Monday 26 November 2012

Why You Should Read . . . A Selection of Tartarus Classics

The Collected Macabre Stories of L.P. Hartley
The Man Who Could Work Miracles, The Supernatural Tales of H.G. Wells
The Triumph of Night and Other Tales by Edith Wharton
Tarnhelm by Hugh Walpole

The long winter evenings we’re experiencing (at least in the northern hemisphere) are perfect for reading – or re-reading – some of the classic authors of supernatural and macabre tales. The four authors I’m recommending for your fireside entertainment are better known for their mainstream writing, but all penned a substantial number of supernatural stories. Some of them are among the best ever written.

 Dipping first into our large purple volume The Collected Macabre Stories of L.P. Hartley (Tartarus Press 2005), reminds me of researching Hartley’s substantial oeuvre of short stories and realising that I had found an author – well known outside the supernatural genre for his perfectly realised novel of English Edwardian childhood, The Go-Between (1953) – who was no dilettante in our area of interest. Hartley was one of the first to introduce a strong psychological element to his macabre stories, and he is also one of those rare writers who can use a rather sardonic sense of humour to good effect (see ‘The Travelling Grave’ and ‘The Killing Bottle’). But he also took the traditions of the ghost story very seriously, calling it ‘if not the highest . . . certainly the most exacting form of literary art’. Stories such as the extraordinary ‘The Pylon’ and ‘The Crossways’ amply demonstrate Hartley’s range and versatility, and I am convinced that this collection represents one of the most impressive achievements of twentieth-century macabre fiction.

That remarkable polymath H.G. Wells was another English writer who more than dabbled in the supernatural. Admired by Jeorg Luis Borges, Wells’ shorter speculative works range from the borders of science fiction (‘The Plattner Story’, in which a fourth dimension is conceived as a realm of the dead), to the boundaries of outright horror, as in ‘The Strange Orchid’, and to the frontiers of fantasy in ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’. ‘The Door in the Wall’ is a perfectly conceived and faultlessly executed exercise in a character’s desperate longing for a once-glimpsed paradise. In Wells’ work, genres soon come to mean very little. He had an immensely creative imagination, and is arguably at his best when conceiving an unusual idea and following it through to its end.

Among her many literary achievements, U.S. writer Edith Wharton was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize (for her mainstream novel The Age of Innocence) in 1921. She also wrote an impressive body of supernatural short stories, many of which were collected together in the last year of her life in Ghosts (1937). Like Walter de la Mare and her friend Henry James, she is adept at evoking uncannily convincing atmospheres and characters. Her story ‘Afterward’ is a model of craftsmanship and skilful characterisation. E.F. Bleiler has described Ghosts as a ‘landmark volume in supernatural fiction’. Our Tartarus volume Triumph of the Night (2008), adds several more stories to those collected together in the earlier book.

Hugh Walpole had a deep and abiding interest in the supernatural and consistently incorporated macabre, mystical and supernatural elements in his work throughout his writing career. Like L.P. Hartley, his supernatural stories exhibit a markedly modern understanding of the psychological, and it is this that allows his more traditional ghost stories, such as ‘The Little Ghost’ and ‘Mrs Lunt’, to retain their power. Our raison d’être as publishers can be said to rest on his view that: ‘ . . . the creator who relies more upon the inference behind the fact than upon the fact itself, more upon the dream than the actual business, more upon the intangible world of poetry than upon the actual world of concrete evidence, this kind of creator will come into his kingdom again.’


Rosalie Parker, November 2012

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Why you should read . . . Thomas Owen

Thomas Owen (Gérald Bertot)

I’m never happier than when discovering a new writer to introduce to our customers. A good example is Michael Reynier, whose short story collection Five Degrees of Latitude (2011) - his first piece of published fiction - helped Tartarus win this years’ World Fantasy Award.  Or, more recently, Jason A. Wyckoff - writer of the stunning Black Horse collection. Sometimes, though, I find a writer who may be known to others but is new to us – in this case the Belgian Symbolist Thomas Owen (1910-2002), whose The House of Oracles is our next book.

Owen is a master of the fleeting, fantastic, erotic short story – pithy and earthy and strange. I first came across a brief mention of him (real name Gérald Bertot, who also wrote as Stéphane Rey), in a reference work, and noted him down as writer to look into. It took me some time to track down a copy of The Desolate Presence (1984, William Kimber), which is a selection of Owen’s short stories, superbly translated by Iain White. What struck me most, apart from the quality and interest of the stories, was Owen/White’s beautifully economical, deceptively simple prose. Owen is very fortunate to have such an accomplished translator. Iain White also provides the Introduction to The House of Oracles, which includes an illuminating history of the Belgian Symbolists and their place in to the wider European movement.

Luckily for us Iain agreed to augment the existing stories with seven newly translated examples, including the superb title story, and the wonderfully atmospheric ‘The House of the Dead Girl’ and ‘The Gate’. The stories come from six original collections: La Cave aux crapauds (1963), Cérémonial nocturne (1966), La Truie (1972), Pitie pour les ombres (1973), La Rat Kavar (1975) and Les Maisons suspectes (1978). 

The House of Oracles joins a growing body of European literature in translation published by Tartarus, through which we aim to help to keep the works of these wonderful writers in print in the English speaking world:
The King in the Golden Mask (2012) by Marcel Schwob, also translated by Iain White; Clarimonde by Theophile Gautier (2011), translated by various hands; Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier (1999, available as an ebook), translated by R.B. Russell; The Sand-Man and Other Night Pieces (2008) by E.T.A. Hoffman, translated by various hands; Tales of Terror (2008) by Guy de Maupassant, translated by Arnold Kellet; The Golem (2004) by Gustav Meyrinck, translated by Mike Mitchell (out of print).

Rosalie Parker, November 2012

Tuesday 21 August 2012

The White People by Arthur Machen

This is a new interpretation of Arthur Machen's short story "The White People", read by Rosalie Parker and R.B. Russell. It is an abridged version of Machen's story, with original music composed by R.B. Russell.

Monday 13 August 2012

World Fantasy Awards, 2012

Literary Awards are curious things, but the ones we’ve always had the most respect for are the World Fantasy Awards, which are administered in conjunction with the World Fantasy Convention. Each year a different panel of five international judges (all professionals in the field of fantasy literature) consider work submitted in all the various fantasy genres. This time there are two American, two British and one Dutch judge, and all of them have actually seen the work they are considering.

We are very lucky to have received shortlist nominations on a number of occasions, most recently in 2011 for SOURDOUGH by Angela Slatter, and in 2008 and 2010 for the "Special Award: Non-Professional". We were pleased to have won this award in 2002 and 2004, and STRANGE TALES won the 2004 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.

We do not always submit all of our books for the World Fantasy Awards, but this year we did, because we felt that we had published  a wide range of good books in 2011:

In January we published TIME, A FALCONER: A STUDY OF SARBAN, by Mark Valentine. Mark’s biography revealed a great deal of information about this previously enigmatic author, and is, as one would expect, elegantly written and fascinating.

Alongside it we published DISCOVERY OF HERETICS, a cache of previously unpublished work by Sarban.

We were also able to reprint, in April, Sarban’s fine collection of short stories, RINGSTONES.
Tartarus also continued with its series of reprints of the original, individual collections of stories by Robert Aickman, arguably one of the most significant authors in fantasy fiction of the second half of the twentieth century.

We issued DARK ENTRIES, POWERS OF DARKNESS and COLD HAND IN MINE by Robert Aickman, along with WE ARE FOR THE DARK by Aickman and Elizabeth Jane Howard. Each reprint contained new Introductions, and had original cover artwork by Stephen J. Clark.
We also published some very good contemporary fiction. The novel, FRANKENSTEIN'S PRESCRIPTION by Tim Lees was described by Peter Tennant in Black Static as “quite frankly, a brilliant novel, one which takes the old stereotype and fills it with vibrant new life. The story is gripping, with each and every element of the plot fitting into place perfectly . . . It’s only February, and I may already have read the best horror novel of 2011."
We were very pleased to publish a fine book of five novellas, FIVE DEGREES OF LATITUDE, by Michael Reynier in July. It was very positively received. Publishers Weekly wrote "Readers who like weird tales with a vintage feel will find this volume an auspicious debut" while Robert Morrish at Twilight Ridge mentioned "the five intricate and highly-polished tales” and Rick Kleffel at The Agony Column called it " extraordinary book, featuring stories with very original subjects and such a mature, superior writing style that it's hard to believe that this is the debut work of a brand new author and not the product of a skilful veteran storyteller.

Tartarus also published, in September, a new short story collection by Reggie Oliver, MRS MIDNIGHT AND OTHER STORIES. Again, the reviews have been very positive, it quickly sold out, and a paperback reprint has followed.

We have always had an interest in European, decadent writers, and published, in October, CLARIMONDE, by Theophile Gautier. We selected classic translations by Lafcadio Hearn (whom we have previously published), and augmented these by some new translations. The Pan Review reported: "Read this for the prose style alone, which, for anyone who has read his one anthologised story ‘Loving Lady Death’ (‘La Morte Amoureuse’) - re-translated as the title tale here - will already have experienced his stunning, sensual evocation of place and time. This continues in the other eleven tales."
Also in 2011 we published two issues of WORMWOOD, 16 and 17, edited by Mark Valentine, featuring, as always, a wide variety of  essays about fantasy, supernatural and decadent literature. 

Our 2011 publication schedule also included  a paperback reprint of the rare, early Tartarus Press title, WORMING THE HARPY by Rhys Hughes.

All in all, we were pleased enough with the results of a very busy year to send copies to the World fantasy Award judges…

… and it was with a great deal of pleasure that we read the nominations for 2012…

TARTARUS PRESS has received a nomination in the "Special Award: Non-Professional" category.

Mark Valentine's WORMWOOD has also received a nomination in the "Special Award: Non-Professional" category..

Reggie Oliver's MRS MIDNIGHT is nominated in the Best Collection category. 

We keep our fingers crossed for the three nominations, but just receiving nominations has cheered us considerably.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

An Interview with Quentin S. Crisp

Quentin S. Crisp is a British author. Unlike the better-known personality of the same name, our Quentin Crisp was given the name at birth, but uses his middle initial so as not to cause confusion. Born in North Devon, Crisp now lives in London. He has a bachelor's degree in Japanese from the University of Durham and spent two periods living in Japan. Japanese literature is a significant influence in his work. Crisp runs the Chomu Press with his brother Leon, publishing fiction by contemporary authors.

The following interview with author Quentin S. Crisp was filmed on Saturday 3rd March, 2012. Many thanks to the Chaucer Head Bookshop for the friendly venue. The background noises are from customers who were trying not to disturb the filming - our thanks to them for their patience with us!

Crisp's debut short story collection, Morbid Tales is back in print as a paperback, and is available from Tartarus Press.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Tartarus Press stories . . . # 2

Todays free PDF story is "Dibblespin", a taster for Angela Slatter's Sourdough and Other Stories, which is currently available as a paperback (£14.95). Publishers Weekly said of this collection, "Slatter displays a rare gift for evocative and poetic prose." The book was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and Aurealis Awards. The story is available here.

Monday 16 April 2012

Tartarus Press stories . . .

We thought it might be a good idea to make available PDF file samples of the work of some Tartarus authors you may not yet have read.

We’re starting with our growing list of contemporary writers. First up is that masterful magician of the macabre, Reggie Oliver, whose collection with us, Mrs Midnight, has proved such a popular and critical success. Mrs Midnight is now available in a paperback edition (priced £14.95), or as an ebook (£3.50). The title story of the collection is a tour de force of mounting horror with a music hall theme. It is available here, and we hope you will enjoy it.

Future PDFs will be announced as they become available and will include samples of the writing of Mark Samuels, Mark Valentine, Angela Slatter, Quentin S. Crisp, Tim Lees, Rhys Hughes, Michael Reynier and Jason P. Wyckoff. We also hope to provide samples of some of our classic authors, and our journal Wormwood.

Rosalie Parker
Ray Russell

Wednesday 8 February 2012

The Times They Are A-Changin' ... 3

When the Tartarus Press first published Ritual and other Stories in 1992 it was reviewed in Avallaunius (the journal of the old Arthur Machen Society), Necrofile, and the splendidly obscure It Goes on the Shelf. By the time we published The Secret of the Sangraal in 1995, we also received reviews in The South Wales Argus, The Contemporary Review, The Universal Mind and The Fortean Times. We still have the original cuttings pasted in an album, slowly turning yellow... Of course, these were all physical, print reviews, and we had to wait up to a year for some of them to be published.

Once we had got into our stride as publishers we automatically sent out review copies to those publications we thought could best offer publicity, including the late, lamented The Third Alternative and All Hallows. Then, as now, we had to try to judge the efficacy of different publications. For example, if The Times Literary Supplement reviewed one of our books it was always good to be able to quote the review, but it rarely resulted in sales. Receiving a positive review in a journal devoted to a single literary figure always looked a little parochial, but would often sell more books. Review copies are expensive to send, so we had to choose wisely. Of course, it wasn't always obvious which publicity a customer might have seen before ordering a book.

And then the internet came along...Print media is still important (Peter Tennant at Black Static is one of reviewers worth trying to impress), but suddenly there is a wide range of other virtual venues for reviews, publicity and promotion. So, which of these are influential, well-respected, and gain a large number of readers, and which are well-meaning but go unnoticed? As ever, it is very hard to tell, especially as publicity can often have a cumulative effect, meaning that a book might only be bought after a customer has read a number of positive reviews. (Interviews are similar. Jason Rolfe at Bibliomancy has today posted an interview with Tartarus Press, and hopefully a few readers will go on to check out our website.)

So, which venues strike us as interesting and useful? A good review from Publishers Weekly, like the TLS, always looks impressive, and yes, The British Fantasy Society and others are worthwhile, but we'd like to suggest a few fascinating but less obvious venues for discerning readers:

The Endless Bookshelf
The Agony Column
The Stars at Noonday
The Pan Review
She Never Slept

Do you have any other suggestions...?

Monday 9 January 2012

Reggie Oliver

We have just published a new paperback edition of Mrs Midnight by Reggie Oliver. If you don't already have a copy, here are a few reviews that might tempt you:

"Readers who like their horrors subtle but unsettling will find this volume much to their liking." Publishers Weekly
"…by miles, the best living exponent of the spooky yarn," Barry Humphries.
"Mrs Midnight and other stories  is one of the best books I have read this year." - Henry Wessells, The Endless Bookshelf
"The latest collection (the fifth) by this extraordinary author assembles a bunch of excellent tales which confirm his uncommon talent as a teller of creepy, uncanny stories." - Mario Guslandi, The British Fantasy Society

To mark the event, have uploaded to youtube a short film of the author, in which he discusses influences on his work, the books he collects, and the raison d'etre for his writing:

Many thanks indeed to Reggie for letting us make the film.

The Tardebigge Myth

The only known photograph of Robert Aickman and Tom Rolt together ( Yorkshire Post , 31st August 1948) Robert Aickman’s primary ambition w...