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The Macabre Quarto — an Afterword

31 Mar
I first encountered August Derleth in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel in New York City in January, 1991. David Galerstein introduced me to Solar Pons and of course, Augie was his Agent! I bought the two-volume Arkham House Omnibus the next day at The Mysterious Bookshop just behind Carnegie Hall.

Over the course of the next couple of years, I worked on an electronic edition of the Solar Pons Canon. I used the original text as written and published by August Derleth. I joined the August Derleth Society and visited Sauk City, Wisconsin, and visited “The Place of Hawks,” the home of August Derleth. When the Arkham House edition went out of print, I obtained permission to redo the Omnibus using the original Derleth text, and not the edited text prepared for Arkham House by Basil Copper. This collection was introduced by Peter Ruber.

During the course of this project, I learned of Augie’s other writings — poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and newspaper columns and lecturer — in many different genres — mystery, sci-fi, horror. Augie wrote under many different pseudonyms, so his name only appeared once in a magazine’s table of contents. Augie wrote for pay, then latter collected his writings into book form through Arkham House, Stanton and Lee or Mycroft and Moran. Many short stories were never collected and were mouldering in the pulps in the Archives at the State Historical Society located in Madison.

Ken Grant gathered the uncollected stories and made photocopies, and sent them along. James P. Roberts started the ball rolling by making a selection of the best stories and sent them along to me.

But Augie also wrote for posterity, and his writings about The Sac Prairie Saga, and The Wisconsin Saga include some of his best poetry, short stories and novels. Some of these novels remained unpublished at the time of his death. April Derleth turned all of these previously unpublished manuscripts over to Peter Ruber and I in 1996, and in the intervening years, I have prepared all of this material for publication, and these will appear sponsored by The August Derleth Society in the years to come.

The header wood cut by Frank Utpatel, used on the previous page is one of many that Augie used for his stationary over the years.

The Cinderella reproduced below in a block of 10 exists in two distinct colors. I obtained my copies from Hugo Swencker many years ago now, and this “stamp” was presumably used by the author on his letters. I have yet to find a properly used copy on an envelope, but then there is always a new discovery to make!

When I first met Robert Weinberg to discuss collecting the 93 Jules de Grandin stories from Weird Tales, I well remember discussing Derleth with Bob who mentioned that he sold a lot of Arkham House publications when he had a bookstore and mail order book business in Chicago. Bob noted that Augie had written a lot of stories, but that there was a very small number of exceptional and superior stories that would make an excellent collection in itself. That was in 1999, and what you have in your hand now, dear reader is the result of that conversation— ten years later, the Centennial of the Augie’s birth. This is one of four volumes entitled The Macabre Quarto.

George A. Vanderburgh

Lake Eugenia, Ontario, December 2008

 

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One response to “The Macabre Quarto — an Afterword

  1. Jean-Philippe

    April 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Hi George,

    My thoughts after reading the official news (happy about the La Spina book!), which I posted on the Facebook page:

    This is wonderful news indeed, finally Arkham House resurrects! Intrigued by the publication announcements. I know nothing of either Lois Gresh or the espionage book, but will be curious to find out more. Already own most of the Arkham Sampler issues, but I have a feeling this would be a set to get anyway – any extra goodies added on the strict facsimile for long-time AH collectors who already own the issues?

    Perhaps a short history of the magazine, along with some of the correspondence exchanged beween Derleth and his writers while he was putting together the magazine, and old photos of the contributors? I think that adding such a supplement would pretty much guarantee a sell-out, and provide a really interesting “history” of this publication for posterity, which is very often disregarded as just a detail when people write about Arkham House in general.

    Oh, and regarding Greye La Spina, what a great idea. I remember reading “Invaders from the Dark” maybe 5-6 years ago when I got the AH edition, and enjoyed it tremendously. I notice that the contents will be 4 short novels. Should there exist any other worthwhile short works by her existing out there, it would be a great idea to add a few, since I would think that once again, this volume will pretty much serve as a “definitive” La Spina collection, so if either you or Bob remember other stuff from her worth saving for current readers, that would be great, and I would think that adding a couple of short stories would not add that much to the cost of publication, since they must all be in the public domain by now.

    And finally, especially with regards to publication of older authors, may I suggest a short biographical introduction at the beginning of each volume would be much appreciated. The intros in “AH Masters of Horror” were interesting, but very controversial in their tone. So, a more rounded-out bio, which could serve to introduce the writer to current readers, situate the author in his/her context during the “Weird Tales Era” as well as provide general biographical info, would be a wonderful idea, don’t you think?

    Just some suggestions, but I think that in adding some historical/biographical notes to each new publication, AH would in this sense pursue Derleth’s initial goal of preserving for posterity the authors that were his contemporaries and that he feared would otherwise be forgotten.

     

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