In the beginning it was Bob Weinberg’s idea, and we discussed it in his living room away back in 1999 when I showed him In Lovecraft’s Shadow. He wanted to a short volume of August Derleth’s Best Short Stories. He noted that much his weird fiction had been written to make a living, but now and then he managed a superb story, and these were all buried in the pile of 100’s of stories that had been published in various volumes by Arkham House over the years. Bob enlisted Stephan Dziemianowicz to assist him in making a selection. I sent Stefan a hard copy printout of ALL of Derleth’s Weird Short Fiction, some 1200 folio pages arranged chronically by first publication date. Once Stefan had made a selection of “The Best of,” I suggested that he go on to select a couple of other collections of sub-genre writing. Stefan obliged by selecting an additional collection of Ghost Stories, Black Magic and Occult Stories and finally Monster Stories. I next assembled all four collections, and sent them along to Rodney Schroeter for a final proof reading. At the Walden West Festival in 2008, I invited David Drake to write an Introduction to one of the volumes, and he accepted. I subsequently invited Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley to contribute commentaries to the other two volumes. All three are commercially successful authors. All three were significantly influenced by August Derleth as young men, and all owe him a debt of gratitude which they express in their commentaries in their own unique way.
The titles of the volumes changed at the suggestion of the contributors,as well as the cover art, and finally four previous covers from Weird Tales were used and supplied by Robert Weinberg.
When I was discussing this “The Best of Derleth” project with April Derleth and Kay Price back in the fall of 2006, April offered to pay me a fee of $1500 to act as the Editor for this project, which I emphatically declined saying, I couldn’t accept a fee from Arkham House to edit a collection of stories by Arkham’s founder, her father. April suggested that the book should be published in 2009; but I disagreed, wanting to get the project done in 2007, at the latest 2008. But circumstances have dictated an alternate solition and these four volumes will now be published on February 24, 2009 which is in fact the 100th Anniversary of Derleth’s birth in Sauk City.
At the same meeting the three of discussed whether the project should appear under the Arkham House Logo or The Logo of the August Derleth Society — a flying Hawk. Rather than make a choice, April suggested the project should appear with both logos on the title page, and that’s why there are two instead of one logo on the title page.
The four front jackets as they will be published are illustrated below, and more details can be found at my website http://www.batteredbox.com. There were many earlier version with different cover illustrations and titles. The edition of each volume will be limited to 1000. The books will be available after February 24, 2009 from The August Derleth Society or from my website, and the price is US$30.00 or Can$36.00 each.