Monday, July 13, 2020

RIP Gary William Crawford (1953-2020)

Critic, poet, fiction writer, and small press publisher Gary William Crawford passed away in his native  Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 9th, at the age of 67, after a long illness.

Gary published some six booklets of poetry, including Poems of the Divided Self (1992); In Shadow Lands (1998); The Shadow City (2005); The Phantom World (2008); Voices from the Dark: Selected Poems 1979-2009 (2009); and, in collaboration with Bruce Boston, Notes from the Shadow City (2012).

He also published two booklets of his own short fiction, Gothic Fevers (2000) and Mysteries of Von Domarus, and Other Stories (2006).

He was probably best known as a critic and publisher.  He founded Gothic Press in 1979, and edited six issues of the magazine Gothic (1979-1987), which featured criticism as well as fiction and poetry.  (Galad Elflandsson's notable story "The Exile" first appeared in issue 2 in 1979.) A listing of the contents of the six issues can be found here.  Another magazine, Supernatural Poetry, began in 1987, but apparently lasted only for one issue. From 1992 through 1997 he published fourteen issues of Night Songs, another dark poetry magazine.


Of his nonfiction, his work centered in particular on three authors, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Aickman, and Ramsey Campbell.
His massive J. Sheridan Le Fanu: A Bio-Bibliography appeared from Greenwood Press in 1985. With Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers he co-edited the seminal collection of Le Fanu criticism, Reflections in a Glass Darkly (2011). And with Brian J. Showers he issued an updated booklet covering Le Fanu's writings as Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: A Concise Bibliography (2011).  In 2006 he founded and edited a twice-yearly online journal Le Fanu Studies.
A booklet-sized study Robert Aickman: An Introduction appeared in 2003. And he edited a booklet of three essays on Aickman, Insufficient Answers (2012). (The three essays are by Philip Challinor, Rebekah Memel Brown, and Isaac Land.) In 2011 he started an online Robert Aickman: A Database, which in 2014 expanded to include a twice-yearly online journal, Aickman Studies.
Ramsey Campbell (1988) was a Starmont Reader's Guide to the author.  Gary's last book was a collection of essays he edited, Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Modern Master of Horror (2014).  
Other booklets of especial interest published by Gothic Press include poetry collections by Bruce Boston, Conditions of Sentient Life (1996) and Cold Tomorrows (1998); Black Prometheus: A Critical Study of Karl Edward Wagner (2007), edited by Benjamin Szumskyj;  and (apparently the final Gothic Press chapbook) Unburying the Past: The Hermeneutics of Truth in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Novels (2015), by Claudio Di Vaio.

After Gary's increasing health problems, the Le Fanu and Aickman online databases and journals went offline sometime in 2016 or 2017. Some materials can still be found via the Wayback Machine, e.g. for Le Fanu here, or for Aickman here.  He also worked on a larger critical book on Aickman but this was never completed.

He also wrote articles on  Walter de la Mare, Fritz Leiber, and Stephen King, and contributed to various reference books, like Jack Sullivan's Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986) and Marshall B. Tymn's Horror Literature (1981). 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Rex Ryan/R.R. Ryan

It's been a few years since I posted some contemporary notices of Rex Ryan's death in 1950.  Earlier I had posted a number of notices about him in an attempt to put together some biographical information about this elusive author and playwright, including his strange upbringing with a jailbird father (for what now would be considered white collar crime) in a large house with a "Buebeard's Chamber".

Browsing the British Newspaper Archive, a few more newspaper references have appeared about him in the recently digitized South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough and Swinton Times.   The following article, dated 1 October 1926, as well as including a rare photograph, has some new biographical information:


The article reads:

“Mr Rex Ryan whose ‘Tryning’ is one of the interesting performances of the Venner Repertory company’s excellent production of 'If Winter Comes,' at the Mexborough Hippodrome this week, has had an interesting career.  He began with Shakespearean work at 16 years of age, and gained part of his training with Florence Glossop Harris.  He went through the stock company school, and ran his own companies for several years.  Then he specialised in the work of Oscar Wilde, of which he is very fond, and was particularly happy in the part of Lord Illingworth in ‘A Woman of No Importance.’ He joined Mr. Venner three months ago, and made his first acquaintance with Mexborough during the present stay of the company.  Mr Ryan knows Ireland very well – loves it – and admires greatly the work of the Dublin school, which grew up round the historic effort of Miss Horniman and the Abbey Theatre.  But he is most interested in the work of Basil Macdonald Hastings, whom he regards as the Ibsen of England.  Mr Ryan is a native of Liverpool.”

Another article, dated 21 October 1927, mentions a series of "crime plays", including "The Black Triangle", which I've written about before:


And another of 23 September 1927, which includes some interesting information about a series of performances, including "Maria Marten", the infamous murder in the red barn:






Thursday, June 11, 2020

RIP Colin Manlove 1942-2020

I"m saddened to have learned that fantasy scholar Colin Manlove passed away on June 1st, "peacefully" after a long illness (according to The Scotsman, 5 June 2020).

I knew him only via email, and we shared especially our common interest in David Lindsay, about whom Colin had written in appreciation. I have, I believe, almost all of his books, and it's difficult to select favorites, but they would include Modern Fantasy (1975), Christian Fantasy (1992), Scottish Fantasy Literature (1994), The Fantasy Literature of England (1999), The Order of Harry Potter (2010), and Scotland's Forgotten Treasure: The Visionary Romances of George MacDonald (2016). Also noteworthy is his Anthology of Scottish Fantasy Literature (1996).

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Marjorie Bowen Explains Her Pseudonym

In looking through my Marjorie Bowen files for a friend, I turned up a photocopy of a stray piece by Bowen--that I happened upon many years ago--which seems worth sharing. For the February 1926 issue of The Writer, a number of authors were asked to explain their use of one of their pseudonyms--a pseudonym by which they were better-known than by their regular names. The below is Marjorie Bowen's contribution.

It Entirely Depends on the Author—”Marjorie Bowen”

The pseudonym “Marjorie Bowen” was chosen for me, and not by me. I was just six­teen when my first published book was writ­ten, and to please the publisher, as well as to give a definite girlish atmosphere to the advertisement of the work, with my mother’s sanction the name “Marjorie Bowen” was used. The name Bowen is an old family name of my mother’s, her father being Moravian Bishop of Jamaica, and since the first settlement of the Moravian Church in England my ancestors have been connected with it. Per­sonally, I do not like pseudonyms, and would have much preferred to have “Margaret Campbell,” which was my name then, attached to the book. Later “Marjorie Bowen” did not seem to fit, as a goodly number of my works are serious historical novels, but I the fear the name will now always be attached to my work, as, of course, the publishers will have it as a selling asset.

As to the wisdom of using a pseudonym, it entirely depends on the author. If one’s name is pleasing to the ear and easy to say, by no my means use a pseudonym, especially if one’s own name is in keeping with the type of literature the author is giving to the public.

Mrs. Arthur Long

Monday, May 4, 2020

Collecting Robert Aickman, by R.B. Russell

Here's another in Ray Russell's video series about collecting, this time about Robert Aickman.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Discovering Sarban, by R.B. Russell

Here's another fine short (9 minutes 22 seconds) video documentary on "Discovering Sarban" by R.B. Russell.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The complete "Collecting Arthur Machen" series: Parts One through Seven, by R.B. Russell

Click here to watch part one on the original Youtube channel.

Update: part two has now been posted.  Click here.

Update: part three has now been posted.  Click here.

Update: part four has now been posted. Click here.

Update: part five has now been posted.  Click here.

Update: part six has now been posted. Click here.

Update: the final part seven has now been posted.  Click here.