Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: The Year in Review

Alas: 2021 was another year in which I've had more luck buying horror paperbacks than I have had in reading them. You've probably noticed the dearth of reviews on the blog. This year I started to read so many but gave up on them in a flash, realizing I'm having the same reaction to them as editors/critics like Karl Edward Wagner, Dennis Etchison, and Charles L. Grant had back in the day: the books I was reading were tired, dumb, lazily written, and/or noticeably cribbed from more popular works. Even titles I've searched for for years and had high hopes for, like Florence Stevenson's A Feast of Eggshells, left me disappointed in the first handful of chapters. As Diamond David Lee Roth once put it, "I got no time to mess around," so I've been feeling less guilty about books going back on the shelf unread. Have I lost my touch for plucking and rescuing forgotten titles out of obscurity?!
The last novel I read, The Devil's Advocate, a 1990 Pocket Book from Andrew Neiderman, was disgracefully, shamefully dumb. A pale, 90-pound weakling of a book. A spineless, enervated ripoff of Ira Levin and John Grisham. No idea why the spine has the word "horror" on it. At one point the main character says, "Bob, I have come to the conclusion that John Milton is an evil man with supernatural powers. Probably he's not a man, or, what I mean is, he's more than a man. He's most probably Satan himself." This might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard anyone say in "horror novel," and you know that's saying a lot. 

But all that aside, I'm thrilled with the books I've been purchasing online lately (visits to brick-and-mortar stores are few and far between these days). I am a collector building a library, and in my possession I have books that are proving harder and harder to find at affordable prices. This isn't a brag; it's my growing awareness that these books are truly the ephemera of the past and I'm doing a part in keeping it alive and archived. This year I've leaned into that more.

Valancourt Books continues to publish sought-after horror fiction from the Paperbacks from Hell era; this year we reprinted Hugh Zachary's 1974 eco-erotic-horror novel Gwen, in Green. We have another title in the chamber for the PfH series: Les Whitten's Progeny of the Adder. This 1965 horror/mystery novel was a precursor to TV's "The Night Stalker" as well as, indirectly, 'Salem's Lot. Not part of the series but still highly anticipated, Valancourt will be offering Carnosaur by "Harry Adam Knight" (pseudonym of Australian pulp author John Brosnan) and In a Lonely Place by Karl Edward Wagner.
The former is a 1984 "animal attack" thriller that presages Jurassic Park by several years, while the latter is one of the rarest of vintage horror paperbacks, containing some of Wagner's best work, like "Sticks" and "Where the Summer Ends." I'll be doing intros for Adder and Carnosaur, so that's something for me to look forward to.

My wife and I made a trip to France back in September, first time for me. It was of course wonderful (and very safe, we got tested twice while there and had the results emailed to us in 15 minutes). I found one terrific English-language bookstore in Paris, and while they didn't have a horror section per se, there was at least one tiny treasure tucked away in the vast paperbacks shelves: a signed US copy of Slither!

The biggest news was of course the death of Anne Rice. While I haven't read one of her books in 30 years, the ones I did read—that is, the original trilogy of The Vampire Chronicles—were very important to me way back when (I went to one of her book signings in Philly in 1991 or 1992, sad to say no pictures were taken though). Her contributions to horror and Gothic literature are immeasurable. I've since added first-editions paperbacks of The Witching Hour and The Mummy to my shelves; perhaps 2022 is the year I will finally read them!

We also lost beloved artist Rowena Morrill, whose illustration adorns this wonderful, if scuffed, Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories. I got this guy in the mail about a day before she died.

Below are many of my acquisitions from this year. I don't think I paid more than $15 for any one. This year I finally finished cataloguing all of my horror paperbacks; I'm at around 1,100 or so mass-markets alone. Here's to a brighter 2022 everyone!


Bob Foster said...

Today I learned the 1997 film The Devil's Advocate is based on a book. I should have known that as I watched it three times last year (movie alone plus 2 commentaries). Hrm.

Unknown said...

Thank you for all your wonderful updates Will :-)

Indiekiddemonic said...

The shadow knows better be a paperback of the radio serial

Jasper Bark said...

Thrilled to hear that news about In A Lonely Place, have been looking for an affordable copy of that for years.

Richard said...

I was wondering if you could please try your best to get all the Paperbacks from Hell series on audiobook. As a visually impaired person, this would be greatly appreciated. Some of the titles are available as audiobooks, but not all of them.

Unknown said...

Some great and obscure covers there Will! Nice years collecting work! I was shocked to see that you found a copy of the "rare as hen's teeth", A Feast of Eggshells! Ive been searching for a copy since I lost my childhood one a long time ago. But maybe memories are not lasting... as you were not into it it seems? Im afraid i will pay the ridiculous asking price then be disappointed too!

That has happened a couple times recently to me. Like there is a ,what I considered , companion-piece novel also from Signet called: Devil Boy by Willo Davis Roberts, that I finally tracked down after a long search .I had read it as a kid at the same time as A Feast of Eggshells. Another in the Bad Seed vein, but not up to snuff Im afraid! You cant go home again...I guess is the moral.

Will Errickson said...

Richard - thanks for reading! Valancourt has told me that they do not have the rights to do the audiobook of some titles, while other PFH audiobooks have sold so poorly that it makes them reluctant to do more. However, it might not be a bad idea for you to contact them directly through their website.

Mike said...


You told me once that you got the novel HOUNDS OF DRACULA. Did you finish it yet and if you did, what did you think of it and are you now going to watch the film version (say, on YouTube) and see if you can spot the differences in both versions? Please let me know. Thanks!

Will Errickson said...

Mike, if I get to it, you will definitely see it here! Thanks for reading!

Dr. Caligari said...

Anne Rice lost me eventually, but I remember The Witching Hour as being very good, and The Mummy as being at least readable.

While I couldn't get into some of Anne Rice's later books, her early books are great, and she did so much to modernize the horror genre. She will be missed.

Tulespa said...

Will reading your Blod and watching Cameron Channey on Youtube

i Noticied theres a lot of Books with the same title,would be a cool topic for you to cover