Column from CD #61

Greetings and welcome to the return of the “Spotlight on Publishing” column. I think it makes sense to kick off this re-launch by providing a quick history of the column, but before that, I’m going to be even more self-indulgent and talk (briefly, I promise) about my personal involvement with the small press.

I first discovered the small press scene in the late 1980s, through the monthly miracle that was the Weinberg Books catalog. In those hallowed pages, I discovered the likes of Dark Harvest, Scream/Press, and countless small press magazines (in his February 16th “Words from the Publisher” entry on www.cemeterydance.com, Rich Chizmar wrote about how these very same magazines inspired him to get into publishing)…and even some still-in-print copies of Carcosa House titles from the early 1980s, which to this day remain some of the most prized possessions in my collection. From there, an addiction was born, and I continue to be an avid small press collector to this day.

Pretty soon I started writing about the small press, mostly in the form of book reviews that appeared in a variety of outlets. I even managed to parlay my growing small press acumen into a small press round-up article that appeared in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.

And then, in 1990, I made the leap from collector to publisher, when I met Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri, and wound up joining them as a partner in Deadline Press. While at Deadline, which continued until effectively shutting down in 1998, I co-edited issues #7-19 of The Scream Factory, and we published four books—A Good, Secret Place and A Writer’s Tale, both by Richard Laymon, Cages by Ed Gorman, and the anthology Quick Chills II, co-edited by Peter and me.

One of the features that I wrote on a regular basis for The Scream Factory was “The Small Press Box,” which comprised small press book and magazine reviews, and the Quick Chills II anthology that I mentioned above was a “best of the small press” collection that required me to read a ton of small press material. By this time, small press knowledge was beginning to take up a significant portion of my brain.

During those early days at Deadline Press I became friends, long-distance, with Mr. Cemetery Dance himself, Rich Chizmar, and he wound up asking me if I’d be interested in writing a column based on interviwes with small press publishers. Thus was born “Spotlight on Publishing,” and the first installment appeared in CD #8 (Spring, 1991). I wrote a total of 25 installments between then and my last column, in #48, and there have also been seven guest installments over the last few years, when I was too busy editing CD to continue with the column. Details on which publishers have been covered can be found in this column’s accompanying sidebar.

Although “Spotlight on Publishing” has, up until now, been almost exclusively an interview-based column, going forward we’re going to inject a little more variety, morphing the column into a combination of news, reviews, and interviews. For this first new installment, I’m going to limit the content to just this little retrospective and an overview of the small press titles of this issue’s featured author. We’ll get back on track with an interview in the next installment. Incidentally, some of the publishers that I hope to cover in the future are Bloodletting Press, Dark Regions Press, Delirium Books, Gray Friar Press, Necessary Evil Press, Necro Publications, and PS Publishing, to name a few. And believe me, there’s no shortage of publishers from which to choose.

In fact, I’ve been continuously surprised over the last few years to see how many new publishers have launched. I recently counted up the number of small press book publishers that I’m aware of in the horror/dark fiction genre, and came up with a somewhat staggering total of more than 80. Given the hard work and the (in most cases) minimal or non-existent profits, one can only hope that publishing is a labor of love for all these new firms.

Of course, the woeful economy is already taking its toll on the publishing ranks, with recent months seeing the demise of firms such as Solitude Publications and Humdrumming Press. There seems little doubt that we’ll see others fold their tents in the face of the current economic storm.

* * *

This issue’s featured author, Peter Straub, has been a favorite of small press publishers, with 15 titles appearing in small press editions over the years. No less than seven different publishers have been responsible for those books, with three of those publishers issuing multiple titles.

Peter Straub
Image via Wikipedia

Straub’s debut in the small press occurred in 1982, when two titles appeared. The General’s Wife, published by Donald Grant in a 1200-copy edition, is essentially a short story stretched out via an expansive page design and a lengthy introduction to 128-page length. Based on a passage from the original Floating Dragon manuscript that was cut from the final version of that novel, the book features some beautiful old-school design by Thomas Canty.

The first of Straub’s novels to be published in a small press edition was Floating Dragon, which Underwood Miller issued in a 500-copy edition in 1982, sporting dustjacket art by Leo and Diane Dillon and appearing nearly simultaneously with Putnams’ trade edition. Floating Dragon was the first of three titles that Straub would publish with Underwood Miller, and was quickly followed by title number two, the slight 74-page poetry collection, Leeson Park and Belsize Square: Poems 1970-1975, of which 980 copies were produced for sale (a 200-copy signed edition and a 780-copy trade edition) in 1983.

Straub’s breakthrough novel, Ghost Story, which was originally published in 1979, was reprinted in a 400-copy signed edition by Hill House in 1984. The Hill House edition of Ghost Story is beautifully enhanced by Stephen Gervais’s remarkable illustrations and diminished only by an unforunately cheap slipcase that has not aged well. This is one of the most expensive of Straub’s titles on the collectors’ market, exceeded by probably only The Talisman. Speaking of which…

Straub’s first collaborative novel with Stephen King, The Talisman was published in three states by Donald Grant in 1984—a 75-copy deluxe edition, a 1200-copy signed edition, and a 2500-copy “trade’ edition, all issued in advance of Viking’s true trade edition. Published in two volumes, with no dustjackets, but plentiful interior illustrations by R.J. Krupowicz, Grant’s version is impressive in both size and production values.

The third and final title that Straub published with Underwood Miller, Blue Rose, appeared in 1985 in a 600-copy edition. Blue Rose is a 92-page novella that was later included in Dutton’s 1990 trade hardcover collection Houses Without Doors.

Speaking of Houses Without Doors…Straub’s next small press title, Mrs. God, is a significantly longer version of a story that appeared in the collection. Donald Grant’s version of Mrs. God runs 208 pages, and was issued in a 600-copy signed edition and 750-copy trade edition in 1990.

Borderlands Press is tied with Donald Grant as Straub’s most frequent small press publisher with four titles issued, and Borderlands’ publishing relationship with Straub began in 1994 with their hefty (693 pages) 350-copy limited and 26-copy deluxe editions of The Throat, which preceded the Dutton trade edition and features slightly different text.

Straub’s novel Shadowland, which was originally published in 1980, was reissued in a small press edition in1995, when Gauntlet Publications issued a “15-Year Anniversary Edition.” Gauntlet’s limited and deluxe editions were limited to 500 and 52 copies, respectively, and featured an introduction by Ramsey Campbell, an afterword by Thomas Tessier, and a stunning wrap-around dustjacket illustration courtesy of Harry O. Morris.

Subterranean Press joined the list of Straub’s publishers in 1999 when they issued the chapbook Peter & PTR in 250-copy limited and 52-copy deluxe editions. The chapbook features two prefaces that Straub had originally written for the novel Mr. X before deciding to delete them.

Black House, King and Straub’s sequel to The Talisman, was published by Donald Grant in 2003, featuring 22 impressive illustrations from Rick Berry, and issued in 1520 copies. Grant also issued the book, in a 3500-copy edition, as part of a two-volume set with a reprinting of The Talisman.

Borderlands Press added Straub to their “Little Book” series of titles in 2004 when they issued A Little Blue Book Of Rose Stories in a 500-copy edition. This min-collection rather needlessly reprints “Blue Rose,” which had already been printed twice in book form, and “The Juniper Tree” which appeared previously in Houses Without Doors.

Also in 2004, Borderlands Press published limited and deluxe editions of lost boy lost girl in the same quantities of 350 and 26, respectively, that they used previously for their edition of The Throat.

Straub’s most recent title from Borderlands is 2007’s 5 Stories, a slim 128-page collection that brings together five previously uncollected stories. It was issued in 350-copy limited, 26-copy deluxe, and unlimited trade paperback editions.

Finally, Cemetery Dance Publications threw their hat in the Straub publishing ring in 2007 with Sides, a non-fiction collection that includes various introductions, essays, afterwords and more written by Straub over the last 20 years. Published in trade, 350-copy limited, and 52-copy lettered editions.

In addition to the aforementioned titles written by Straub, there are a few other related titles of interest, starting with the Straub-edited anthology, Peter Straub’s Ghosts, a Horror Writers Association anthology available in mass-market form from Pocket, and issued in a 350-copy limited edition by Borderlands Press in 1995.

There’s also Hauntings: The Official Peter Straub Bibliography, compiled by Michael R. Collings and published in both harcover and trade paperback editions by Overlook Connection Press in 2000, and Bill Sheehan’s critical study of Straub’s work, At the Foot of the Story Tree, published in a 500-copy edition by Subterranean Press in 2000. Most recently, Straub had eight poems in the Tom Piccirilli-edited poetry anthology, The Devil’s Wine, issued in trade hardcover and 52-copy deluxe editions by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2004.

Finally, Straub recently announced that his next novel, A Dark Matter, will be published in what he refers to as its “looser, sloppier, more wild-eyed” form, under the title The Skylark, by Subterranean Press, who expect their edition to appear in the fall of 2009.

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