We’ve recently published a superb collection of intelligent
contemporary weird stories, The Gypsy Spiders and Other Tales of Italian Horror, by Nicola Lombardi. The title
story, which is set in Italy in the dying days of World War Two, won the Premio
Polidori, one of Italy’s most prestigious horror awards. It’s a great privilege
to be able to make available the marvellous English translation of the
collection by J. Weintraub. The book recently received a very wonderful review at Oddly Weird Fiction: 'Absolutely brilliant and very, very highly recommended.', and the blog pointed out that there is a whole world of unstranslated weird fiction out there.
Clarimonde, Monsieur de Phocas and Darkscapes
Tartarus is obviously a publisher of literature in English,
but we have always made a point of publishing books by authors from the US, Canada,
Australia, Ireland and the rest of the world, as well as the UK. Alongside The Gypsy Spiders, in print with us at
the moment are Clarimonde and OtherStories by Theophile Gautier, translated from the French by Lafcadio Hearn;
Monsieur de Phocas by Jean Lorrain,
translated by Francis Amery (Brian Stableford); and in paperback Le Grand Meaulnes and Miracles by Henri
Alain-Fournier, translated by R.B. Russell and Adrian Eckersley; and
Darkscapes, by Anne-Sylvie Salzman, translated by William Charlton. In the past
we have published such classics as The
Golem by Gustav Meyrink, The Sand Man
and Other Night Pieces by E.T.A. Hoffman and The House of Oracles by Thomas Owen, amongst others. All have sold
well, in large part because of the wonderful translations that were available
And there lies the difficulty. We would very much like to
become even more inclusive and wide-ranging in our publishing, making available
classic and contemporary weird fiction from many other countries – India, Africa
and the Far East spring to mind. But there is always the problem that we need a
good English translation, and it is problematic for a small press to take the
financial risk of commissioning a translation of a work that we can only read and assess
for publication once it’s been translated!
So, for now, we are largely reliant on international authors
and translators coming forward and submitting finished translations to us. This
has resulted in several wonderful books, including The Gypsy Spiders, but we agree that there are
many more out there, just waiting to be discovered by an English-speaking
audience . . .
Copsford by Walter J.C. Murray, Tartarus Press, 2019
One hundred years ago a young man, Walter Murray, spent a year in a derelict cottage, Copsford, working in lonely Sussex countryside among the wild animals and birds, with only a dog, Floss, for companionship. From the beginning, Murray has to fight not only the rats that infest his inhospitable house, and the elements outside, but also a loneliness that he finds soul-shatteringly oppressive.
Walter J.C. Murray
But Murray comes to delight in his simple life, despite its deprivations. Above all, he appreciates the wildlife he experiences in meadow and woodland, the animals and insects, birds and butterflies. And he comes to a deeper understanding of plants and trees, the sun, wind, rain, frost and snow. He wrote about his experiences in Copsford (George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1948).
Copsford is an under-appreciated classic of the English countryside, delighting not only in flora and fauna, but in scent, colour, sound and movement. In beautiful and sensitive prose Murray expresses a vivid depth of feeling for nature that makes Copsford a tour de force of nature mysticism.
I first came across the book through my father, who was interested in it because Murray was a well-known figure in Horam, the village where he and I grew up. The author and literary researcher Mark Valentine then reminded me of the book a few years later. I discovered that my father had known the derelict house, Copsford, and that I had ranged across the same fields as a child (although the houe had been demolished by then). I have since revisited the site with my family and we were able to trace the outline of its walls in the rough ground.
Tartarus decided to reprint Copsford (which is now down to its last few copies), and it received some great reviews, being featured in the Sussex Express and on Wormwoodiana. Patrick Galbraith in Country Life wrote
‘The writing is masterful, moving gracefully between farce when he’s waging war on rodents and the sublime when he’s painting the beauty of the South Downs.’
As the book was being prepared for the printers, I composed a number of pieces of music inspired by the various elements of Murray’s book. These were released digitally on Bandcamp in 2020 and the album was recommended by Bob Fischer in his 'Haunted Generation' column in The Fortean Times. The track ‘Midsummer’has been played a few times on The Freak Zone, BBC Radio 6, by Stuart Maconie.
The album is now available (while stocks last), in a very limited lathe-cut vinyl edition from the incomparable Bladud Flies! In this process each copy of the record is cut in real-time. Michael Lawrence, aka The Bricoleur, has mastered and cut the record, while Lauren Winton has created a wonderful centre etching, and has overseen the design of all the artwork for the sleeve and insert. There are only forty two numbered copies.
has been eight years since our last blog post . . . In that time we have
embraced Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram. Social media has evolved and
changed, and we haven’t felt the need to keep the blog up to date. From now, however,
we will attempt to change this, not least because we have a book scheduled for publication
early next year and we would like to discuss it, and the research undertaken. More of that in a later post . . .
Approximately eight years of Tartarus Press publications
the last eight years we have endeavoured to produce books to our usual high
standard, publishing contemporary and classic writers in the supernatural,
strange and weird genres. Printing has been undertaken by Antony Rowe and TJ
Books, to whom we would like to express our heartfelt thanks. They have both
done a fine job and we are very grateful for their expertise and
expand on from our last blog post (in 2014!), we would like to draw your
attention to the printed boards and blockingin foil on some of the more recent Tartarus Press books.
The Quest for Corvo by A.J.A. Symons, 2018
Londonia by Kate A. Hardy, 2020
Other books have simply been blocked in foil on unprinted cloth, sometimes quite subtly:
A Wild Tumultory Library by Mark Valentine, 2019
At other times with more exuberance . . .
Copsford by Walter J.C. Murray, 2019
we have also been reprinting books as paperbacks. Originally, we published our
paperbacks traditionally in runs of 200-300 copies, but more recently we have
been making them available through Amazon, using their print-on-demand
technology. Partnering with Amazon is not ideal for us, but it means that
customers outside the UK are able to have their books printed and dispatched
locally, and much more quickly. It also allows us to keep some great books in
print that might otherwise fall by the wayside.
A selection of Tartarus Press paperbacks
we have been publishing ebooks. We know that many of our customers are most
interested in lithographically printed traditional hardbacks with sewn sections
on quality paper, but there are some who like the convenience of ebooks.
It has been a strange couple of years, and who
knows what the next eight years will bring, but we will always do our utmost to
publish interesting books in the formats that readers prefer. And, for the time
being, we will do our best to maintain this blog . . . .