Monday, February 20, 2012

Demons by Daylight by Ramsey Campbell (1979): The Sunshine Bores the Daylights Outta Me

Another vintage horror fiction paperback cover that has precisely nothing to do with its contents. This May 1979 Jove reprint of Ramsey Campbell's first non-Lovecraftian short story collection Demons By Daylight features some strikingly vivid cover art. But as I recall, there are exactly no snake-demons horny for hot human ladies in silver space-age bikinis in these tales. Somebody forgot to tell artist unknown that. While it would indeed catch a bookbuyer's eye, it's a little Heavy Metal for me.

Oh well the artist probably had no idea his painting would be used for a collection of shorts about unsettling urban decay, pasty-skinned and alienated Englishmen, and quiet, oblique madnesses that flitter at the edges of a bright noon and beyond. I read this Carroll & Graf edition from 1990 over a decade ago, trying to get back into horror fiction, but was distinctly underwhelmed and very much disappointed, as I knew I'd liked a lot of Campbell's HPL-style stories. These seemed fuzzy and unfocused and quite tepid. Honestly Demons by Daylight (along with Caitlyn Kiernan's Silk and John Shirley's Wetbones) put me off horror for many years. Fortunately, I came back to it... thanks, ironically, to his Dark Companions collection.

Original Arkham House hardcover

10 comments:

Doug said...

This is an awsome collection of stories. I have the butt ugly Carrol & Graf edition though. My only problem with RC is that every once in a while he writes something so obtruse that i have no idea what's going on.I'll still be confused even after a reread. Kinda like Robert Aickman. But at least with aickman I know what happened. Just not why it happened.Campbell is still great all in all though.

Jonathan Stover said...

Campbell's actually admitted that sometimes HE doesn't really know what's going on in a story (case in point: the great and baffling "The Companion"), so you're not alone.

I've got this paperback as well. It's definitely transitional Campbell, lying pretty much smack-dab in his rapid change from Lovecraft pastiche writer to distinctive writer of his own stuff, with his own style. All before he was 26.

If you read Campbell's newest novel, THE SEVEN DAYS OF CAIN, this collection is handy, as that novel mentions characters and occult philosophies floated in "The Franklyn Paragraphs", a story from DEMONS BY DAYLIGHT, as well as the more recent Campbell novel THE GRIN OF THE DARK.

Jonathan Stover said...

"smack-dab in the middle", natch

James Everington said...

I love this book, but then I *am* a " pasty-skinned and alienated Englishman"...

Those covers truly have been some by someone who's never even read the blurb, never mind the book. Hilarious.

Luis said...

I own the Spanish language edition of the book and was also underwhelmed (and confused) by Campbell's awkward prose. But perhaps the time has come for a revisit now that I'm a more mature reader and I could handle some of his stories. The man IS considered one of the best, after all.
Here's the link to the Spanish language edition's cover: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43513173@N08/5198259839/

Will Errickson said...

Luis, I share your sentiment... I might appreciate these stories more so today. Cool Spanish cover, thanx!

Nathaniel Katz said...

A tad tangential, but I take it by your comment on Silk that you're not a Kiernan fan?

Will Errickson said...

I've heard SILK is the least of her works but I haven't really been interested in tracking other stuff down. SILK read like embarrassing sub-sub-sub Poppy Z. Brite.

francisco said...

and what about Wetbones by John Shirley? I read about it in glorious trash and it looks absolutely crazy with a lot of weird elements and with a fast pace

Ramsey Campbell said...

"I own the Spanish language edition of the book and was also underwhelmed (and confused) by Campbell's awkward prose."

Forgive me, Luis, but do you mean the translation? Of course it may be absolutely accurate, but I'm not qualified to judge. Your English is excellent - would you be able to compare some examples of the prose in the book?