Monday, April 18, 2011

Stories of Darkness and Dread

One of the problems of collecting a particular author's work, especially if that author wrote a lot of short stories, is that those stories are often spread among a vast number of books, magazines, and collections, and there is usually some overlap of the contents of said publications, meaning that inevitably some duplication occurs. This was a real problem back in the 1970s when everybody and his brother was putting out collections of the works of Robert E. Howard. For example, you might find that in a new paperback, containing 12 stories, as many as half of those stories might be ones you already had in other books.
Recently I've begun to run into that issue while amassing the stories of Joseph Payne Brennan. Brennan was a late comer to Weird Tales, just managing to leap in toward the end of the run of that venerable publication and to turn out some truly inspired bits of horror fiction. I have referred to Brennan before as the best horror writer you never heard of, but aficionados of the genre certainly know who he is, and he counts among the people his writing influenced horror heavy-weights like Stephen King and Karl Edward Wagner.
My interest in Brennan was sparked by remarks about his work made by folks at the Karl Edward Wagner Yahoo Group a couple of years ago and I began seeking out his stories. I immediately found a copy of the 1980 collection The Shapes of Midnight and a paperback reprint of the 1958 Arkham House collection Nine Horrors and a Dream. There were a couple of duplications right off the bat. Both of these collections featured 'Slime' and 'Canavan's Back Yard.' This isn't surprising, since these are two of Brennan's most famous stories.
Not surprisingly those two stories would also pop up in a 2008 collection from small publisher Midnight House. This volume, titled The Feaster from Afar, is the first of a projected four volume set, which would collect all of Brennan's supernatural fiction. However, since the first volume came out four years ago now and there's no sign of volume two, I'm not going to stop hunting Brennan's fiction in other places.
Which brings us to my most recent acquisition, a small 1973 volume from Arkham House called Stories of Darkness and Dread. This one contains 18 stories, 10 of which are not in any of the above mentioned collections. There were eight duplications, but hey, ten JPB stories are certainly worth what I paid for the book, and if Midnight House ever does actually bring out their other three volumes, well one can never go wrong with an old Arkham House book. Besides, in the days since I bought Nine Horrors and a Dream and The Shapes of Midnight, both of those books have skyrocketed in cost. I'm fortunate in that I often seem to be just ahead of the curve when an author suddenly becomes collectible again.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to dipping back into the creepy world of Joseph Payne Brennan, though I'm going to try and hold off until fall when Halloween comes around again. Wish me luck.


Phillip Logan said...

Hello; As a fellow Joseph Payne Brennan fan you might be able to help me out. I'm looking for info on his Western (Cowboy) stories to aid me in tracking them down. Most are straight Westerns but I'm told one is a Western/Horror tale. Thanks. --Best, Phil Logan

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'm not familiar with that story right off, Phil, but I'll ask around. That's something I'd like to read myself!