Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekend Finds: Scary Books apalooza

Good morning!

Remember what I said about not buying as many books as I used to in order to conserve space? I work in a library, for goodness's sake, there is no reason I should bury myself in books I would have equal access to in my day to day trials and travails! Well, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando: I LIIIIED. Here's me at the breakfast table today, where spread before me is not a morning's repast of flax cereal and coffee, but rather, an embarrassment of riches in the horror/ghost story book category:

I was at Great Escape in Madison last weekend, which you could see as being either fortuitously or in-fortuitously right around the corner from my folks' house, doing a bended-knee aisle walk under the comic books section, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a selection of books that looked like they were plucked from my own subconscious wish list. While Matthew looks at vintage video gaming consoles and accessories on our too-frequent visits to this fine establishment, I like to pick up reprints of fifties' horror comics, the occasional movie-tie-in book, or old movie star magazine from the "other" category of things the record store carries. Sunday, there was an unusually high number of books that I love for unusually low prices! Let's take a look at my spoils:

1) Weird Tales anthologies:

Weird Tales was a pulp magazine that originally ran from 1926-1954, chilling and thrilling a generation of scare-obsessed kids who, in some cases, grew up to be writers-of-weird-tales themselves! Authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, all pioneers of sci-fi and speculative fiction, trace their early influences (and some of their early print appearances!) back to this magazine, which provided many young readers with their first exposure to fantasy greats like H.P. Lovecraft (see the Cthulu style creature on the cover of the book on the left). While Best of Weird Tales turned out to be an anthology of the magazine's late twentieth century reincarnation (might still be good! I'm holding out hope), Weird Tales, as edited by Marvin Kaye, has story selections from the beginning of the magazine's run to that revival period in the eighties'. I am looking forward to leafing through these ASAP.

Original, Vargas-y Weird Tales covers from the thirties' and forties'. How about that bat mask?

2) Celebrity tie-in collections:

I am a stone cold sucker for paperbacks...at fifty cents apiece, who could resist these covers, much less what is inside them? The companion record to the Karloff book is selling on ebay for $50.00....ugh! I hope I come across it in a Goodwill someday, as I did this copy of his Tales of Mystery and Imagination (estate sale, a dog's age ago, wasn't more than a dollar). He has the best voice for audiobooks...did you know he was the narrator for the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas tv special? It's true! The stories in the Karloff book are kind of lame (I think they were intended for a grade-school audience more than the grown-up spookies-seeker such as I), but the Rod Serling compilation on the right is pretty sharp!

3) Edward Gorey (!!!!)

Since my devilishly precocious best friend Charley introduced me to Edward Gorey in eighth grade, I have been a huge fan of the illustrator/author's macabre collections. The first of his four Amphi-title omnibi, Amphigorey, on the right, is an anthology of fifteen smaller books. This includes The Gashlycrumb Tinies (a letter of the alphabet for each way in which an unfortunate child met its untimely demise) and The Doubtful Guest (with its iconic little creature in striped scarf and high tops). Dark humor, much? PITCH black in most cases. Still, there's something singular about the stories and the accompanying illustrations that make his work really in a class all of its own. Edward Gorey's The Haunted Looking Glass is a collection of famous (and infamous) short stories selected by EG punctuated with Gorey-penned tableaux to accompany the texts. This is not new territory for the author-- he worked for Doubleday in the fifties' and early sixties' illustrating paperback covers. Owing to my aforementioned weakness for the things, I probably have a dozen or so of these books with their weirdly lined, engaging little cover art (my favorite is hands down his drawing of French author Marcel Proust on the cover of Pleasures and Days...I wish I had a poster of it). I am in a state of high anticipation to see what he chose of other's work for his own spooky collection!

 4) Mysterious Marie Laveau: Voodoo Queen

A New Orleans local press publication, this slim volume recounts tales of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (who, incidentally, features prominently in this season of American Horror Story: Coven) and other strange happenings down on the Bayou. Since having visited Louisiana last year with Matthew and Rob, I have a special place in my heart for this weird, deeply historic region, and want to know more about voodoo legends in the U.S. (as opposed to The Serpent and the Rainbow's international look at ancient black arts).

 5) That which is not as it appears!

Ok, see how Gary Oldman in Coppola's Dracula, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and no less than FREDDY KRUEGER grace the cover of The Armchair Horror Collection? Guess who are in no way associated whatsoever with the material between these covers? This collection is actually way better than any of the three promised cover-stars, in that it presents the original source short stories for classic tv supernatural and ghost story series like One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, and Tales of the Unexpected. I. LOVE. ANTHOLOGIES. LIKE. THIS. I haven't read a bad one yet and am halfway through its 700 pages! Authors include Roald Dahl, Cornell Woolrich, Robert Bloch, and H. Russell Wakefield, among others. Possibly the best thing out of all these finds.

6) Selection of occult/supernatural digests from the seventies':

Last but not least, I laid hands on these complete weirdies as they were stacked up on top of the discount comic books under the cds. Fate: True Stories of the Strange and Unknown is a digest style monthly publication (that is still around, maybe? Is this the same thing?), and you had me at the cover's troubling questions about the unseen world around us. "Winged Weirdies: Seen Any Lately?" and "What Happens Between Death and Rebirth?" are just two of the leads here. Inside, some 1972 reader has highlighted a bunch of classifieds at the end of the magazine, advertising everything from crystal balls and planchettes to a call for recruitment from a coven-master in New Jersey (tough gig). There's a whole feature called True Mystic Experiences in each issue which invites the reader to send in their true tales of brushes with the bizarre. The real life accounts are accompanied by the name and photograph of the person who experienced the event, which may well be the very best part. Fifty cents a piece! I couldn't pass these up.

So! What do you have on your reading list? Which of these titles do you think you would try and delve into first? Have any ghost story or horror collection recommendations as we skate ever closer towards Halloween? What did you find out in the world this weekend? Let's talk!

That's all for today, and if I don't scare myself silly tonight, I'll be back with more vintage goods tomorrow. Have a great Tuesday! Til then.


  1. Rod Serling! Loooooove The Twilight Zone (streams on Netflix)!

    1. The story Serling wrote that he based the first episode, "Where is Everybody?", is in the Armchair horror book, too-- he's really a fine writer! Makes me want to watch those episodes over again. :)

  2. I LOVE Edward Gorey! I discovered him through the intro to Mystery! he illustrated for PBS. I loved the intro as a child and have since collected a number of his books :)

    1. He's really the best. I could re-read the Amphigoreys all day, I always see something new I missed before!

  3. Wow, what scores! We love horror/supernatural/occult/crypto/ufo stuff and looks like you hit the jackpot. Soooo jealous! Btw, meant to say ages ago- CONGRATS on your marriage! :D

    1. Thanks, Michelle! We're officially one month in and still happy as clams. :) I'll let you know if the books I haven't read yet are any good, once I get to them, but that Armchair horror book is a real treasure. Peter Haining has edited a bunch of other ghoulish short story collections, you should check him out, being like minded!



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