Friday, December 3, 2010
GHOST STORIES: The Magazine and Its Makers
John Locke, with his Off-Trail Publications, has quietly been producing some excellent books for anyone interested in the pulp magazines, and especially for those of us who, in particular, are also interested in the men and women behind the stories—the authors, editors, and artists. One recent release deserves special attention for the exemplary coverage of one particular pulp magazine, Ghost Stories. It ran for a total of 64 issues, from July 1926 through the December 1931/January 1932 number. There has been one previous anthology centered on this pulp: Phantom Perfumes and Other Shades: Memories of Ghost Stories Magazine (2000), edited by Mike Ashley. It contains seventeen stories, along with a history of the magazine by Mike Ashley, a short Foreword by Hugh B. Cave (who contributed two stories to the magazine in 1931), and two appendices: the first a checklist of issues of the magazine, the second an index to the contributors.
John Locke’s new project brings us not one but two books: twenty stories in volume one, and another fifteen in volume two, with no overlap of stories from Mike Ashley’s anthology and with plenty of extras. These volumes are formatted the same size as the original pulp magazine, so you get some neat extras like a sprinkling of facsimile ads, a bunch of the original illustrations to the stories, and full page reproductions of all sixty-four covers to the magazine.
Ghost Stories: The Magazine and Its Makers, Volume 1 (9781935031093 $24.00 trade paperback) additionally includes a lengthy history of the magazine, putting it in the context of other magazines of the time, particularly those published by MacFadden Publications, who were responsible for nearly four years of the run of Ghost Stories before it was sold. Other lengthy sections give biographies of all of the editors, and all of the authors who are represented in volume one. And these are not the usual short one-paragraph biographies, but often a couple of pages, giving the results of original research on these people. There are also some statistical analyses of that magazine, showing that it paid 2 cents a word under MacFadden, but slipped to 1 cent (and up) under later owners. Over its run, Ghost Stories published 517 short stories, 12 novelettes, 47 serials (of various installments), 148 nonfiction items, 44 editorials, and one poem.
Ghost Stories: The Magazine and Its Makers, Volume 2 (9781935031130 $24.00 trade paperback) continues on in the same comprehensive manner, with biographies of the authors who appear in volume two, a section on the artists, and the cover gallery of all sixty-four of the covers. (Each volume also has an index.)
To mention only a few of the stories reprinted in these two volumes, H.P. Lovecraft’s friend, Muriel Eddy, is represented with a short “True Ghost Experience” from the April 1926 issue. Nictzin Dyalhis's single contribution to Ghost Stories, “He Refused to Stay Dead” (April 1927) which had been announced in the previous issue as “My Encounter with Osric, the Troll”, is also reprinted. And Leonard Cline, author of God Head (1925) and The Dark Chamber (1927), is represented with his pseudonymous story “Sweetheart of the Snows” (August 1928), as by Alan Forsyth. It’s is a tale reminiscent of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Glamour of the Snow”. Cline’s title for the story had been “The Lady of Frozen Death”, and his typescript version under that title can be found in the booklet The Lady of Frozen Death and Other Weird Tales (Necronomicon Press, 1992). Comparing the texts, one can see that the editor at Ghost Stories made numerous minor changes and additions, ones which tend to lessen Cline’s distinctive style and to add more pulpish sentimentalities.
This two-volume history and anthology brings the pulp magazine Ghost Stories, defunct now for almost seventy years, vividly back to new life. I recommend it highly.