One of the most frustrating aspects of being a horror fan is the accompanying desire to read works that are obscure or are out of print. I use both terms often enough that my wife pointed out recently that those are the only ones I read. Thanks, honey.

I learned the harsh lesson that many authors, even great ones, may be out of print. Early in my horror readership, I realized I couldn't find any of Robert Bloch's books in bookstores, not even Psycho. Amazon became my best friend at the time because everything I wanted was out of print.

On the plus side, horror has a strong enough following that there's no shortage of specialty publishers. My personal favorite is Valancourt. They have been in business for several years and have devoted their time to reprinting the work of many forgotten authors such as Charles Beaumont, Fredric Brown, Gerald Kersh, Michael McDowell, Charles Birkin, John Blackburn, L.P. Hartley, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, and David Case.

The writers I just listed are among my favorites. Valancourt published two volumes of David Case's short stories (The Cell and Other Transmorphic Tales and Fengriffen and Other Gothic Tales) along with his mummy novel The Third Grave, and his werewolf novel Wolftracks. It's a crime that Case isn't better known.

Another Valancourt reprint is Nightshades and Damnations by Gerald Kersh and is a great intro to this work. Nightmares and Geezenstacks is a classic collection of spec fic by Fredric Brown. His stories are gems. The Hunger and other Stories by Charles Beaumont was unavailable for decades but brought out of the depths thanks to Valancourt.

Fingers of Fear by J.U. Nicholson and The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck were both reprinted by Valancourt and are some of the most enjoyable books I read for my evaluation of Karl Edward Wagner's list of best horror novels.

Michael McDowell's novels were reprinted also, including Cold Moon in Babylon, The Elementals, The Amulet, as well as his seminal Blackwater saga. Horror would be a much sadder field without him.

I recently got into Charles Birkin and R Chetwynd-Hayes and very little of their work is in print. Birkin made his mark in horror with especially bleak conte cruels. His collections are quite rare, so thankfully valancourt reprinted The Smell of Evil and Devil's Spawn. R Chetwynd-Hayes is one of those examples of writers that I kick myself for not reading sooner. Like Birkin, his prose is quite elegant but while Birkin wrote mostly psychological horror, Chetwynd-Hayes made his name with writing quirky supernatural tales. Valancourt reprinted two of Chetwynd-Hayes's collections: The Monster Club (the book on which the classic Vincent Price movie was based) and Looking for Something to Suck: The Vampire Fiction of R Chetwynd-Hayes.

Lately, Valancourt has been reprinting books featured in Grady Hendrx's illustrated history Paperbacks from Hell. Hendrix's book is a must for any horror fan, so Valancourt's efforts are a great follow up.

If anything, check out Valancourt online. Have a look at their Facebook page where they are offering awesome deals during the pandemic. Reading their publications is rewarding work.

P.S. their audiobook presentations are excellent and worth your time.

Written by Nicholas Montelongo

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