Thursday, December 24, 2020

RIP Guy N. Smith (1939 - 2020)

Prolific pulp-horror writer Guy N. Smith has passed at age 81, according to his website, from what looks to be COVID-19 complications. 2020 is just determined to squeeze out every last bit of misery from us, ugh. Maybe soothe yourself with even more Smith covers here and here. Be well, everybody.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Dell Abyss Promo Materials, 1991-1993

Here's something I never expected to have in my horror collection: promotional materials from publisher Dell for their new imprint line of horror fiction, the (now-infamous) Abyss. What a treasure trove of archival artifacts! Big thanks go to Kathe Koja, author of the first book published in the line, The Cipher, from whom I purchased it some time ago. Yes, I've been meaning to post this stuff for ages! Really excited to share it with you guys...

In fact, early next year, it will be the 30th anniversary of Abyss (hell, remember when it was 20?). It was perhaps my favorite era in horror, since I had been delving deep into the genre for a few years but also wanted something modern, relevant, au courant, if you will. Having just turned 20, working in a used bookstore, in college, and reading, reading, reading, I was eager to sate my burgeoning intellectual curiosities with my favorite genre. Named for a famous Nietzsche quote and with the ambitious mission statement declaring "Abyss is for the seeker of truth, no matter how disturbing or twisted it may be. It's about people, and the darkness we all carry within," this new imprint fit the bill to perfection. I think I was their target audience precisely!

However I first heard of the line, either through Fangoria magazine or the wonderful catalogs from the Overlook Connection, I had The Cipher in my hands by spring '91 (although I believe I read it over the summer, after I'd read the second book published, Brian Hodge's "Miami Vice"-meets-Mr. Hyde mashup Nightlife). Revisiting those days is a delight. I really get such a horror fan thrill at peeking behind the curtain, seeing inside the publishing world and the marketing research that went into launching a new line of paperbacks. Book displays, postcards, bound book samples, publicity releases, and newsletters: this stuff speaks deeply to my archivist nature. 
Who can resist these Xeroxed pix of horror writers hanging out and signing books, giving background and insight on their novels, little personals deets and info nuggets and cut-out art and upcoming releases, all crammed in like a classic punk zine. I would have killed to have had access to this stuff back then.

In 1992 I went with my bookstore boss to a huge booksellers convention in Atlantic City, held in one of the casinos (I found the zombie-like hordes on the gambling floors disturbing). I was a little intimidated by the "business" of it, but I recall scoring some great swag, in particular a hardcover copy of Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls. I recall the person working the Dell table came over to me as I picked the book up, giving me the hard sell like "She's one of the hottest horror writers around right now, this is her first novel, and we're super excited about it!" I was like, "Man, I totally know who that is, I've been waiting for this!" Of course the person promptly insisted I take the book and tell my friends about it. I'm sure I did and I'm sure they didn't give a shit which is why I'm writing this blog for you lo these three decades later. So thank you and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Horror Fiction Help XXIII

Can anyone help identify these? The first query sounds maddeningly familiar, but damn if I can't quite place it!

1. Late '70s/early '80s: The cover came straight out of Animal Hell, with an illustration of an oversized rat standing on its hind legs, holding the decapitated head of a cat in one hand and gouging its eye out with a bone in the other. Some other vague recollection of the cover includes a pile of bones. I think there also was a little more text on the cover than most books, which leads me to believe it was an anthology of some sort; however I am not positive about this. I remember absolutely nothing about the author(s), title, or back cover. Found! It’s Dr. Rat, 1977 Bantam edition. 

2. Unusual horror anthology that came out in the early '60s. It was paperbound, rather thin, and oversize, roughly 2X the dimensions of a paperback. The cover was dark blacks and purples with creepy drawings overlaid (I believe, going from a half century old memory!), and each of the short, 1- to 3-page stories had an illustration with it. Each story had an EC-like twist ending.

3. '90s or early '00s. It was a book of ghost stories, possibly British or Irish. I think there was a story about a banshee, and another about a ghost carrying a coffin and then appearing in an elevator as a warning, but the story I really remember is one where this girl, every birthday, tells her family a man (possibly named Billy, or William) will come for her. Year after year, he doesn't show - until her 18th(?) birthday, when the candles blow out and he appears on a horse and takes her away.