiction in Derby in 2010, long before Spectral had even been thought of. I introduced myself to him (an unusual thing in those days, as I was [and still am] quite shy), and he had the grace to ask me where he’d heard my name before. We struck up a conversation, and his warmth and charm won me over very quickly. There were no pretenses with Graham (as, indeed, I found with all the writers I’ve crossed paths with since): he was a straightforward and principled man, more than ready to support those who were just beginning their journeys within the genre. He would always take the time to talk to me whenever we happened to be in the same room and it was always as an equal: he never let his stature as a writer of the first magnitude get in the way because, I think, he genuinely loved people.

It was because of this love that he often stood for the underdog and those who were downtrodden. He hated bigotry and prejudice of any kind, as all of us within genre do. He simply wanted the best for everybody, regardless of their station in life or their abilities. One of the social issues he railed against was the constant uninformed interference of the former Education Minister Michael Gove, whose ideas he saw as being detrimental to the future education and well-being of children in this country. He was angry enough to start a petition to have Gove removed from office. Gove did go, and many of us would like to think that it was Graham’s hearty opposition to the Minister that helped to shoehorn him out.

I last saw him at the funeral of Joel Lane last December. The ironies and parallels here are not lost on me – Joel was meant to be at FCon 2013 and died shortly afterwards. Graham was meant to MC at this year’s event but was unable to attend, and died after the convention had ended. Both men were behemoths of literature, bringing to genre a breadth of vision and literacy that is often absent from certain quarters of the field. Both men were the epitome of kindness laced with humour and mischief. Both were passionate agitators against in the inadequacies and inequalities of an unfair social system. Both were just great fun to talk to and be with.

I’ve been reading many testaments to Graham on Facebook this morning, all far more eloquent and moving than I could hope to write. Above all, their combined power is to delineate a man of broad cultural and social qualities, someone of immense depth and significance. And none of us should forget that he WAS and IS significant, as a writer, friend, and human being. We are often prone as a species to compare those of extraordinary talent to some celestial phonemenon, such as a comet or meteor: in Graham’s case those are far too transient and ephemeral, totally inadequate to the task at hand. The man was a hypernova, a rare event in the life of the universe, just as Graham was a being of rare qualities and attributes here on earth. His like is very rarely encountered, and the odds of meeting another like him have been considerably diminished.

Graham, I hope that you and Joel are supping a pint of the best celestial nectar up there, and let it be known that you will be sorely missed down here by all those whose lives you touched.

GRAHAM JOYCE  – RIP

Black Country Prophet – Joel Lane Archive 2

Today, we bring you the second in our celebration of the life and work of the much-missed writer Joel Lane, who died last year at the age of 50 due to complications arising from sleep apnoea and diabetes. Today, writer Rosanne Rabinowiz chooses her favourite story of Joel’s and introduces it below.

Joel Lane - photograph by Nicholas Royle

Joel Lane – photograph by Nicholas Royle

Midnight Flight

Commentary by Rosanne Rabinowitz

I first encountered Joel’s writing in 1995 when I read the Last Rites and Resurrections anthology, which included his story “Take Me When You Go” (I commented on this story here (http://rosannerabinowitz.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/joel-lane-1963-2013-theres-always-a-link-between-deprivation-and-fantasy). Later on, I was proud to see some of my work end up in anthologies alongside Joel’s.

We both contributed to Des Lewis’ anthology The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, where each story included a horror anthology as its central focus. Mine was “The Pearl and the Boil”, and Joel’s story was “Midnight Flight”.

As usual, I turned to Joel’s story first. I found that both our stories took on a similar theme – someone is searching for a disturbing and alluring anthology that they read as youngsters, which wielded a great influence on their lives.

And while mine was 10,000+ words, Joel told his story with enviable and haunting economy.

Joel’s faltering protagonist is looking for a book called Midnight Flight, which he took out of the school library as a child. The book contains strange tales centred on flight and winged nocturnal beings. Many involve creepy moths. Curious children get drained of blood; there is a creature that can only fly in utter darkness.

Like the anthology at its centre, Joel’s story is also disturbing and dark. His protagonist is losing his memory, and needs to recapture moments from his childhood. While the stories in Midnight Flight horrified him, the book also represented escape and pleasure.

His determination to track down a copy of this book leads him to the editor himself… Yet Joel denies the reader an easy resolution, and ends on an ambiguous note. Perhaps the meeting with the aged editor is much more frightening than all the creepy winged things in the anthology put together. This very non-supernatural encounter in a nursing home summons the fears of many maverick writers or editors. How will I end up? Will I die alone, trembling and forgotten? Will the one person left in the world who remembers  and values my work ever find me?

‘Midnight Flight’ is an altogether bleak yet beautiful tale.

 

 

Midnight Flight

by Joel Lane

Paul Cooksey remembered the book’s title on the same day that he forgot where he lived. As his bus neared the Hockley Flyover and the tall buildings on either side receded, he had a momentary sensation of flying on wings of concrete. Night was falling, but the streetlamps hadn’t yet come on. Cars streamed past on the outside lane. He closed his eyes, and a name he’d been trying to recall for months came back to him as naturally as if he’d never lost it. Midnight Flight.

The editor’s name continued to elude him, and it wasn’t any of the usual suspects. The book had been in the school library, quite battered when he’d read it in… 1956 it must have been, when he was twelve. The first book of horror stories he’d read, unless you counted the children’s versions of Norse and Greek myths and Beowulf, which you probably should.

As the bus crawled through heavy traffic on the Soho Road, the teenagers shouting into their mobiles and headphones leaking beats drove the book from his mind. But now he’d remembered the title, maybe he’d be able to track down a copy. It might even have the original cover. He couldn’t see through the murky windows to identify his stop, and the chanting around him was getting louder as if the reception was better at this point. Paul rose to his feet and cautiously pushed his thin body past the standing youngsters. Nobody moved to let him through.

Midnight Flight. There was a story about a lonely boy who collected moths and was drained of blood by a vengeful giant moth with skulls on its wings. And a story about a dead lake haunted by a terrible black moth. There were other kinds of winged creature in the book, including one that could only fly in utter darkness because it came from outer space, but it was the moth ones he remembered most clearly. For years he’d dreamt of flying through the night on fragile wings.

“Get out the fucking way!” A boy on a racing bike narrowly missed him on the pavement. The cold air transmitted the near-impact. Paul looked around in confusion. He must have taken a wrong turning: there were no familiar landmarks in sight. A woman with a pram was approaching; he’d better ask her.

“Excuse me,” he said as she drew level with him. “Do you know the way to…” What was the name of the road? He shook his head. “Shit.”

“Even my daughter knows that.” The woman smiled. “Where are you trying to get to?”

“My flat. Just can’t…” Blood rose to his face, silencing him.

“Have you got a bus pass?”

“I can walk, it’s not far.” Though he was no longer sure of that.

The woman touched his arm. “For your address.”

Doubtful, Paul pulled out his wallet and checked. His address in Victoria Road was there. He’d never been good with women’s names. “Thank you,” he said, breathless with relief.

“No worries.” He watched her continue up the road, weaving to negotiate the shattered paving-stones. The sky overhead was fully dark; a helicopter’s light moved slowly above the rooftops. Paul replaced his wallet and buttoned up his coat. He wasn’t convinced the face in the bus pass photo was him, but you couldn’t be sure of everything.

*

Three days later, he remembered the editor’s name. It happened in the Black Eagle, while he was trying to read the new menu. The lines were too close together, blurring like ripples on still water. He folded the card and put it down, trying to recall what he’d last eaten here. At the next table, a middle-aged man with a beard was being tugged from side to side by headphones plugged into some round, black device that looked about to crawl away. He raised his arms above his head. Paul looked back down at the menu card and immediately saw the words: Thom Creighton Parr. He adjusted his glasses and read: Torn chicken pasta. But he was sure it was the right name. When he closed his eyes he could see it under the book’s title, superimposed on an image of blurred wings against the night. Black on dark blue.

The pasta was too expensive, so he opted for pie and chips, which didn’t remind him of anything. It didn’t taste of anything either. The bearded man played invisible drums in the air. The sound of voices arguing at another table rose to a violent pitch, though Paul couldn’t see any movement. He left his pint unfinished. On the way out, a grey-haired woman turned her head towards him and smiled. “How’s it going?” He didn’t recognise her; she must be speaking to someone else. But she looked disappointed when he didn’t stop. Embarrassment made him head for the door as quickly as his shaky legs would go. Was it possible that every memory he regained had to be paid for with another one?

*

A grey dawn was filtering through the curtains, turning his bed to concrete. Paul sat up and gripped the sides of his head to absorb the dull throbbing before it could break free. His throat was dry. Flakes of dead skin drifted from his fingertips. Was that what old age meant, that the layers of skin went deeper so that less and less of you was alive? He reached out to the bedside table, switched on the lamp and picked up a second-hand book. A detective story. But his eyes were too tired: the lines of print crept across the yellowing paper. When he couldn’t read, why was he convinced that Midnight Flight would release him from pain and loneliness? Was it just because it had done that for him as a child?

Perhaps the local library could help him. Not that it would have the book, or any book published in the last century. But the computers whose blank screens had frozen him out might hold some answers. Paul washed and dressed a little faster than his usual lethargic morning pace, putting on his favourite cardigan despite the holes he noticed in its left shoulder and arm. Midnight Flight was out there, nestling on a wooden shelf, its pages waiting to be turned again. Maybe the same copy he’d read and re-read all those years ago.

The library’s few bookshelves were mostly taken up with standard reference works and large print volumes – which Paul, for the first time, wondered if he ought to borrow one of. A few newspapers were scattered on the tables between the long ranks of computers.

The librarian, a short middle-aged man with an oddly boyish expression, looked up Midnight Flight on his desk terminal. “No copies in the library system any more,” he said. “There’d be one at the British Library, of course, but that’s in London. Have you tried ABE Books?” He didn’t know what that was. The librarian checked his ticket, then found him a computer and showed him how to search. No second-hand copy seemed to be available online. The librarian left him to further searches. “Good luck, Mr Cooksey.” Paul wondered who he was talking to. He had to look back at his own ticket to see that was his name.

A search for Thom Creighton Parr yielded seven links. Three of them were to listings of second-hand copies of his book on bowling, Green Pastures, while two more were bowling society websites that cited the same book. Another was a Wikipedia entry that gave Parr’s birth date as 1923, but no death date. It mentioned Midnight Flight, but only to describe it as a “long-forgotten horror anthology” with only one edition, in 1954.

The final link was to a website called Crypt of Cobwebs, dedicated to British and American horror fiction. Paul hadn’t read much in that genre since Midnight Flight. He’d tried a few other anthologies in the sixties and seventies but had given up, nauseated by severed heads and vats of acid. The linked passage was in an article on British horror anthologies before 1980. It said:

One of weird fiction’s great ‘lost books’ is Midnight Flight edited by Thom Creighton Parr (Acheron Press, 1964), which is thought to have included tales by Lovecraft and Jacobi. All the stories involve winged nocturnal creatures. A reviewer called the book “too disturbing to read”, and it was never reprinted – though of course, true weird fiction stood little chance of being appreciated in the Marxist sixties. Copies are hard to track down. It’s rumoured that copyright problems led to copies of the book being recalled. Or maybe they just flew away.

The article was by Niall Verde. Working back through the Crypt’s elaborate structure, which seemed to extend under a broad church, Paul found topics ranging from an early Gothic novel to a recent erotic vampire thriller. Verde was among the most frequent posters. His comments, always made in the early hours of the morning, were mostly concerned with how little “the herd” understood about “true weird fiction”. In the course of a bitter argument with another insomniac, he remarked that “visionary” works such as his own collection The Veil of Fail were doomed to oblivion because “writers who care more about creating great fiction than self-promotion will always be passed over.” There was a link to Verde’s personal website, but Paul had seen enough. He cleared the screen, then tried a search for Acheron Press. Much to his surprise, the imprint still existed. He wrote down the address, which was in Stafford.

*

The train shuddered as it lost and gained speed, pausing between stations in a landscape of shut-down factories and empty fields. The view had been sprayed white and called morning, but he could see the night sky underneath. Then the young man sitting in front of him pulled down the grey curtain so he could read his phone. Paul closed his eyes and shivered. He didn’t want to be alone with his memories, because they couldn’t be relied on. The gaps were spreading, a ragged pattern of darkness like the wings on the cover of Midnight Flight.

He’d written to Acheron Press, and a typed letter had come back with a shaky signature. The original publisher was still alive, though a decade older than Paul, and said he still got occasional queries about Midnight Flight. Their stock had been destroyed in a fire in 1971. There’d been some ex-library copies in circulation for a while. They’d never considered reprinting the book because, after the fire, they’d switched to publishing non-fiction – mostly natural history and Egyptology. The business was steadily winding down, though a few local societies and museums supported it.

What had made Paul buy the train ticket was the news that Parr was still alive. The Acheron publisher still sent him occasional royalties for some entomology books he’d provided photographs for. Since 2006 he’d been living at a nursing-home in Stoke-on Trent. The publisher had commented: “He and I used to keep in touch, but these days I’m afraid he’s hardly there.”

The train ground to a halt. Paul wiped his eyes with a hand that felt dry as paper. Surely this was the fool’s errand to end them all. A man losing his memory on a quest to find a man who’d already lost his own. He wanted to believe that Parr could help him find the book – or even tell him, from further down the road, where his own journey into darkness was heading. Perhaps this happened to everyone who’d read the book.

Last night he’d sat by the phone, trying to remember his sister’s number or the number of anyone he knew. His address book had flown away months ago. Paul had lived alone since his teens. Hadn’t slept with a woman in thirty years, still missed it though he doubted much would happen if he got the chance. All in all, he’d rather miss things than forget what they were like. Hence the ticket.

On the platform at Stoke, Paul was surprised how unsteady his legs were. As if not just the two-hour journey but the change of scene had affected his connection with the ground. He bought an A-Z map in the station newsagent, but couldn’t make out the street names. Outside the station, everywhere seemed to be boarded up. He’d never find the way. It was hard enough with places he knew. Behind the derelict buildings, the illusion of daylight seemed more fragile than ever. He waved down a black cab and asked the driver for the Tyton Retirement Home.

“Been away, have you?” the driver asked as Paul settled himself awkwardly in the back.

“Yes.” Why not let him think that? If he said he didn’t live here, there would be questions he couldn’t answer. The cab swerved around potholes in the road, passed the grey skeletons of buildings. This might as well be his home: a town that had lost its sense of identity. He belonged here. The driver stopped at a traffic light; a young woman crossed the road, a phone pressed to the side of her face.

The nursing-home was a few miles out of town, where the dereliction was softened by the flame and rust of autumn trees. Dead leaves marked the road with an incomplete pattern. The cab’s wheels crunched on the gravel driveway. The building had a new white frontage, though its side was rotting grey brick. Paul paid the driver; it was almost all the cash he had.

The young male nurse who answered the door stared at Paul as if trying to remember who he was. Paul knew how the lad felt. He said, “I’ve come to visit Mr Parr. Is he in?”

The nurse nodded. “You’ll find him in room 17, ground floor.” As Paul moved towards the door, he added: “Have you booked?”

“Sorry, no. I wasn’t sure when I’d get here.” The nurse looked like he was considering blocking the way, but then stepped aside at the last moment.

The interior of the home was poorly lit and smelt like an old-fashioned dry cleaner. Mothballs, that was it. Pipes vibrated behind the walls. The dirt in the cracked floor-tiles suggested a partly-erased image. Most of the doors were shut, but the open ones leaked other smells: antiseptic, stale urine, bacon. A cry echoed through the narrow corridor, more like a seagull than a human voice.

Room 17 was on the right, a long way into the building. Paul had to touch the raised number to make sure of it. The door was open by a crack. He pressed his shoulder to it and stepped through. A small room with a table and a few chairs, a bookcase, a TV set with the picture on but no sound. A flickering mercury light. Two shrunken figures in armchairs, not watching the TV. Neither of them moved as Paul entered the room.

“Is Thom Parr in here?”

The two men looked at each other. Then one of them pointed back over his shoulder. Paul realised there was a side room, or an alcove, with a vague shape just visible against a creased black curtain. “Thank you,” he said, and walked through. The stuttering of the light made it hard to understand what was there. The curtain was just random streaks of damp in the wall. The man seated in the chair, or rather held by it in a sitting position, was wrapped below the neck in a lace blanket. He was almost bald. His eyes were sunk so far into his narrow face that it took Paul a while to see that they were open.

“Mr Parr? Hello?” The face didn’t stir. Paul looked closer. He could have been looking in a cracked and grimy mirror. “I’m a reader,” he said, and blushed with shame at the uselessness of that. “Are you OK?”

There was no sound of breath. The old man’s lips trembled, but perhaps that was just the light. Paul reached out slowly and touched the side of his throat, where the pulse should be. The flesh was cold. He brushed a fingertip against the dry lips: no air movement. He wondered what he might have to do to be sure that Parr was dead. Maybe the problem was in himself.

He reported the death back at the reception desk. They didn’t seem either surprised or upset. He asked if there was anyone who needed to be informed, and was told that Parr had no relatives and no property. Everything he owned had been sold to pay for his place at the retirement home.

When Paul left, the daylight was fading. He felt drained by the effort of reporting the death, as if he’d used up his clarity of mind for the day. He’d better get back to the station, but that didn’t seem possible until he got his bearings. The still face drifted in front of him, shedding flakes of skin like dead leaves. His legs ached, but he couldn’t stop walking until the white building was out of sight. Then he walked on, looking for a sign.

Woodland, reminding him of childhood walks with his parents. Later, with girlfriends, he’d stayed in the city, maybe walked hand in hand along the canal towpath. Never made love out of doors. But the smell of decaying leaves excited him for some reason he couldn’t explain. If only he could find the book, he could become Parr, not have to go home to a city he didn’t know any more.

Not only his legs but his lungs ached, his hands were losing sensation, his throat was raw. But he couldn’t stop. As if there were wings at his back. Night was falling, crossing out the errors of daylight. Burning the page. At the edge of the wood, he reached a derelict house. Its doorway and windows were boarded up. Had Parr tried to sell it? He dimly remembered going into a derelict house on one of those childhood walks, finding a butterfly brooch, giving it to his mother. Black or dark blue. Had that happened, or was it a dream?

Behind the house was a patch of wasteground. He couldn’t see where it ended, though he could hear running water. And a faint pulse, like the beating of wings. He could just make out a few dead trees in the half-light around him, with no leaves to shed. Had this been a garden? Was his real life coming to an end, as well as the false life in a city whose name he couldn’t remember? The ground was as cold as the thin face he’d touched. The pulsing of wings made him flatten himself against the dead grass and fragments of stone, the pattern he couldn’t see.

Then the wings were above him, beating slowly in the dark, their edges brushing his face. The pages turning. The dark covers shutting out the town’s distant light. A clear memory came back to him: lying with his first girlfriend on a narrow bed, pinning back her wings of flesh with his tongue. Their hands locked together. And then the book folded around his body, and its dry pages gave the dust of their stories back to him.

The Deluxe Edition of Lawrence Gordon Clark book: an update

CGS_Qtr cover

The good news about the ultra limited Deluxe Edition of The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark is that they will be here either tomorrow (Friday 30th May) or Monday 2nd June. The slipcases however still need to be made. In view of the already inordinate delay occasioned by various issues, Spectral will be sending the book out to customers first followed by the slipcases when they’re ready. This is so that customers can at least read the book they have waited for. All purchasers will be notified by email of this situation individually.

All it remains for us to do is to thank all who bought the book for their extreme patience! 

Thank you! 

Article: Unmade film adaptations…

Spectral Press logoSometimes, just for a bit of fun, it’s interesting to wonder how a particular book would look like as a film adaptation. Well, journalist Alan Kelly has done just that for Movie Maker magazine at their online presence. And guess what? He’s included a title from Spectral, and he’s also suggested a director and an actor for the lead role – do you agree with his choices? If not, who would YOU like to see involved? To see which book he picked, then click HERE.

3 and 5 year subscriptions

Spectral Press logoIf you look down the right-hand side of  this blog you will see a list of subscription options: you can subscribe to the chapbook series for one, three or five years. Not only that, but the longer you subscribe for, the more you will save. We have also given you the Paypal buttons below as well for your convenience.

For those in the UK, a 3 year sub will cost £54 – a saving of £6. A year sub costs £90, a saving of £10.

For those anywhere in the EU, 3 years costs £78 (save £6) and 5 years costs £130 (save £10).

For everywhere else, 3 year subscriptions will $153 (representing a saving of $12) and a 5 year sub costs $245 (saving $20).

These rates will apply from issue #12 onwards.

UK £20 – 1 year (4 issues)

UK £54 – 3 Years (12 Issues)

UK £90 – 5 years (20 issues)

EU £28 – 1 year (4 issues)

EU £78 – 3 years (12 issues)

EU £130 5 years (20 issues)

US & RoW $55 – 1 year (4 issues)

US & RoW $153 – 3 years (12 issues)

US & RoW $245 – 5 years (20 issues)

Currently available books

Spectral Press logoListed below are the books which are currently in print from Spectral – also included are purchasing buttons via Paypal. If you want to pay via cheque or bank transfer, please contact us at spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com for details.

ALL PRICES ARE INCLUSIVE OF P+P.

 

 

"The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark", Cover image ©  1971 - 2013 Graham Morris. Design by John Oakey.

“The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark”, Cover image © 1971 – 2013 Graham Morris. Design by John Oakey.

EDITION CONTENTS

DELUXE EDITION (50 only- 14 left(available late May/early June):

Foreword by MARK GATISS

Introduction by TONY EARNSHAW

Seven short stories by M. R. JAMESThe Stalls of Barchester CathedralThe Treasure of Abbot ThomasA Warning to the CuriousThe Ash TreeLost HeartsCasting the RunesCount Magnus, The Signalman.

Exclusive new introductions to each story by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Count Magnus teleplay by BASIL COPPER

Lost Hearts short stage play by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Q&A with LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Filmography, awards, of LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Illustrated with unseen behind the scenes photographs, chapter heading vignettes by Nick Gucker,  as well as examples of storyboards by Lawrence Gordon Clark.

SIGNED, SLIPCASED DELUXE EDITION:

£85 UK

£87 EU

$145 US

UNSIGNED HARDBACK (100 only) (available February):

Foreword by MARK GATISS

Introduction by TONY EARNSHAW

Seven short stories by M. R. JAMESThe Stalls of Barchester CathedralThe Treasure of Abbot ThomasA Warning to the CuriousThe Ash TreeLost HeartsCasting the RunesCount Magnus

Exclusive new introductions to each story by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Q&A with LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Illustrated with photographs as well as chapter heading vignettes (by Nick Gucker)

UNSIGNED HARDBACK EDITION

£45 UK

£47 EU

$80 US

PAPERBACK (Unlimited) (available now):

Foreword by MARK GATISS

Introduction by TONY EARNSHAW

Seven short stories by M. R. JAMESThe Stalls of Barchester CathedralThe Treasure of Abbot ThomasA Warning to the CuriousThe Ash TreeLost HeartsCasting the RunesCount Magnus

Exclusive new introductions to each story by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Filmography, awards, of LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Basic edition – text only plus chapter heading vignettes by Nick Gucker.

PAPERBACK EDITION (unlimited – available now):

£17.50 UK

£19.50 EU

$30 US
STILL LIFE by Tim Lebbon.

"Still Life" © Tim Lebbon/Spectral Press 2013. Artwork © Jim Burns 2013

“Still Life” © Tim Lebbon/Spectral Press 2013. Artwork © Jim Burns 2013

PLEASE NOTE! Due to contractual reasons, the paperback edition of Still Life is limited to 100 only!!

Jenni’s husband was part of the Road of Souls––his flesh swarmed by ants and pecked by rooks, bones crushed to powder by wheels of dread––and yet she still saw him in the pool.

            The incursion has been and gone, the war is over, and the enemy is in the land, remote and ambiguous.  The village outskirts are guarded by vicious beasts, making escape impossible.  The village itself is controlled by the Finks, human servants to the enemy––brutal, callous, almost untouchable. 

            Everything is less than it was before… time seems to move slower, the population is much denuded, and life itself seems to hold little purpose.  This is not living, it’s existing.

            But in a subjugated population, there is always resistance. 

            For Jenni, the happiest part of this new life is visiting the pool in the woods, seeing her dead husband within, and sharing memories of happier times.  It calms her and makes her feel alive.

            But the resistance comes to her for help. 

            And when her dead husband tells her it is time to fight, Jenni’s life is destined for a shattering change.  

“Tim Lebbon conjures up the horror of a world distorted by fear, distrust, and something unspeakable. With respectful nods to H.P Lovecraft Still Life rubs reality up against nightmares in this compact, engrossing treat.” Muriel Gray

STILL LIFE by Tim Lebbon

UK £21

EU £23.50

US & RoW $42

PAPERBACK

UK £12.50

EU £15

US & RoW $25

 

GHOSTS by Paul Kane

"Ghosts" © Paul Kane/Spectral Press 2013. Artwork © Edward Miller 2007 - 2013.

“Ghosts” © Paul Kane/Spectral Press 2013. Artwork © Edward Miller 2007 – 2013.

They are all around us all the time. But only a few make contact, and only certain people are destined to see the Ghosts. Here, you’ll read a lonely shade’s tale… a deceased old man’s house being invaded… how one person discovers the true meaning of the Christmas spirit, while a parent struggles to come to terms with the sad loss of a child… and what happens when the ghosts of war go on the rampage, or when a monstrous wraith stalks the streets looking for revenge. Gathering together all of award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane’s supernatural fiction, including three brand new stories–one a sequel to Charles Dickens’ ‘The Signal-Man’–and featuring an introduction from bestselling horror author Nancy Kilpatrick (Power of the Blood World series), the script of Wind Chimes introduced by its director Brad Watson (7th Dimension), plus suitably atmospheric cover art from Edward Miller, this is one collection that will haunt you forever.

GHOSTS by Paul Kane

UK £21

EU £23.50

US & RoW $42

PAPERBACK

UK £12.50

EU £15

US & RoW $25

 

WHITSTABLE by Stephen Volk

Whitstable cover image

1971. A middle-aged man, wracked with grief, walks along the beach at Whitstable in Kent.

A boy walks approaches him and, taking him for the famous vampire-hunter Doctor Van Helsing from the Hammer movies, asks for his help. Because he believes his stepfather really is a vampire…

So begins the moving and evocative new novella by Stephen Volk, published by the British Fantasy Award-nominated Spectral Press in May 2013 to coincide with the centenary of the most celebrated and beloved of Hammer’s stars, Peter Cushing.

In Whitstable—which deftly mixes fact with fiction—the actor, devastated after the recent death of his wife and soul mate Helen, is an inconsolable recluse. In that vulnerable state he is forced to face an evil far more real and terrifying than any of the make-believe monsters he tackled on the big screen. And here he is not a crusader or expert with crucifixes to hand—merely a man. A man who in some ways craves death himself, but cannot ignore the pleas of an innocent child.

PAPERBACK EDITION:

£15 UK

£17.50 EU

$29 USA

$29 RoW