Monday, 19 September 2011
The aesthetical detective of the supernatural known as The Connoisseur has had his adventures chronicled a number of times by Mark Valentine, initially in In Violet Veils, published by Tartarus Press in 1999. This volume contained nine stories, and amongst glowing reviews was this one by Peter Cannon in All Hallows:
“This is a very curious and wonderful book: curious because a contemporary author dares to write in a style and mode fashionable a century ago; wonderful because he does so with such apparent ease, perfectly matching sometimes purple but always precise prose with outré subject matter. In this slim, elegantly produced volume ... nine exquisite episodes...”
It was immediately apparent that The Connoisseur was the latest embodiment of a fine lineage of detectives, including M.P. Shiel’s Prince Zaleski and Arthur Machen’s Mr Dyson, and more distantly Algernon Blackwood’s Dr John Silence and William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki, the Ghost Finder.
The Connoisseur, however, is very much his own man, as was shown in the second volume of his adventures, Masques and Citadels, published by Tartarus in 2003. Eight of the adventures related in this volume were written by Mark Valentine alone, and two more were collaborations with John Howard (the author of the recent The Silver Voices, amongst others).
Once again the reviews were very good: "Mark Valentine is surely one of the best writers working in the genre," wrote David Longhorn in Supernatural Tales. However, there was one voice of discontent; a reviewer in Prism wrote: "It is possible to be too subtle and 'recondite'." The adventures of The Connoisseur are surely for those readers who like their writing to be quietly effective, and for an author to credit them with a certain intelligence and appreciation of style.
The Connoisseur’s later exploits appeared, with other tales, in two collections published by the enigmatic Ex Occidente Press in Romania. In 2008 The Rite of Trebizond and Other Tales contained "The Rite of Trebizond", "The Serpent, Unfallen" and "The Temple of Time". The Nightfarers, in 2009 contained the Connoisseur story “The Temple of Time”.
The Connoisseur is often seen appreciating beautiful, craft-made objects, and we like to think that he admired the books in which his exploits have been previously published. When the stories were collected last year as a Tartarus paperback, The Collected Connoisseur, we hoped that he would have at least understood the practicality of the format! But what would he think of them being published as an e-book?
For those who like the convenience of Kindle and other electronic reading devices, The Collected Connoisseur is now available either direct from our website, or via Amazon:
The Collected Connoisseur for Kindle at amazon.co.uk
The Collected Connoisseur for Kindle at amazon.com
The Collected Connoisseur at Tartarus Press webpages