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Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Macabre Quarto — an Afterword

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 Some of these novels remained unpublished at the time of his death. April Derleth turned all of these previously unpublished manuscripts over to Peter Ruber and I in 1996, and in the intervening years, I have prepared all of this material for publication, and these will appear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

 

 
 

Lest We Forget — an Update

When my friend John Haefele suggested I publish his monograph Lest We Forget, I was pleased to do so, and the link to the webpage is appended here: http://www.batteredbox.com/ArkhamHouse/Lest%20We%20Forget.htm

This is an important piece of scholarship, because John has methodically worked through Derelth’s writings over his entire career and collected everything Derleth had to say about H.P. Lovecraft. What he said is important, but even more important is WHEN he said it. There is no doubt in my mind Derleth forms an important cornerstone, in the present day cult of Lovecraftian literature. And a gentle, but firm — “shame on you” to those nay-sayers who have previously prostelatized otherwise in printed and written word. To put it another way, perhaps controversial, Derleth and Wandrei rescued Lovecraft from the obscurity of pulp literature of the first half off the 20th century.

 

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft — an update

When I visited Bob Weinberg at his home in Chicago in 2007 while I was travelling to Sauk City to attend the Walden West Fetival there. We talked about many things, but one of the items he mentioned was that he had recently returned to April Derleth an incomplete set with some duplicates of the original uncut signatures for “The Shunned House.” He lamented that it would have indeed been a rare and valuable item if the set had been complete. I saw April later that weekend and she gave me the handful, that is, 17 individual signatures to be exact, of folded uncut sheets of eight pages each.

My friend Dan Boulden and I gazed at the sheets back at Kay Price’s home and thought an Arkham House facsimile edition was in order, and I asked April’s permission to proceed. I gave the sheets to Dan, and subsequently he personally prepared a numbered edition of 50, with the idea that we would print another 50 if interest warranted, but no more than 100. He also prepared a lettered edition of 17. Each volume in this contained a pocket, for a single uncut signature.

The two editions have now appeared and the numbered edition has been now issued in a limited edition numbered 1- 100. The reader can check at http://www.batteredbox.com/ArkhamHouse/ShunnedHouse.htm for further details.

I include below the article that Bob Weinberg wrote about the background to the edition, which is also very interesting.

The Truth About The Shunned House Hardcover

by Robert Weinberg

Perhaps the oddest book ever published by Arkham House was the 100 copy hardcover edition of The Shunned House. While the basic facts regarding the book are common knowledge, the actual inspiration for its hardcover publication have never been known. This short article hopefully will serve as an answer to that question which has plagued collectors for nearly 50 fifty years.

“The Shunned House,” a long horror novelette, was written by H.P. Lovecraft during the week of October 16-19, 1924. The house of the story was based in part on a real house in Providence, R.I. located at 135 Benefit Street. Lovecraft’s aunt lived in the house in 1919-1920. The inspiration for the story was another house, one located in Elizabeth, New Jersey (not far from where Bob grew up, which may explain many things!) at the northeast corner of Bridge Street and Elizabeth Avenue.1Of that house, Lovecraft wrote that it was a “hellish place where night-black deeds must have been done in the early seventeen-hundreds.” In the same letter, he further explained “its image came up again with renewed vividness, finally causing me to write a new horror story with its scene in Providence and with the Babbit House as its basis.”2

In 1928, Lovecraft’s friend, and fellow small-press enthusiast, W. Paul Cook, proposed publishing “The Shunned House,” as a 250 copy Recluse Press hardcover book. Lovecraft was agreeable and Cook printed the sheets of the book. It was poorly typeset and contained a short introduction by Frank Belknap Long. However, according to August Derleth, Cook was always out of funds to pay to bind the book, and he totally abandoned the project when he moved from Massachusetts to Vermont several years later.3 Cook gave the unbound sheets to Lovecraft. In 1936, eighteen year old Robert Barlow took it on himself to hand bind around a dozen sets of the sheets. One of the books was of course for Lovecraft. The others he sent out to some of Lovecraft’s closest friends. The rest of the sheets remained unbound for the duration of Lovecraft’s life. Lovecraft died on March 15, 1937. Submitted by his friends after his death, “The Shunned House” was finally published in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales.

Robert Barlow took possession of the unbound sheets after Lovecraft’s death. He did nothing with them. On January 2, 1951, Barlow committed suicide in Azcapotzalco, Mexico, where he had been studying early Mexican history. According to Derleth, Barlow’s friends in Mexico City sent the sheets to Derleth based on the two men’s correspondence about Lovecraft. Derleth received approximately 150 sets of the unbound sheets.

Derleth did nothing with the unbound sheets for the next few years. Then, in 1959, he began offering sets of the sheets for sale at $15.00 each. Despite the reasonable price, (most Arkham House books from the period were price at $3.50–$4.00 each), not many of the sheets sold. In the 1960 catalog, Derleth advertised the sheets again. The ad read “THE SHUNNED HOUSE. Unbound sheets of the rare first, never published edition, done by Cook in 1928. Only a few sets remain for sale. For collectors only. $15.00.”4

It was in late 1961 that long-time fantasy book collector, Sam Peeples wrote to his friend Derleth about buying a copy of The Shunned House. Peeples, however, didn’t want unbound sheets which would need some sort of special box or slipcase for storage. Instead, he proposed to Derleth that when the next Arkham House book was bound, Derleth would have a set of the pages of the unpublished book trimmed and bound with the press’s usual binding.5 Derleth agreed, telling Peeples by return mail, that the cost of the binding, complete with lettering on the spine of the volume, would cost an additional $10.6

Peeples’ idea of binding the unbound sheets of The Shunned House in Arkham House binding obviously appealed to Derleth. In a letter to Peeples written later that year, he wrote:

“I’m glad to know that the bound copy of The Shunned House reached you in good order. I had it bound uniformly with other Arkham House books, and, since I had a few other copies, I had them all done at once.”8

In the new books announcement for 1962 Arkham House, Derleth listed the volume thusly:

“Lovecraft collectors may like to know that we have bound the last remaining sets of the sheets of The Shunned House in a binding uniform with the binding of most of our books, under the Arkham House imprint, sans jacket of course, and these last copies will be sold at $17.50 a copy.”9

According to Derleth, approximately 100 sets of the sheets were bound in hardcover. Within a year, the bound hardcover copies of The Shunned House were gone. By late 1962, the book was listed out of print. What hadn’t sold as unbound sheets, sold fairly quickly (for an Arkham House book), in hardcover book format. Thus, it was an unusual request from a dedicated Arkham House collector that brought into existence the rarest of all Arkham House hardcovers.

1 H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters Vol. I, p. 357 (as quoted in Wikipedia, The Shunned House, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shunned_House#_note-1

2 Ibid

3 Derleth, August, “Letter to Sam Peeples,” November 2, 1961

4 Ibid

5 New Books from Arkham House: Coming in 1961

6 Peeples, Sam, “Letter to August Derleth,” August 1961

7 Derleth, August, “Letter to Sam Peeples,” August 16, 1961

8 Derleth, August, “Letter to Sam Peeples,” November 2, 1961

9 New Books from Arkham House: Coming in 1962

 

How did you meet August Derleth?

I’ll met everyone who reads this entry will have their own answer to this question. I first encountered his writing in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel back in January 1991 at around 6:00 p.m. on a Thursday during the BSI weekend. I was standing in a group listening in on the conversation, trying desperately to learn Dr. Watson’s middle name? How many wives he actually had? Whether a goose really does have a crop? and What Sherlock Hoolmes actually did when he visited Tibet during the Great Hiatus.

David Galerstein, engaged me in conversation, and invited me to go for dinner later that evening. He asked me if I had ever read a Solar Pons story? I replied no; and he then recommended them to me. They were written by a fellow in Wisconsin, by the name of August Derleth. I visited Otto Penzler’s bookshop the next day for the first time, and purchased the two volume slip-cased, shrink-wrapped edition of “The Solar Pons Omnibus” along with some other Sherlockian items including a reading copy of the three volume Heritage Club edition of the Canon. Now that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

But I suspect I am not in the majority, far from it. I suspect the majority of Derleth’s readers today are either fans of H.P. Lovecraft; readers of his “Sac Prairie Saga” including fiction, poetry and journals; readers of the anthologies he compiled in Science Fictionand the Macabre; or encountered one of his columns in the newspaper; read one of his many book reviews; or read his many short stories in Weird Tales; or his fiction in Redbook Magazine; or one of his biographies about Zona Gale, or Emerson or Thoreau; or one of juvenile volumes as a child.

Like a diamond, August Derleth had many facets as a writer, that I have only discovered after I followed up on the advise of David Galerstein. When David was going through his collection many years later to divest himself of stuff preparing to meet Sherlock under the Reichenbach, he sent me the original PSI pin that he had received from Luther Norris, as a token of his esteem. I shall always treasure it, and wear it with pride.

 

Senior Citizen minus One

It’s my 64th birthday today. A wonderful selection of useful presents and a card awaited me after the morning swim in the heated pool. Now the plan is to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive along the 10 miles of the ocean’s beach at New Smyna Beach. It’s overcast but some cars and families on the beach already.

 

Throw a baseball into the Atlantic Ocean

Weekend here and facing the Atlantic Ocean while I write this. There is a fisherman fellow standing  at the edge of the beach high tide-line with his kit and not less than three rods positioned in the sand in front of him. I watched him off and on now for three hours, and I haven’t seen him catch anything yet. His truck is parked back on the beach and it appears otherwise empty.

I watched the tide come last night at dusk and then night on the veranda. There were occasional passerbys, usually in pairs, but some earnest joggers appeared from time to time. I scanned the beach from north to south, becasue there is a virtual 180 degree vista of the ocean here.

After nightfall I noticed an eerie intermittent glimmer on the rolling ocean waves as they approached the sandy shore. I wondered, looked up and saw a 3-quarter moon at 11:00 o’clock in the sky above. I am always stunned by the face of the moon whether it be over the rice patties of South Vietnam at midnight, flying in an American Medivac heliocopter with an Indonesian soldier with a bullet in his head, or the corn-fields of Wisconsin near the River of same name, or finally on the Serangetti in Kenya, observing the hyenas eat their dinner.

Enough of using the moon as a segway to muse of moonlit memories of the past. It is bright sunny morning towards noon now.  The fisherman is gone now and the beach is filling with scantily-clad sunworshippers, young men throwing footballs, and quality time family related activities.

I am reminded that August Derleth compiled a volume of fishing anecdotes which was not published in his lifetime. This manuscript resulted after his many years of editing Outdoor Magazine. I am still looking for the right cover ilustration for this volume; and Stephen Leacock wrote a number of articles on the pleasures of fishing, and Carl Spadoni (Leacock’s Bibliographer) collected them and published them in Gone Fishing, with a delightfully ghostly cover by James Lumbers.

Now what am I going to do today? Go fishing? nope! There is one activity I do do regularly — have a pedicure and manicure — that is, once a year. And then we are off to the Daytona Flea market, yet another regular, once-a-year activity.

 

Travelling to Florida

During a recent car excursion to Florida, we had some some experiences worthy of note. I won’t bore you with the repetitive details necessarily involved — like lousy or good meals, or lousy and hard beds, not enough towels etc. nobody wants to take their time to read that trivia.

The first night we stopped at Dunkirk, New York. We have stayed there before and I know there is a computer in the lobby with the usual gambling and tourist shortcuts, but there was also a short cut to “Google Earth.” I was struck with an idea and I punched in “Maiwand Afghanistan.” And indeed I did get an aerial view of Maiwand, not in great resolution but certainly recognizable. I printed it out, and have now rescanned it. I wasn’t able to save the original digital image, but I post it here, and hope that I haven’t committed some egregious act of piracy. When I get home I should be able to find the landmarks and the military (British and Jezail) graveyard. I don’t suppose I will see the rock cairns, nor the signed entrance, nor the obelisk in the treed grove that marks the Afghan cemetery. Maiwand of course was where Dr. John H. Watson received his wound(s) serving as a Medical Officer with The Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers.

The first destination the next day was my appointment at The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group in York, PA to discuss the possibility of two large bulk book purchases. One batch of books was held in inventory at the warehouse in York, and the other batch of books was held at the warehouse, sixty miles up the road at their warehouse in Fredericksburg with a Lebanon, PA mailing address. I met with Joan, Shonna and Bradley in shipping and was very pleased when they accpeted Arkham House lapel pins.

That same afternoon we drove to “Fallingwater” a house built over running water of a stream somewhat southwest of Pittsburgh. We took a wrong turn, and got some excellent directions from Emily and her associates working in Campaign office of a Democrate running for office. Emily was in fact a guide at Fallingwater — serendipity in Pittsburgh. Fallingwater is a remarkable world class attraction where Frank Lloyd Wright built a home for Mr. Kaufman the department store magnate back in the 1930’s. The project went over budget, and rather than describe it here, I’ll let the reader google the word — Fallingwater. They have a remarkable webcam on site which is viewable on their website. The water was running very high under the house with the spring thaw. David Niles and his film crew were conducting a high definition film shoot of the house, and David noted that he had waited for 43 years for this two-day opportunity of a lifetime. The security guard noted that the site had 150,000 visitors per annum. I took a photograph of David doing the shoot, and we agreed that we would meet again at his studio in New York City — likely in January 2011. I invited him to do a shooot of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and he was interested. He knew of the recent Thomson renovation to the tune of 300 million, but he did not know of the 110 million dollar Reubens! I was going to post that picture of David but when I read the disclaimed that the gatekeeper had given me — no pictures of the site are to be posted on the internet, I decided not to. In closing well worth the visit — and now a cherished memory.

A point of interest: Frank Lloyd Wright (Spring Green, Wisconsin) lived just down the road from August Derleth (Sauk City, Wisconsin). They were neighbors and they kknew each other. Augie hired an architect from Chicago to build his house which Augie called “The Place of Hawks” the house that Redbook built. The money from the downpayment came from a series of Sac Prairie novels that Augie sold to Redbook. Some of these have never been collected in book foorm, and a couple are still in manuscript and have never been published at all. They were presumably turned down by Redbook, but on this point the written record is unclear. When FLW asked AD why he had not hired him to do Place of Hawks, Augie is alleged to have said “because if you had designed the house, it would be your house, and because the fellow from Chiago designed it — it is my house. Neat point! who remebers that fellow Kaufman now? The Fallingwater property designed by FLW belongs to the Pennsylvania Conservatory.

The second night we stopped at Breezewood, Pennsylvania. Then after a hectic drive around Washington, DC.
we stopped at Richmond, Virginia. We walked through the mall next door for a relaxed Italian Dinner. I consulted the tourist guides in the lobby, and thought a visit to The Confederacy White House and the The Holocaust Museum in Richmond were top of the list for a visit, but got on the road first thing instead.

On the road again in North Carolina  we stopped at J&R Outlet Mall and my major purchase was a $3.00 children’s baseball bat. Not that I’m a baseball player, but I am publishing a 3rd edition of The Annotated Casey at the Bat by Martin Gardner. I mailed the bat to Martin in a mailing tube, and suggested that his son Jim take a picture of Martin swinging the bat like Casey did in Thayer’s poem. This will form the back cover illustration for the book with a suitable caption.

The fourth night we overnighted in Florence, South Carolina. The Fatz Cafe was located within walking distance from the motel. The next day we did a whirlwind sight seeing tour of Myrtle Beach, and Charleston South Carolina. I placed a telephone call to Dan Boulden and we discussed the two editions of The Shunned House a 2008 facsimile edition issued in an edition of 100 copies. There are minor differences which will be elaborated in a blog in the near future. 

The fifth night we stopped at Ridgeland, South Carolina after a long day. Mexican meal nearby, and on the road early to visit the St. Augustine Outlet Mall. I sat patiently and quietly for a couple of hours while a shopping spree occurred.

We arrived at our destination in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Upon registration I was presented with a package from Pasquale Accardo containing the final correction of the Chester-Belloc Project. I collection of G.K. Chesterton’s illustrations, published and unpublished for some 13 books.

We went out to dinner at a Sports Bar, and I was impressed that not a single one of the 100 TV’s in the place featured the Health Care Debate which was in progress, and that I had been following every morning and every evening of the trip. On the way home I purchased a Magic Jack, a rather magical device for placing and receiving telephone calls at no charge in The USA and Canada.

That’s enough! and here’s Maiwand! I uploaded it twice, and I can’t figure out how to delete the second image.