It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I was stunned and deeply saddened today when I heard that Hellbound Books was closing its doors. Cemetery Dance has always been my favorite small horror press, but Hellbound came in at number two.
I adored Hellbound. It was truly the reader’s press. Hellbound put out mass-market sized paperbacks, but they were far sturdier than what you’d get at the drug store. The books were tight and solid as a brick. And at a time when it seems like many publishers are charging more and more for fewer and fewer words, Hellbound Books could be afforded by almost anyone.
But the quality didn’t stop with a nicely made, inexpensive book. No, Hellbound always put out superior genre fiction. Excellent anthologies like Damned Nation and the Deathgrip books, and kickass novels from the likes of T.M. Gray and Tim Curran. The most popular books done by Hellbound were probably Bad Juju and Hellz Bellz, both by the extremely talented Randy Chandler. I was always hoping for more Hellbound books by Randy. Now all I can do is hope that some intelligent press publishes his books. Small press would be nice, but Randy deserves the big time.
Then there are the books Hellbound did by genre legend William F. Nolan. We got a cool screenplay about cars, Hollywood and mayhem called Death Drive from Nolan, as well as a deluxe hardback of prose, poetry and illustrations called Ill Met By Moonlight. And where others would have charged 40, 50 or possibly even more for such a landmark collection, Hellbound sold it for $19.95. Having such an honored writer on board would be a coup for any publisher, but it was especially gratifying to see such a micropress do it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Man himself. Walt Hicks, also known in horror circles as Hellbound Walt, is one of the true good men in the genre. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him, but we corresponded often and I owe him. Big time. As far as I’m concerned, Walt Hicks is a saint.
So what happened? Hellbound was such a great thing that one might think it would be a sure bet. I don’t know all the reasons why things went wrong. Maybe it’s because Walt didn’t play it safe by publishing the flavor of the month writers. The message board favorites. Or maybe it really is a collectors’ market, rather than a readers’, but that thought makes me sad.
Everyone that loves horror fiction should have bought every book that Hellbound put out. I’m sure that some would be disappointed once in a while, but I think it would be rare.
Simply put, this is a loss that we, the horror genre, could not afford to have. We needed Hellbound. We need more publishers like Walt Hicks, presenting quality books at prices everyone can…
Shit. I’m repeating myself. I’m deeply disappointed and I’m pissed off. And I’m not even sure who I’m pissed at.