Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Ghostly Story in a Little Blue Book

E. Haldeman-Julius was a printer of Girard, Kansas, who published many thousands of little books in the 1920s and for a few decades thereafter. The books were about 3.5 x 5 inches, of varying page-length but none really very long--all were small enough to be staple-bound. Most of them had a blue paper cover; hence the series title of Little Blue Books. 

One booklet I picked up ages ago is Mystery Tales of Ghosts and Villians [n.d., but March 1927].  My copy, pictured at right, is bound in brownish paper--there is a printed note on the lower cover that says, "Sorry, we had to use this cover paper because emergency conditions made it impossible to get standard cover stock. We'll switch back immediately after receiving new supplies." 

A good deal of what Haldeman-Julius printed was done without authorization, and there are no acknowledgements or any statements of copyright in most of the Little Blue Books I've seen  (though a lot of the texts used were certainly still in copyright). Mystery Tales of Ghosts and Villians collects three tales.  The first is "Number 13" by M.R. James (which originally appeared in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, 1904).   The third story is one by Charles Dickens, "Dr. Manette's Manuscript," an extract from A Tale of Two Cities (1859). The middle story is the unfamiliar one, which make this Little Blue Book interesting.  It is a seemingly simple story of a ghost having related his own murder, but it has some interesting twists revealed at the end.  It is the only tale I know of by Katherine Rickford, whom I presume was British, for the tale, "Joseph: A Story," first appeared in the British magazine Land and Water, 18 September 1919. It was soon reprinted in the US magazine, The Living Age, for 18 October 1919--The Living Age was made up of reprints from other magazines, mostly British.  From there it was reprinted in two of Joseph Lewis French's anthologies, The Best Psychic Stories (Boni & Liveright, May 1920) and Masterpieces of Mystery, Volume 2: Ghost Stories (Doubleday, Page, November 1920).  And so, after the appearance of Mystery Tales of Ghosts and Villains, the vogue for Katherine Rickford passed. 

Does anyone know any biographical or bibliographical details for Katherine Rickford?  A bit of google-fu (using as search terms "The Living Age" and "Katherine Rickford") will turn up for reading a text of "Joseph: A Story." I wouldn't call it a lost classic, but it's an interesting bit of commercial fiction. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Blackwood Telling Stories on Film!

Some years ago I wrote here on Wormwoodiana about a snippet of film of Algernon Blackwood, see here (though the links to the program which included the snippet are now dead).  Now I'm pleased to report that two short films, about thirteen or fourteen minutes each, of Blackwood telling stories are viewable on youtube.

They are the two surviving episodes of a series of six such short-films made by Rayant Pictures in  1949-1950. (For details, see Mike Ashley's Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood, 2001, pp. 330-331.) I learned of them last week via a posting by Jim at the Blackwood yahoogroup (ablackwood).  Having just watched them, I thought I'd share them with readers of Wormwoodiana.  Here are the titles and links:

The Reformation of St. Jules 

Lock Your Door

Enjoy!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Crown’s “Classics of Modern Science Fiction” Series



This series consists of  ten hardcover volumes published by Crown Publishers of New York in 1984-85. George Zebrowski was the series editor. The series was published irregularly.  The first set of four books came out in January 1984. The second set of four books came out in October 1984. The final two books came out nearly a year later in September 1985. 

Three titles were by Chad Oliver, with two from Philip José  Farmer. The series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov appears in all volumes. All ten dust-wrapper illustrations are by Michael Booth.

The series evidently sold poorly. One wonders if the idea of “classic” science fiction had passed a generational boundary  before this series was begun.

Volume 1. Eric Frank Russell. Man, Martians and Machines. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1955.

Volume 2.  James Gunn. The Joymakers.  Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1961.

Volume 3.  Chad Oliver. The Shores of Another Sea. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1971.

Volume 4. Philip José Farmer. The Classic Philip José Farmer 1952-1964. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by Martin H. Greenberg. First edition. Collection of six stories.

Volume 5. Philip José Farmer. The Classic Philip José Farmer 1964-1973. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by Martin H. Greenberg. First edition. Collection of eight stories.

Volume 6. Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planet. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. “Author’s Note” (undated) by Murray Leinster. Originally published in 1954.

Volume 7. Charles L. Harness. The Paradox Men. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Afterword (“The Flight into Tomorrow”) by Brian W. Aldiss. “Author’s Note” (dated March 1984) by Charles L. Harness.  Originally published in 1953 under the title Flight into Yesterday. This edition has been substantially revised.

Volume 8. Chad Oliver. Unearthly Neighbors. 1st hardcover appearance. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Afterword (dated April 1984) by Chad Oliver. Originally published in 1960. This edition has been substantially revised. 

Volume 9. Chad Oliver. Shadows in the Sun. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Afterword (dated April 1985) by Chad Oliver. Originally published in 1954.

Volume 10. Ward Moore. Greener than You Think. Series foreword (“Retrieving the Lost”) by Isaac Asimov. Introduction by George Zebrowski. Originally published in 1947.