eBooks and Obituaries

As promised, I’m back with a small bit of news and a couple reviews.  Even if it did take me a week longer than expected to get them posted here.  Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and monsters.

Anyway… Let’s start with a long-overdue obituary, worth noting even at this late date because it’s likely that many have not heard the news… Legendary small press publisher Donald Grant died August 19, 2009. Grant began publishing in 1945, with a collection of Lovecraft memoirs, entitled Rhode Island on Lovecraft, the sole volume from his initial imprint, Grant-Hadley. From 1949 to 1958, Grant published several titles under the Grandon:Publishers imprint, and then withdrew from publishing for a few years.  In 1964, he returned by launching the Donald M. Grant, Publisher imprint, which of course is still operating to this day.  In addition to publishing the likes of William Hope Hodgson, Fritz Leiber, and H. Warner Munn, Grant earned the most attention (not to mention the most money) by publishing limited editions of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I featured Donald M. Grant, Publisher in the Spotlight on Publishing column way back in Cemetery Dance #12, in 1992, and even back then Grant had taken on a lesser role in the business, allowing his partner Robert Wiener to participate in the interview. Hopefully he enjoyed his retirement years in Florida. Grant is survived by his wife of 53 years and their two children.

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Things are starting to happen very quickly in the world of e-books. Among bigger names, Barnes & Noble released its nook device, which has some nice features, but is also lamely crippled. (The wireless only works inside B & N stores? Seriously?) Sony released their new $399 Daily Edition Reader, and expanded distribution of their smaller, less-expensive models. And a boatload of new readers were announced or released at CES in January, including the Que pro-Reader, the Skiff Reader, the Alex Reader, and the Entourage eDGe.

And, of course, as everyone in the known universe has heard by now, Apple announced and released the iPad. (More on that in a minute…)

On a personal note, I took the plunge in late 2009 and purchased a Sony Reader, which I’m mostly happy with, although the lack of backlighting (which contributes to the device’s admirable battery life) is definitely a pain when trying to read in low-light situations.  When I purchased the Sony Reader, the aforementioned iPad was still just a rumor.  Having now had the opportunity to spend some time with the iPad (cadged from friends who own one), I have to say that I have a certain amount of iPad lust…but reading is not highest on the list of things I’d use the device for.  And the lust is offset by the loathing I feel towards the “closed system” approach that Apple employs — acting as “App Police”, often ignoring standards and inflicting proprietary formats, and not just refusing to support Flash, but engaging in adolescent-level flame wars with Adobe.   So, for now, I’m going to stay on the sidelines and not buy an iPad.  I’ll wait and see what version 2.0 looks like… and if I decide to take the plunge then, I’ll have gotten at least 18 months of usage out of the Sony Reader, so I don’t feel bad about that purchase.

There are also interesting potential ramifications to the pricing deals that Apple has worked out, with five of the six major publishers, for their iBook store — but I’ll hold off on that topic for now. Especially because recent news around pricing from Google and Amazon make this a large topic.

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And now, on to some reviews…

A collection from David Nickle was long overdue, a situation that Chizine Publications (www.chizinepub.com) has happily rectified with the launch of Monstrous Affections, which gathers fourteen tales, three of which are original to the book. I first discovered Nickle through his excellent contributions to the Northern Frights anthology series, and eventually purchased a couple stories from him for publication in Cemetery Dance. Those two CD stories (“Janie and the Wind” from issue #38 and “The Delilah Party” from #56) are both reprinted here, as are three Northern Frights stories – “The Sloan Me n,” “Night of the Tar Baby,” and “The Pit-Heads” (sadly and strangely absent is the excellent “The Summer Worms,” which also appeared in Northern Frights).

Even though this is the third or fourth time that I’ve read some of these tales, they’ve lost none of their power through the passage of time or the rigors of repeated study. In particular, “The Sloan Men,” concerning a family of physically repulsive men and their strange ability to mesmerize women, making them completely overlook the Sloans’ imperfections, and “The Pit-Heads,” involving a small coterie of amateur landscape-painters and their encounter with the denizens of an abandoned silver mine in Ontario, qualify as genre classics, resonating with a disconcerting sense of not-quite-right otherness. If there’s anything at all negative to say about Monstrous Affections, it’s simply that Nickle’s best work makes some of his lesser efforts pale by comparison…but that’s slight criticism indeed. Highly recommended.

Also recently appearing from Chizine is Nicholas Kaufmann’s novella Chasing the Dragon, which aims to tie together several centuries of dragon mythology, update it with a contemporary setting, and make a heroine out of a heroin addict. For the most part, the author succeeds.

Despite her drug habit and a few other rough edges, it’s not difficult to like Georgia Quincey, a determined and resourceful protagonist who also happens to be the latest in a long line of would-be dragon-slayers. Georgia has a complex and not fully understood relationship with the Dragon (there is only one such creature, and it’s a female as well). The heroin plays a role almost like a third character, acting not only as the object of Georgia’s desire, but also ultimately as a key ingredient in her attempts to end the dragon’s reign.

The strongest element here is the pacing, as the 133 pages fly past like a soaring dragon. Georgia spends the entire narrative in pursuit of the Dragon, following her trail of mayhem and battling not just the Dragon but her meat-puppet minions as well (the Dragon has the ability to animate and control the dead). Some of the climax seems a bit overwritten and borderline melodramatic, but overall Chasing the Dragon is an entertaining way to spend a couple hours.

More reviews soon, including titles by Darren Speegle and Lisa Morton…

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Guilty as Charged

Or perhaps Guilty But Insane, to borrow a title from Poppy Z. Brite.  Guilty of what?  Of the worst sin that a blogger can commit – the sin of inattention.  This is my first post in many, many months, as life has gotten in the way, as it has a habit of doing.  (That, and I’m lazy.)

What prompted me to finally weigh in again was the appearance (finally) of Cemetery Dance issue #63 (now that I’m no longer Editor, I get to complain about the mag’s tardiness – ha!), containing the latest installment of the resurrected “Spotlight on Publishing” column — and, more importantly, a couple of pointers to this website. The realization that fresh hordes would soon be descending upon the site forces me to get on the ball and start regularly posting. I’ll begin by including some recent book announcements of interest below, and will follow up shortly with some new reviews, as well as long overdue updates to the Recent/Forthcoming Books List that’s elsewhere on this site.

Without further delay, some recent book announcements of note:

  • Charnel House Announced a 150-copy limited edition of Frankenstein:Lost Souls by Dean R. Koontz. Personally, I find Charnel House’s ultra-limited, extremely pricey editions to be of limited interest (and they publish little beyond Koontz any more), but no doubt this edition will sell out quickly.
  • Bloodletting Press began shipping He Stepped Through by Nate Southard. Volume #3 in their novelette series, this is available in a 300-copy, signed perfectbound paperback edition.  Southard has deservedly been attracting attention of late, and this title may well go quickly.
  • Bad Moon Books announced their 350-copy limited edition of Nate Kenyon’s Sparrow Rock, which is already available as a Leisure paperback.  Publishing hardcover editions after mass-market paperbacks can be a dangerous practice, but Kenyon likely has enough a following to make this a success for BMB.
  • Centipede Press released their edition of E. H. Visiak’s rare novel Medusa, which was originally published in 1945.  The Centipede edition also includes 13 of Visiak’s stories, and an Introduction by Colin Wilson.  I already have a copy of Medusa, the novel, but with the short stories, this is an enticing package.  Centipede also released their mammoth omnibus of Reggie Oliver’s short fiction, entitled Dramas From the Depths. Clocking in at over 900 oversized pages, this one will test your forearm muscles, but Oliver’s work is first-rate, and some of the tales collected here are virtually impossible to find in their original publication form as collections from Haunted River Press.
  • Earthling Publications announced their limited editions of  The Very Best of Best New Horror (the same contents are also available as a trade paperback entitled The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror, from mass-market publisher Running Press).  The Earthling editions are a 300-copy limited @ $60, signed by Editor Stephen Jones, and a 200-copy deluxe edition @ $250, signed by all 20 contributors.  This brings to mind Underwood-Miller’s reprinting of the Year’s Best Horror series many years back, but Earthling’s attempt is distinguished by the signatures, and significantly smaller print runs, which should together guarantee success for their editions.
  • Subterranean Press announced a forthcoming limited edition (planned for Fall, 2010) of Robert McCammon‘s The Wolf’s Hour, which was originally published as paperback original in 1989. One of the relatively few McCammon titles not previously available in hardcover, The Wolf’s Hour would doubtless be of interest on its own, but what makes it extremely enticing is the inclusion of a brand-new 36,000 word novella, “The Room at the Bottom of the Stair,” which details further WWII adventures of protagonist Michael Gallatin. Despite the price, this will be hard to pass up.
  • Longtime bookseller Camelot Books is dipping their toe in the publishing waters with the announcement of Edward Lee’s Header 2 (I’m pretty sure that this will be Camelot’s first published title, but their website is spectacularly unhelpful in that regard). Header 2 will be published in a 500-copy trade edition ($25); a 500-copy signed hardcover edition ($50) with at least 25 interior illos and a “chapette” entitled A Header Tale, Part II (available only if you order direct from Camelot); and a 26-copy lettered edition, details and price to be determined.  I’m not a big fan of Lee’s over-the-top work, but plenty of other people are, so jump on this one quick if you’re interested.
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