Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Health Knowledge Genre Magazines Part One: The Magazine of Horror

by Peter Enfantino

As a collector of pulps and paperbacks, I’m often asked that collector's question, “what is the best deal you’ve ever made?” My face peels back in a Joker-like grin when I remember.

In San Jose, California, where I lived the first 30+ years of my life, we had a drive-in theater called The Capitol (technically, it’s still open for business but the six screens are surrounded by an indoor multiplex). By the late-80s, drive-ins were pretty much on their last legs and someone was just waiting off to the side to take ‘em out and give them the mercy bullet. Home theaters were getting to be the size of drive-in screens and suddenly the sound of the film (with the advent of THX) meant a lot to the average moviegoer. The true filmgoer didn’t want the lights from the highway or a train whistle to invade their concentration. Customers there for “other activity” couldn’t care less. Drive-ins had taken to opening flea markets on weekends to offset their massive overhead and on an occasional Saturday, you might find some crumpled Famous Monsters or a coverless Weird Tales, seemingly always sold by someone who “knew what they had” and would charge outrageous prices for their merchandise. After all, it was old so it must be worth something.

But now and then, you’d find something else, tantamount to the needle in the haystack (I remember John and I leaving the flea market with his little sports car filled with over 100 of the Crime Club books I’d bought for twenty bucks). I was turning the corner of one aisle (this would probably be circa 1987) when my eagle eye spotted something that looked like a Magazine of Horror. I’d seen some of these in a catalog before but didn’t have any in my collection. It was just sitting on a stack of Good Housekeepings, all by its lonesome, crying out for someone to just know what it was, by God!

The rule of thumb, when you desperately want something but there’s no price tag, is to act disinterested (warning: this does not work at comic conventions as they’re ready for you). When the seller walked up to me and asked if there was anything in the stack I wanted, I shrugged, picked up The Magazine of Horror (Issue #17, for the record), and asked, “Oh, I don’t know what this is, but how much do you want for it?” with that “I don’t really want this shit” look on my face.

He looked it over, opened it up, shrugged back at me and said, with one of those scrunched-up looks, “A quarter?” I scratched my head, hemmed and hawed, and reached for a quarter. Then I got one of my bright ideas. “You don’t have any more of these things, do you?” He pointed at the box it had been sitting atop, the one ostensibly filled with Cosmopolitan, Sunset, AARP Bulletin, and other future cage-liners, and said “That box is full of them.”

“Hmmm,” I deadpanned, “I’ll have a look.” Sure enough, this guy wasn’t putting me on. There, under 3 or 4 copies of Drive-In Flea Market Merchandiser Weekly, was a full set of not only The Magazine of Horror, but also its sister digests, Startling Mystery Stories, Bizarre Fantasy, and Weird Terror. Now sit down, because here’s where I tell you these things were all in Very Good-Fine condition. Why would he keep these things? Why would he keep these things in such good shape?

After offering him a price for the whole box (yeah, I know, given the Golden Chalise, I still wanted it filled with Chateau Mouton Rothschild and it had to be a 1982 vintage—hey, I’m a collector), I downplayed my excitement and carted off my large box of booty. The excitement was not lost on my (then) wife and (still) children as they had to take the bus back home since I had forgotten to pick them up on the next aisle and instead headed home to lay out the goods on the library floor.

So what did I discover when going through these little zines and are they worth trolling eBay for? Well, that depends. Much like the legendary pulp, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, the Health Knowledge line reprinted classics and not-so-classics from the great pulps, along with a spattering of new stories. But what it’s remembered fondly for, nearly fifty years later, was the editorial presence of Robert A. W. Lowndes, who would not only pick each story, he’d also tell you all about the tale and its teller. The letters pages and book review columns were packed with opinionated information and informed opinions. Though I haven’t read much of the fiction, I’ve devoured the non-.

Lowndes was like a professor, lecturing to his students about Lovecraft, Bloch, Howard, and Quinn. He would gently nudge the reader towards a certain author and was not adverse to giving the newbie a spotlight (as he did with Stephen King and F. Paul Wilson). His fingerprints could be found on every page.

The history of Lowndes’ tenure at Health Knowledge is told in minute detail in the fanzine Outworlds #28/29 (October 1976) by the man himself but, in a nutshell, here’s how it went down:

In 1963, while editing Exploring the Unknown (one of the dozens of UFO/Bigfoot journals that popped up in the late 1950s) and Real Life Guide (which did for sex what Exploring did for UFOs), Health Knowledge publisher Louis C. Elson asked Lowndes what he thought about editing a new horror digest (Elson had been impressed by how well the British Pan Book of Horror series was doing). Lowndes wanted a magazine that would publish 50% classic reprints (avoiding, he says, “the old Terror Tales, Horror Stories type of story in which all the weirdness is phony and torture and mutilation are the core”) and 50% new material. Elson agreed and granted Lowndes the miniscule budget of $250 an issue (or a penny a word). There would be no art on the cover, just a “dignified cover that gave the appearance of an anthology.” Lowndes began scouring his vast collection of pulps for stories he felt would fall under his chosen title: The Magazine of Horror.

Meanwhile, Lowndes put out feelers to nearby writers he dealt with in his previous job as editor of the Columbia pulps and digests (Future, Double Action Detective, Blue Ribbon Western, etc.). Answering the call were Edward D. Hoch, Robert Silverberg, Donald A. Wollheim and Wallace West (the latter submitting a story rejected by Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales) despite the meager payment. This, more than anything, showed what respect the writers had for the editor.

Lowndes got right to work on establishing that important bond with readers. He knew that the low budget would preclude any major works of horror so he went for a different angle. Readers were asked to vote for their favorite stories each issue and the results would be run in a future issue. Lowndes also asked that the readers send in requests for stories and if he published that story, the name of the fan would be published in the intro to that story.

The first three issues were perfect bound but, due to slow sales, as of the fourth issue the magazine was saddle-stitched. All issues were 130 pages (except the 6th, which was 126). Cover illustrations did not become the norm until the 6th issue and most of those illustrations were pretty crude, several resembling pre-code horror comic panels.

Several times during the magazine’s eight-year (and 36 issue) history, the plug was almost pulled due to poor sales but Lowndes was always able to eke out another issue until the axe finally fell in early 1971.

The following analysis of the Health Knowledge genre digests is broken up into 6 parts. The first three installments cover The Magazine of Horror, parts 4 and 5, Startling Mystery, and part 6 Bizarre Mystery and Weird Terror.

Robert A. W. Lowndes’ The Magazine of Horror.

(* indicates a story original to TMOH)
(A note on word counts: all word counts are approximate to give the browser a good idea of the length of a story only. I performed the very scientific task of counting two different full-page columns in an issue. Both ran approximately 250 words per column. I’ve noted the original appearance of the reprint when known.

No. 1 August 1963
130 pages, 50 cents

The Man with a Thousand Legs - Frank Belknap Long
(10,250 words; from Weird Tales, Aug 1927)
*A Thing of Beauty - Wallace West (3000 words)
The Yellow Sign - Robert W. Chambers
(7500 words; from The King in Yellow)
*The Maze and the Monster - Edward D. Hoch (2500 words)
The Death of Halpin Frayser - Ambrose Bierce
(6500 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
*Babylon 70 M. - Donald A. Wollheim (3500 words)
The Inexperienced Ghost - H.G. Wells
(5500 words; from Twelve Stories and a Dream)
*The Unbeliever - Robert Silverberg (3000 words)
Fidel Bassin - W. J. Stamper
(3250 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, July 1925)
The Last Dawn - Frank Lillie Pollock
(4750 words; originally appeared in The Argosy, June 1906)
The Undying Head - Mark Twain
(6000 words; from Life on the Mississippi)

Notes: Lowndes lays out his philosophy for what TMOH will be: “We want to give you variety...We want to present you with some of the great classics that you may not have seen before…We want to resurrect some memorable stories by authors who wrote this sort of material for the old “pulps”…We want to offer an opportunity to today’s writers, newcomer and old hand alike, to write the horror, strange, bizarre, etc. story they’d like to write – and never mind the so-called policy…This first issue is a sample – a more or less comprehensive, but by no means an exhaustive sample of what we have in mind for you.” Indeed, this issue is a template for future issues. There’s a bit of 19th Century fiction (the Wells, Twain, Bierce, and Chambers), a smattering from the pulps (Long and Stamper first appeared in 1920s era Weird Tales) and about a third original fiction.

Lowndes’ habit of copious story notes begins right from day one. Seemingly, he had something to say about everything, especially pulps. Interesting that West’s story was submitted to and rejected by Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales. Lowndes notes that, on occasion, despite the nature of the magazine, Wright would reject a story as “too horrible.” After reading the story however, I question whether Lowndes wasn’t misunderstanding Wright’s use of the word “horrible.” The story, about the hunchback in charge of a brine vat (used for the preservation of human corpses for medical dissection) at a university who falls in love with one of his…charges… probably would have been ideal for Terror Tales or, years later, Web Terror Tales, but not for Weird Tales.

“The Last Dawn” (originally titled “Finis” and appearing in The Argosy, June 1906) is one of the earliest “end of the world” stories and it doesn’t have a happy ending. Despite the appearance of a couple of stories that are decidedly not horror, this is a solid first issue

No. 2 November 1963
130 pages, 50 cents

(2) The Space-Eaters - Frank Belknap Long
(12,500 words; Weird Tales, July 1928)
(4) *The Faceless Thing - Edward D. Hoch (2000 words)
The Red Room - H.G. Wells (4500 words)
*Hungary’s Female Vampire - Dean Lipton (3750 words)
A Tough Tussle - Ambrose Bierce
(3500 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
*Doorslammer - Donald A. Wollheim (2200 words)
The Electric Chair - George Waight
(5500 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, January 1925)
*The Other One - Jerryl L. Keane (1500 words)
(3) *The Charmer - Archie Binns (8000 words)
(1) Clarissa - Robert A. W. Lowndes
(1600 words; expanded version “Gourmet,” that appeared in Renascence, 1946)
(5) The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes - Rudyard Kipling
(9500 words; from Under the Deodars)

Notes: Lowndes’ introduction this issue is devoted to a discussion of H.P. Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long, and the religious aspects of the Necronomicon. Beginning this issue, Lowndes runs “Reader’s Preference Coupons,” urging readers to pick their three favorite and three least-liked stories of the issue, cut the page out of the magazine and mail it to Lowndes (thankfully, the former owner of my copies didn’t take him up on the offer but I wonder how many mutilated copies of TMOH are circulating). I’ve indicated the rated stories in each issue’s index with a (#) before the title. Lowndes also begins running teasers for the major story in the following issue (this time, he runs a small excerpt from David H. Keller’s “The Seeds of Death”). “Hungary’s Female Vampire” is actually a non-fiction piece about Countess Bathory (later immortalized by Ingrid Pitt in Hammer’s Countess Dracula), an experiment that, Lowndes was relieved to learn, was not popular with the readers. The editor had given thought to a series of “real-life” articles but “wasn’t so fond of the idea” himself and quickly nixed the concept.

No. 3 February 1964
130 pages, 50 cents

(1) The Seeds of Death - David H. Keller
(11,000 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, June/July 1931)
(4) *The Seeking Thing - Janet Hirsch (1600 words)
A Vision of Judgement - H.G. Wells
(2000 words; from The Time Machine and Others)
(3) The Place of the Pythons - Arthur J. Burks
(5500 words; originally appeared in Strange Tales, September 1931)
Jean Bouchon - S. Waring-Gould
(4750 words; from A Book of Ghosts)
*The Door - Rachel Cosgrove Payes (2250 words)
One Summer Night - Ambrose Bierce
(750 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
Luella Miller - Mary Wilkins-Freeman
(6250 words; from The Wind in the Rose-Bush)
(5) *They That Wait - H.S.W. Chibbett (7000 words)
(2) The Repairer of Reputations - Robert W. Chambers
(14,000 words; from The King in Yellow)

Notes: In his brief introduction, Lowndes ponders the difference between horror and terror. The letters column, It is Written, begins. The feature is also Lowndes-text heavy, which cuts his introduction in half (he explains this as a soother to those who do not want a letters column to cut into the fiction). Lowndes responds to readers’ comments on both previous issues. J. W. Daley of Jamaica Plains, Mass writes “I know you are going to hear from the usual Lovecraft-Merritt-Kuttner groups and if you start using that stuff you are also going to meet the inevitable fate of other magazines that published the works of these stereotyped mimics…” Well, coincidentally…

No. 4 May 1964
130 pages, 50 cents

(4) *Beyond the Breakers - Anna Hunger (5750 words)
(3) What Was It? - Fitz-James O’Brien (5750 words)
*Last Act: October – Tigrina (7250 words)
A Psychological Experiment - Richard Marsh
(5000 words; from The Seen and The Unseen)
(5) *A Dream of Falling - Attila Hatvany (3000 words)
The Truth About Pyecraft - H.G. Wells
(4250 words; from Twelve Stories and a Dream)
(2) The Mark of the Beast - Rudyard Kipling
(4500 words; from Life’s Handicap)
(1) The Dreams in the Witch-House - H.P. Lovecraft
(17,250 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, July 1933)

Notes: In his introduction, Robert Lowndes discusses Victorian fiction. It’s noted that, not surprisingly, H. P. Lovecraft is “far and away the most-wanted author” and, curiously, one of the most-requested is Henry S. Whitehead, author of the next issue’s “Cassius.” “Tigrina” was a well-known Los Angeles science fiction, befriended by Forrest J. Ackerman during World War II. She would later create Vice Versa, a landmark gay underground magazine. Lowndes, perhaps trying to avoid controversy in his new magazine, coyly introduces her story thus: “Tigrina” is a name which many science fiction enthusiasts who encountered the strange (and sometimes wonderful) world of amateur “fan” publishing used to see in various publications emanating from the Los Angeles area. Beyond this we can tell you nothing except that we may have known at one time about “Tigrina” has escaped us.” The results of the first readers’ poll are published in this issue’s It Is Written.

No. 5 September 1964
130 pages, 50 cents

(2) Cassius - Henry S. Whitehead
(15,750 words; from Strange Tales, November 1931)
*Love at First Sight - J.L. Miller (1750 words)
(4) *Five Year Contract - J. Vernon Shea (6250 words)
(1) The House of the Worm - Merle Prout
(8500 words; from Weird Tales, October 1933)
The Beautiful Suit - H.G. Wells
(2000 words; from The Time Machine and Other Stories)
*A Stranger Came to Reap - Stephen Dentinger (1750 words)
(5-tie) *The Morning the Birds Forgot to Sing – Walt Liebscher (2100 words)
(5-tie) Bones - Donald A. Wollheim
(2750 words; from Stirring Science Fiction, February 1941)
(3) The Ghostly Rental - Henry James
(14,750 words, from Scribner’s Monthly, September 1876)

Notes: Lowndes’ intro touches on three of the stories included in the issue. The reader who recommended “Bones” for reprinting is future superstar and then-unknown “Steve” King. J. Vernon Shea would later write several articles on H.P. Lovecraft, culminating in the book-length In Search of Lovecraft. His “Introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos” can be found in Fantasy Empire Presents H. P. Lovecraft (New Media Publishing, 1984). Stephen Dentinger was a pseudonym Edward D. Hoch used for his “Captain Leopold” series of stories that were running in The Saint Mystery Magazine. Incredibly, at the time of his death in January, 2008, Hoch had published nearly a thousand short stories, including a new story in every issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine from May 1973 through July 2008 (and several reprints following Hoch’s death). The June 2008 issue was a special tribute to Hoch.

No. 6 November 1964
126 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(1) Caverns of Horror - Laurence Manning
(11,750 words; from Wonder Stories, March 1934)
*Prodigy - Walt Liebscher (1400 words)
(2) The Mask - Robert W. Chambers
(7500 words; from The King in Yellow)
(4-tie) *The Life-After-Death of Mr. Thaddeus Warde - Robert Barbour Johnson
(7500 words)
*The Feminine Fraction - David Grinnell (2000 words)
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment - Nathaniel Hawthorne
(4250 words; from Twice Told Tales)
(3) The Pacer - August Derleth
(4750 words; from Weird Tales, March 1930)
Lovecraft and “The Pacer” (excerpt) August Derleth
(an afterword explaining Lovecraft’s role in “The Pacer”)
(5) The Moth - H.G. Wells
(4500 words; from The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents)
(4-tie) The Door to Saturn - Clark Ashton Smith
(8750 words; from Strange Tales, January 1932)
Index to Volume One

Notes: TMOH gets its first illustrated cover (such as it is), a claw reaching from a puddle of blood (with more blood raining down upon it). Not sure what it’s supposed to represent. In addition, the word “Horror” in the title has been decorated with either blood or a cherry syrup topping. For the record, Lowndes hated the new logo, claiming it made the magazine “look like a comic book,” and it lasted only six issues before being replaced by Lowndes’ favored “jagged lightning type.” I like the blood-dripping, myself. Lowndes writes about the complaints of readers regarding the reprinting of “readily available stories.” The editor kindly takes umbrage.

“Caverns of Horror,” Lowndes explains in his intro to the story, was the second in a series of five tales of the “Stranger Club,” that appeared in the 1930s in Wonder Stories. The Robert Barbour Johnson story was actually bought and slated for Weird Tales but the magazine folded before it appeared. David Grinnell was Donald A. Wollheim. “Heidegger” had just been filmed the year before as one of the stories that made up Twice Told Tales (starring Vincent Price). August Derleth was only 18 years old when “The Pacer” appeared in Weird Tales but he was already a WT veteran of four years! In this issue’s It Is Written, it’s noted that over 150 stories have been requested in Lowndes’ plea for suggestions.

No. 7 January 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(3) The Thing From – Outside - George Allan England
(8000 words; from Amazing, April 1926)
(4) *Black Thing at Midnight - Joseph Payne Brennan (2250 words)
(5) The Shadows on the Wall - Mary Wilkins-Freeman
(6500 words; from The Wind in the Rose-Bush)
(2) The Phantom Farmhouse - Seabury Quinn
(9250 words; from Weird Tales, October 1923)
The Oblong Box - Edgar Allan Poe
(5000 words; from Godey’s Lady Book, September 1844)
*A Way With Kids - Ed M. Clinton (4250 words)
The Devil of the Marsh - E.B. Marriott-Watson
(2000 words; unknown origin)
(1) The Shuttered Room - H.P. Lovecraft & August Derleth
(14,500 words; from The Shuttered Room & Other Pieces)
It Is Written Letters and editorial

Notes: The cover illustration is the same as that on #6, except that the colors have changed. The dripping red blood has been replaced by oozing green slime (this illo is actually better than the previous, green slime and all). By this time, Joseph Payne Brennan was editing his own magazine of horrific fiction, Macabre, which is long overdue for a collection of some kind. Copies are scarce (a full set of 23 issues is currently for sale on abebooks.com for $850) of the zine published from 1957 to 1976). It wasn’t Robert Bloch, not Robert E. Howard, not even H. P. Lovecraft. Incredibly enough, Seabury Quinn was Weird Tales’ most popular author. “The Phantom Farmhouse” was Quinn’s first appearance in WT (with 153 to follow!) . Rod Serling’s Night Gallery dramatized “Farmhouse” starring David McCallum. Quinn’s supernatural sleuth Jules de Grandin appeared in a total of 93 adventures (including the full length novel “The Devil’s Bride). Ed M. Clinton’s “A Way with Kids” was originally bought during Lowndes’ tenure at Future Science Fiction, but had to be shelved when the digest was cancelled in 1959. “The Shuttered Room” is one of the infamous fragments Lovecraft left behind at his death, finished by August Derleth. There are two camps concerning the Lovecraft/Derleth “collaborations” – love ‘em or hate ‘em it seems. I don’t find them any better or worse than the stories Lovecraft finished before heading off to R’lyeh. In It Is Written, readers seem unanimous in their desire for more reprints from Weird Tales.

No. 8 April 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(3) The Black Laugh - William J. Makin
(4250 words; from Strange Tales, January 1932)
The Hand of Glory (verse) - R.H.D. Barham
(5) *The Garrison - David Grinnell (2750 words)
Passeur - Robert W. Chambers
(2000 words; from Mystery of Choice)
*Orpheus’s Brother - John Brunner (3750 words)
Cassilda’s Song (verse) - Robert W. Chambers
(4) The Lady of the Velvet Collar - Washington Irving
(2500 words; from Tales of a Traveler)
(2) *Jack - Reynold Junker (4500 words)
*The Burglar-Proof Vault - Oliver Taylor (5250 words)
(1) The Dead Who Walk - Ray Cummings
(25,750 words; from Strange Tales, September 1931)

Notes: The cover illo is a very unfrightening drawing of a couple with whited out eyes. In his introduction, Lowndes bows to the readers who “have been asking for weird verse.” For the record, I wasn’t asking and skip any horror poetry that stands in my path. The readers’ poll gets its own department, titled “The Reckoning,” beginning this issue. “The Dead Who Walk” was the first story to appear in the first issue of the legendary Weird Tales rival, Strange Tales. It’s amazing that a magazine that published only seven numbers (from September 1931 through January 1933) has such a storied reputation, but that can be chalked up to the quality of fiction published in those issues. Among the 56 novels and short stories that ran in Strange Tales, you’ll find Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Return of the Sorcerer,” Robert E. Howard’s “People of the Dark,” and “Stragella” by pulp master Hugh B. Cave. It was Robert Lowndes’ goal to reprint every story that had originally appeared in Strange Tales. He came pretty close to seeing that goal accomplished as he ran 46 "Strange Tales" in TMOH and its’ three sister digests.

No. 9 June 1965
130 pages. 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(5) The Night Wire - H.F. Arnold
(3000 words; from Weird Tales, September 1926)
(3) *Sacrilege - Wallace West (7000 words)
*All the Stain of Long Delight - Jerome Clark (200 words)
(1) Skulls in the Stars - Robert E. Howard
(4500 words; from Weird Tales, January 1929)
The Photographs - Richard Marsh
(12,500 words; from The Seen and the Unseen)
(4) The Distortion Out of Space - Francis Flagg
(5000 words; from Weird Tales, August 1934)
*Guarantee Period - William M. Danner (2000 words)
The Door in the Wall - H.G. Wells
(7250 words; from The Time Machine and Others)
The Three Low Masses - Alphonse Daudet
(3250 words: from Weird Tales, July 1925)
(2) The Whistling Room - William Hope Hodgson
(7500 words; from The Idler, March 1910)

Notes: An awful cover. A blonde standing over a man, either rising from or being sucked into a grave. Well, it might be two men in the grave, as that hand is anatomically incorrectly placed. “Sacrilege” is another of the stories Farnsworth Wright bought for Weird Tales but was axed when Dorothy McIlwraith took over editorship from Wright. “All the Stain of Long Delight” sounds a lot better than the nonsensical fragment it is. “Skulls in the Stars” is the second of nine stories (7 of which appeared originally in Weird Tales) featuring one of Robert E. Howard’s swordsmen, Solomon Kane (why Lowndes didn’t begin the reprinting with the first, “Red Shadows,” I don’t know). According to Lowndes in his intro to “Guarantee Period,” William M. Danner was a long-standing fantasy enthusiast, amateur publisher, and collector of antique typewriters.” Lowndes prints a letter from T.G.L. Cockroft, author of Index to Weird Fiction Magazines, one of the earliest attempts to index Weird Tales and its rivals. Cockroft provides a bibliography of Lovecraft’s fiction. In It is Written, Lowndes addresses the issue of illustrated covers and the joys of letters pages.

No. 10 August 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Carl Kidwell

(5) *The Girl at Heddon’s - Pauline Kappel Prilucik (6250 words)
(4) The Torture of Hope - Villiers de L’Isle-Adam
(2000 words; from Contes Cruel)
(1) The Cloth of Madness - Seabury Quinn
(10,000 words; from Young’s Magazine, January 1920)
(7) *The Tree - Gerald W. Page (2000 words)
(8) In the Court of the Dragon - Robert W. Chambers
(3400 words; from The King in Yellow)
(3) Placide’s Wife - Kirk Mashburn
(8750 words; from Weird Tales, November 1931)
*Come Closer - Joanna Russ (2250 words)
(2) The Plague of the Living Dead - A. Hyatt Verrill
(17,250 words; from Amazing, April 1927)

Notes: The cover illo is not much better than the last but at least it’s anatomically correct. A new column, titled simply “Books” debuts. Lowndes reviews Nightmare Need by Joseph Payne Brennan, Tales of Science and Sorcery by Clark Ashton Smith, Portraits in Moonlight by Carl Jacobi, and Odd Science Fiction by Frank Belknap Long. In It is Written, Donald A. Wollheim writes in about the origin of the Robert Chambers story in #8. Joanna Russ went on to become a pioneer in feminism in science fiction. Beginning in the 12th issue, Lowndes listed the complete list of rankings for each story (so I will too).

No. 11 November 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Carl Kidwell
(this was the first issue where credit was given to the cover artist)

(6) *The Empty Zoo - Edward D. Hoch (3000 words)
(5) A Psychological Shipwreck - Ambrose Bierce
(2000 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
(3) The Call of the Mech-Men - Laurence Manning
(15,000 words; from Wonder Stories, November 1933)
(4) Was It a Dream? - Guy de Maupassant
(2000 words; unknown origin)
(4) Under the Hau Tree - Katharine Yates
(4000 words; from Weird Tales, November 1925)
(2) Rattle of Bones - Robert E. Howard
(3000 words; from Weird Tales, June 1929)
(7) *The Head of Du Bois - Dorothy Newman Cooke (2250 words)
*The Dweller in Dark Valley (verse) - Robert E. Howard
(1) The Devil’s Pool - Greye La Spina
(22,750 words; from Weird Tales, June 1932)

Notes: And why the artist would want credit, I haven’t the foggiest. This “drawing” looks just like a panel from one of Myron Fass’ lurid Eerie Publications. In related matters, Lowndes discusses the suspension of disbelief in his intro. The Manning is another in his series of “The Stranger Club.” In the letters column, Lowndes reveals that he’s come to an agreement with Manning and all the “Stranger Club” stories will be reprinted. “Rattle of Bones” is another of the Solomon Kane tales. In his intro, Lowndes tries to calm the Conan-demanders by throwing them a bone or two in the promise of more Kane, King Kull, and Bran Mak Morn (the latter two of which were to come, Lowndes claimed), but this was the last Kane story to appear in a Health Knowledge zine. The now-famous Conan paperbacks published by Lancer (with the Frazetta covers) were just about to hit stands and, rather than publish something concurrently, it was Lowndes’ hope to present to the readers something a little bit harder to get hold of. Makes sense to me. So why did the editor continue to be bombarded by requests for the big lunk? While we’re on the subject of Robert E. Howard, Lowndes acquired a batch of unpublished REH verse that he was running “where space permits.” Future author, book dealer, and pulp historian Robert Weinberg contributes to It Is Written.

No. 12 Winter 1965-66
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Gray Morrow

(2) The Faceless God - Robert Bloch
(7500 words; from Weird Tales, May 1936)
(5) Master Nicholas - Seabury Quinn
(5500 words;from Mirage #6, 1964)
(8) *But Not the Herald - Roger Zelazny (1200 words)
(4) Dr. Muncing, Exorcist - Gordon MacCreagh
(11,000 words; from Strange Tales, September 1931)
(6) The Affair at 7 Rue de M- - John Steinbeck
(3500 words; from Harper’s Bazaar #2921, April 1955)
(7) *The Man in the Dark - Irwin Ross (1300 words)
(3) The Abyss - Robert A. W. Lowndes
(3500 words; from Stirring Science Fiction, February 1941)
*Destination (verse) - Robert E. Howard
*Memories of H.P.L. - Muriel E. Eddy (600 words)
(1) The Black Beast - Henry S. Whitehead
(16,250 words; from Adventure, July 15th, 1931)
Index to Volume Two

Notes: The cover by Gray Morrow is a bit hard to comprehend (is that a little guy perched on the tormented man’s wrist or is the victim in the foreground and torturer in the back?). Despite the perception problems, this is the best cover yet (by default). Lowndes explains the new logo to readers (looks like HORROR spelled out in fuzzy tarantula legs to me but he claims it’s lightning) in his intro. After too long a’waitin’, Robert Bloch finally sees a reprinting in TMOH. In the intro RAWL recites the oft-told tale of Bloch’s first appearance in Weird Tales: a letter decrying Howard’s Conan stories as those of a “stereotyped hero.” Editor Farnsworth Wright then stokes the flames by alerting readers to “sharpen your axes” as WT was about to publish Bloch’s first story, in the January 1935 issue. Bloch very soon became a WT favorite despite his rocky beginning. The Quinn story originally appeared in Jack L. Chalker’s Mirage Magazine (Chalker would later adopt Mirage for the name of his small press publishing house), which saw 10 issues from 1960 to 1971. Memories of H.P.L. is exactly what it sounds like, a rare non-fiction piece by someone other than RAWL. There’s not much to it (“He liked cats, ice cream…His hair was as dark as a raven’s wing…”) but at least it only takes up a couple of pages. Muriel Eddy wrote several articles on HPL, ostensibly longer and with more depth than here. She was married to author C.M. Eddy, Jr. Both were good friends of Lovecraft. Books reviewed in this issue include Dagon by Lovecraft, Poems in Prose by Clark Ashton Smith, and Monsters Galore, edited by Bernhardt J. Hurwood. Seabury Quinn gives the background on the first Jules de Grandin story, "The Horror on the Links." Glenn Lord (literary agent for REH’s estate), writes in, chastising RAWL for his comments regarding REH’s lack of a sense of humor. Clearly, Lord had no sense of humor.

Part Two of The Magazine of Horror will appear Wednesday, December 8th.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Richard Matheson - The Original Stories: The Twilight Zone and other Contemporary Magazines

by John Scoleri

In the first nine parts of this ongoing series, I looked at Richard Matheson's short fiction appearances in Playboy, the Sci-Fi Pulps, the Mystery Digests, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Gauntlet Chapbooks and the first, second, third and fourth groups of Science Fiction Digests. With today's installment, we look at the original magazine publications that came in the last 30 years, a relatively dry spell for his short fiction output (in fact, the majority of the stories published in this period had been written much earlier in his career).
The Original Stories - Part 10: The Twilight Zone and other Contemporary Magazines

"And Now I'm Waiting"
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine
April 1983

Subsequent appearances: Off Beat: Uncollected Stories

Editorial Comment: Novelist-screenwriter-Twilight Zone veteran Richard Matheson has been the subject of our only two-part TZ interview; he was also one of the judges of last year's short story contest, and appeared here in June with a hitherto-unseen Twilight Zone TV script, "The Doll." In this issue you'll find a more familiar Matheson script—"A World of His Own"—as well as the never-before-published short story on which it's based. His most recent assignment: screenplay work on Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Twilight Zone film.

Story Comment: The chilling study of a writer's satanic imagination—a tale later transformed into the Twilight Zone comedy "A World of His Own." 

Editor's Note: Many Twilight Zone episodes were adapted from short stories, some published, some still in manuscript. What's unique about Richard Matheson's "And Now I'm Waiting" is that it started out as a horror tale, but was turned into a comedy when Matheson adapted it for the TV series. We asked the author about the circumstances of its creation. He writes:
It is not clear in my memory whether I submitted the actual short story manuscript to Rod and Buck (series producer Buck Houghton) or whether I submitted an outline based on the story—which, incidentally, has never been published before. I do recall that they liked the premise but not the approach, feeling that the story was too melodramatic for them. It was decided—again, memory fails and I do not recall whose suggestion it was originally—to elect for a comedic approach. I'm glad we did. It was one of my favorites of The Twilight Zone segments I wrote; the cast was perfect and Ralp Nelson's directorial touch just right. Also, I believe that it was the only TZ episode in which one of the characters broke in on Rod's final narration and altered it.
Illustration by David Klein
Matheson's author photo for all of these Twilight Zone appearances

"Blunder Buss"
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine
April 1984

Subsequent appearances: Off Beat: Uncollected Stories

Editorial Comment:"Blunder Buss" presents this master of terror in a distinctly lighter mood.

Story Comment: It was easy to reach paradise. All you had to do was close your eyes and pucker up.

Illustration by Randy Jones

"Getting Together"
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine
June 1986

Subsequent appearances: Matheson Uncollected Volume 2

Editorial Comment: One of the laughs that launched an issue was evoked by Richard Matheson's "Getting Together," one of the wildest renditions of true devotion I know. Here are lovers truly willing to do anything for each other. Matheson, the creator of the classics I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man, as well as many original TZ teleplays such as "Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet," has proven himself a man for all media over the years.

His impressive film credentials include the tv movies Duel (directed by Steven Spielberg in a stunning debut), The Night Stalker, and Trilogy of Terror, as well as scripts for The Incredible Shrinking Man (based on his own novel) and Somewhere in Time (based on his novel Bid Time Return).

Matheson speaks of his current work—typically a variety of projects in a variety of fields—in "A Richard Matheson Update." And he speaks with a sense of quiet wonder about his son, the writer and producer, as well as his other decidedly creative children.

Story Comment: It was just a silly mistake—nothing to worry about. But why were so many people getting killed?
Illustration by Semyon Bilmes
 Notes: This 'Matheson special' issue of The Twilight Zone contains interviews and fiction by both Matheson and his son R.C. ("Cancelled"), aong a great cover photo of the pair by J. Stephen Hicks.

"Person to Person"
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine
April 1989

Subsequent appearances: I Am Legend & Others, Matheson Uncollected Volume 2

Editorial Comment: "The means by which the human mind attempts to deal with its problems can be infinite." So says a character in this issue's keynote story "Person to Person," a rare treat from Richard Matheson, author of more than twenty of the original Twilight Zone's most popular episodes. As it turns out, most of the stories in this, our Eighth Anniversary issue, turn on the power of the human mind to alter reality—not always in pleasant ways. "Person to Person" is only Matheson's second work of short fiction in more than seventeen years. Recently, he's devoted himself almost entirely to the movies. In fact, he and his author son Richard Christian Matheson, are currently working together on a new adventure film.

Story Comment: Someone is trying to reach out and touch Mister David Millman. What's in question is not so much what the caller wants, but where he's calling from, and—perhaps more important—who the caller is.
Illustration by Peter Scanlon

"Shoo Fly"
November 1988

Subsequent appearances: The Shrinking Man & Others

Editorial Comment: If you're looking for a diversion that will curl your hair, try reading Richard Matheson's "Shoo Fly" (page 50). When a harried businessman and not-so-innocent fly do battle, who wins?

Story Comment: People under pressure let themselves get bent out of shape over the oddest, not to mention smallest, things.

Painting by Bernard Durin

Notes: Oddly enough, despite appearing alongside The Shrinking Man in the TOR edition of that book, this tale remains uncollected in the Gauntlet volumes of collected and uncollected stories.

Cemetery Dance
Issue #31, 1999

Subsequent appearances: Off Beat: Uncollected Stories

Editorial Comment: Richard Matheson is the author of the classic I Am Legend, Hell House, The Shrinking Man, and countless others. One of The Twilight Zone's most prolific contributors, his most recent book is a collection of those scripts just published by CD.

Illustration by Gleen Chadbourne

Vice Magazine
December 2009

Subsequent appearances: Steel & Other Stories

Editorial Comment: The term “living legend” gets tossed around without qualification all the time, but we think that the 83-year-old genius who literally wrote the horror classic titled I Am Legend has more than earned it. That book, such a good, taut, scary story in its original form, has been made into three movies. The first one came out in 1964, but we’ve never seen it. The second, The Omega Man, came out in 1971 and is entertaining because Charlton Heston chews his way through it like a rabid dog. The most recent adaptation, I Am Legend starring Will Smith, was pretty much an abortion. Here’s an illustrative example of what’s wrong with it: The vampires in the original novel, though vampires, communicate like humans. In fact, they line up outside our hero’s house every night and call to him. In the 2007 film, the vampires are basically fifth-rate Chris Cunningham monsters that run around shrieking and spitting, and they look more like aliens than ex-humans. Basically, the filmmakers traded eerie for FX. Bad idea. And so the novel remains a classic that has yet to really get its due in the fine, noncorrupt land of cinema.

Just about every horror, fantasy, and science-fiction writer since the 1950s bears Matheson’s legacy in some way. His ideas are pervasive in the genres. He is also the author of
What Dreams May Come, Duel (the basis for Steven Spielberg’s first feature film), A Stir of Echoes, The Shrinking Man, the scripts for some of the best Twilight Zone episodes to ever scare the crap out of you when you were little, the great short story that that dumb new movie The Box is based on, and more, more, more. If our praise isn’t enough, Stephen King and Anne Rice claim Richard as a primary influence. So there, it’s a wrap.

Now, to come to the point, the esteemed Richard Matheson has graced us with an original short story—his first for a magazine in about ten years. Richard is a man of few words, and he was afraid that talking too much about the story would give away its ending. “What you could say,” he told us, “is that Dr. Morton, working late, receives a very strange visitor at his office—and let it go at that.”

Notes: You are invited to read the entire story at Vice Magazine: “DR. MORTON’S FOLLY” - By Richard Matheson - Vice Magazine.

There's more to come! Stay tuned for future installments of Richard Matheson - The Original Stories.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 10

by Peter Enfantino

Continuing an issue by issue examination of the greatest crime digest of all time.

Vol. 1 No. 12 December 1953
144 pages, 35 cents
cover by Uppwall

Black Pudding by David Goodis
(8000 wds) ** illo: Houlihan
After serving ten years in prison for boss-man Riker, all that Ken wants to do is forget. Forget that he served the time, forget that Riker set him up, and forget that the boss stole Ken’s wife, Hilda. Unfortunately, Riker and his boys didn’t forget Ken and they hound him until Ken is forced to strike back. Not a great story, “Black Pudding” does work up a few exciting moments in its climax. Certainly doesn’t stand with Goodis’ best work. The third and last of Goodis’ Manhunt stories, “Black Pudding” was reprinted (as “Sweet Taste”) in Vol. 13 No. 1. Dramatized on the short-lived USA Network series, The Edge, in 1989, starring Patricia Arquette.

Switch Ending by Richard Marsten
(4000 wds) ****
Danny does time for big man Nick. When he’s released, he goes to Nick to collect the fifty grand Nick had promised to pay for Danny’s silence. When Danny gets there, he finds, to his dismay, that Nick’s new bodyguard is Danny’s JD son. Just as Donald E. Westlake saves his nastiest stuff for his Richard Stark psuedonym, it would seem that Evan Hunter allows his dark alter ego Richard Marsten to drain the brake lines. Hunter’s most violent, no-holds-barred, novel in my opinion is Big Man, written under the Marsten name. Big Man (Perma, 1959) has a mob storyline much like “Switch Ending” and an ending just as downbeat.

Killing on Seventh Street by Charles Beckman, Jr.
(2000 wds) *
Stereotypical pantywaist Charles Leighton murders a mugger who’s attempting to rape Charles’ wife. Suddenly, weak-kneed Charles is the town hero. Only problem is, he needs to fantasize the murder to keep impotence at bay. This escalates to more murder.

Murder Marches On! by Craig Rice
(4000 wds) **
The inimitable John J. Malone must infiltrate a marching band of funeral workers to receive a list of names and a grand. Murder and yawns follow. This is 1950s cookie cutter: the tough protagonist (PI, lawyer, cop, etc.) who’s thinking about the stacked beauty he’s meeting that night (blonde, brunette, redhead, etc.), who happens into danger and then gets put under suspicion by the chief detective on the case (who really knows the protagonist is innocent but busts his balls anyway). Heard enough?

Sucker by Hunt Collins
(2000 wds) ****
Harley is accused of raping and murdering his kids’ babysitter, so he gets the best lawyer he can find: his best friend Dave. Hot shot lawyer Dave is convinced his friend is innocent and defends him in court. After Harley is found innocent, Dave is startled to realize that he did the wrong thing. “Sucker” precedes by a couple of decades the Matthew Hope series of novels Hunt Collins aka Evan Hunter wrote under the Ed McBain name. “Sucker” very much reminds me of the Hope series. By the end of 1953, Manhunt had become a McBain story factory.

The Wife of Riley by Evan Hunter
(7500 wds) ** illo: Tom O'Sullivan
Mr. and Mrs. Steve Riley just want a room to crash in after a long, grueling road trip. Unfortunately, they happen onto a dangerous bordello masquerading as a roadside motel. The proprietor has just murdered his prize redhead and, lucky for him, Mrs. Riley is a dead ringer for the corpse.

Richest Man in the Morgue by Harold Q. Masur
(4500 wds) *
Scott Jordan opens his door to find a man in a hindu costume with a knife in his back. What did the man want with Jordan? The intrepid lawyer, who never seems to practice law, puts on his cape and tights and becomes Scott Jordan, Private Op to find out. I’ve often wondered while reading these Jordan stories, why Masur went to the trouble of making Jordan’s profession law (other than for the gimmick, that is) when the rest of the tired plotlines contain all the trappings found in PI stories: the attractive but troubled girl who falls instantly for our hero; the blunt object used (often repeatedly) on our hero’s titanium steel skull; the police detective pal who’s always giving our hero a hard time but in a jovial way; and, of course, the two page expository used to tie up all the loose ends we hadn’t guessed at.

The Quiet Room by Jonathan Craig
(3000 wds) ****
Bad cop Streeter and his partner have a great thing going: they roust prostitutes, get lists of their johns, and then blackmail the men. Darkest, bleakest 1950s noir you can find, “The Quiet Room” is capped by the one of the most downbeat finales you’re likely to read. Craig would have fit in well with the dark crime writers of today. Obviously, the producers of the Showtime TV anthology, Fallen Angels, agreed. “The Quiet Room” was very effectively and faithfully adapted in 1993 by director Steven (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven) Soderbergh, starring Joe Mantegna as Streeter and Bonnie Bedelia, deliciously evil as his sadistic partner. The episode was released on vhs as Fallen Angels Volume 2. Criminally, a legitimate dvd release has yet to happen though bootlegs can be found here and there. “The Quiet Room” evokes the equally bleak “Services Rendered” by Craig from the May 1953 issue.

The Coyote by David Chandler
(2000 wds) *
A sadistic father forces his son to shoot a coyote. Cliched story with predictable outcome. “The Coyote” does have an opening line that might bring a leer: “Mama told me to see Beaver...”. Though he only wrote one story for Manhunt (“The Coyote” was reprinted under the title "Killer Instinct" in the August/ September 1966 issue), David Chandler also saw stories published in Collier's during the 1950s.

Wife Beater by Roy Carroll
(3000 wds) *** illo: Tom O'Sullivan
Patrolman Tom Rivas and his partner answer a domestic dispute call to find a huge man beating his wife Cherry. Having a history with wife beaters (his mother was brutally murdered by his father when Tom was a child), Tom reacts violently before arresting the man. When Cherry refuses to press charges against her husband, Rivas takes the law into his own hands and guns down the brute. Tom then tries to change Cherry’s life from bad to good but discovers it’s not all that easy. Perhaps ahead of its time in its treatment of a very controversial subject (the idea that some women can’t find sexual satisfaction without being abused), “Wife Beater” is a tough read.

The Icepick Artists by Frank Kane
(5500 wds) ***
PI Johnny Liddell is hired by the Seway Indemnity Company, a firm losing a lot of money through fraud on the piers. Their main investigator has just turned up minus eyeballs, courtesy of the titular madman. Liddell’s job is to find out who’s behind the murder and further the mastermind behind the fraud. Well-paced, humorous, and gory as all hell:
The thin man aimed for the right eye, jabbed. The blade sank almost to the handle. Shields’ body jerked as the icepick bit into his brain, slumped back. The thin man held the body erect, sank the blade into its chest a dozen times.

Pretty graphic stuff for 1953. Interesting note: folllowing the story there’s a note from the editor informing readers that author Frank Kane deliberately ended the story with many questions unanswered as the sequel to “The Icepick Artists” would be appearing the following month.

The Insecure by R. Van Taylor
(2000 wds) ** illo: Houlihan
Kay panics when her husband doesn’t come home from work. Panic turns to terror when she finds her son is missing as well. Seems rushed but 2000 words doesn’t leave a lot of room for the characterization this sort of psychological suspense needs.

This issue's "Mugged and Printed" features Frank Kane, Harold Q. Masur, David Goodis, and David Chandler.

Alos featured are Vincent H. Gaddis' "Crime Cavalcade" and "Portrait of a Killer: Tillie Gburek" by Dan Sontup.


1 The Collector Comes After Payday – Fletcher Flora (August)
2 The Quiet Room – Jonathan Craig (December)
3 Throwback – Donald Hamilton (August)
4 Switch Ending – Richard Marsten (December)
5 Services Rendered – Jonathan Craig (May)
6 Sucker – Hunt Collins (December)
7 I’m Getting Out – Elliot West (July)
8 As I Lie Dead – Fletcher Flora (February)
9 Kid Kill – Evan Hunter (April)
10 The Professional Man – David Goodis (October)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Illustrator Jim Thiesen: The bare•bones interview

by John Scoleri

I first became aware of artist Jim Thiesen in 1995 when he painted the cover to TOR Books' first publication of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. I immediately fell in love with the cover art, which I felt managed to capture the epic scope of Matheson's novel. I purchased the original art, and over time discovered that I was already familiar with a great deal of Thiesen's other art by sight, if not by name. I thought it as about time someone sat down to find out a little bit more about this artist who has provided artwork for such high profile writers as Stephen King, Brian Lumley, and Thomas Harris.

bare•bones: How long have you been illustrating book covers? Did you go to school for illustration?

Jim Thiesen: I didn't go to school specifically for illustration. I studied drawing, and some painting at The Art Students League in New York. But I learned most of my painting skills on the job. The first bit of illustration I did was a three-page comic that I wrote and sold to Heavy Metal Magazine ("Exit" - October 1982). I started illustrating for Toy companies (HG Toys and CBS Toys—both out of business) doing package illustrations and helping design new toy lines. That started in 1983. In 1987 I got an agent (Sal Barracca), and began doing book covers. I got pigeon-holed as the "Horror Guy," which I didn't mind at first because I liked monsters and ghost stories since I was a kid. But I like fantasy as well, and did get to do some. I got out of the illustration business in 1997 when the market shrank severely due to publishing companies finding cheep ways to get covers made (computer enhanced photos and stock images).  

bb: Can you describe your process? Do you work an art director's specifications, or do you normally read the books you're illustrating first?

JT: I only did one or two where I read the manuscript first and then came up with ideas for the cover.  Usually the art directors just gave me a general idea of what they wanted. With the horror stuff it was usually very simple, a scary hand or face. A simple, powerful, in-your-face image.        

bb: What goes into a finished piece? Do you start with thumbnail sketches, color comps etc.?

Rejected Beastnights concept
JT: I usually only did a black and white drawing. In the early days I had a manuscript to read (Beastnights by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro) and came up with an idea for the cover. I read the thing, got an idea, sculpted the idea (a woman on a horse with a flash light and a werewolf  jumping out of some bushes at her. I took some photos of the sculpture and did a drawing based on one of those. The publisher said it was too fantasy-like. They said, "we just want a face—the face of the monster, and that's it." So I did the face (see Gallery below). After that I didn't waste my time doing a lot of preliminary work.

bb: Have you run into many instances of having your work art directed?

JT: Yes the art directors have to earn their keep. Sometimes everything is perfect, and they love it, and sometimes they want something changed. On occasion, at the beginning of a piece, they ask for things that they really have not thought through. But I tried to please them as best as I could. Sometimes people in the company just feel the need to justify their position, or want to be part of something successful. So he or she will insist on changing some minor detail. Just to say that he had a hand in this project. Once when I was working with the Toy companies, I did a package illustration of a caveman being confronted by a T-Rex. The art director liked it, but after he took it before the board of directors for their approval, he brought it back to me saying that they wanted the caveman's head to be tilted up a little bit more. This was obviously not necessary.  So I said OK, and took the painting home, presumably (on his part) to make the change. However I made no changes at all. The next day I brought the painting back and showed it to the art director. "Oh yes," he said, "much better!" And the board of directors agreed! "Much better!" Ha! I don't miss their stupid games.

bb: When Tor began publishing Brian Lumley, they used Bob Eggleton illustrations. How did you come to illustrate the step-backs and ultimately covers of several of Brian Lumley's books? 

JT: I did a lot of covers for TOR, and quite a few for Brian Lumley, I think I did about 5 of them. How they came to me, you would have to ask my old agent about that. I just know that they came.

bb: In at least one case, you created a sculpture for a cover illustration (The Gilgul by by Henry W. Hocherman). Can you discuss how that came about?

JT: I actually did 4 sculptures for Zebra Books. Their philosophy was that the cover sells the book. So they would spend a lot of money on it. Creating those sculptures was a lot of fun.

Original sculpture for The Gilgul
bb: Are there any particularly interesting stories behind any of your pieces?

JT: Well, I have a fine art piece (right) that I worked on from time to time for about 12 or 13 years.  It is about fear (from not knowing who he truly is) and a lack of trust in the Universe. Not understanding that the Universe is on his side. He sees the helpful spirits (who are trying to guide him toward his desires ) as monsters trying to destroy his life. I made many changes over the years, and finally in 2008 I felt satisfied with what I had.

bb: You've obviously done a lot of horror illustrations—is this a genre you enjoy, or did you somehow fall into it?

JT: I did enjoy doing the horror covers. And I did get pigeon-holed as the Horror Guy!  But I also had the opportunity to do some fantasy pieces. 

bb: You provided the cover illustration for Doulas Preston and Lincoln Child's Relic, which went on to become a bestseller. Did you know when you got that assignment that the book was getting a bigger push from the publisher?

JT: I knew the book was doing well when they had me do the cover for a sequel. But nothing beyond that.

bb: Do you have a favorite of your works?

JT: Naturally I like some of my pieces better than others. I have my favorite fine art pieces, but of the old commercial pieces, I like Lori (Robert Bloch); one I think was called Blood Beast (Don D'Ammassa), there were several with decorative borders done for collections of short stories: Predators, Between Time and Terror, and Gallery of Horrors. I also like the sculpture of the bride (above). Actually I have quite a few, some I have made improvements to over the years.

bb: Are you working on any new projects currently?

JT: Yes I am always working on something. I just finished a piece which was one I did years ago and did not like, so I cut it into pieces. Then I worked on the pieces separately. I then assembled them in a new arrangement.  I had to make one small piece to add to make the whole thing work together. Now I have to mount and frame it. It's not my favorite, but it's better than it was. I am rarely completely happy with anything I do. At the same time I just finished another old piece I did not like. It's better now but still not the beat. I believe that my perfectionist attitude keeps my work constantly improving.

Stephen King Doubleday reissues

bb: When The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition was released, Doubleday also reissued Stephen King's first four books (Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Shining and Night Shift) with new covers that you painted. Each has a similar design, with part of the image extending beyond the traditional rectangle. Was this your idea, or were you asked to do this? 

JT: The format for the Stephan King covers was set up by the art director. 

bb: How did you come up with each concept for each book?

JT: As for the concepts for the covers, I was familiar with the stories. For The Shining, the art director wanted me to do an axe coming through a door. I thought that would not be very effective visually, so I did an axe chopping in a door the word REDRUM, which Stephen liked, but he said that there was no axe in the book, that was only in the movie. Which is why I then had to quickly do a second illustration for The Shining.   

1990 Doubleday Catalog
The Shining - Original
The Shining - Final

I Am Legend

bb: Were you aware of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend before you got the cover assignment?

JT: No, I was not familiar with the book.  The art director told me it was about vampires—lots of vampires!

bb: What was your vision for the cover art? Were you pleased with the results? I'm of the opinion that it in many ways it's the best thematic representation of the novel of all the cover art that has been used.

Orb TPB with digitally manipulated art
JT: I wanted to create lots of vampires, but I wanted them to flow like one continuous entity. I wanted to give them a kind of H.R.Giger-like feeling. I appreciate your appreciation of the piece. But as with most of my work, I would like to keep working on it. 

bb: Were you aware when Tor digitally manipulated the art for their Orb trade paperback? What are your thoughts on that versus your original painting?

JT: I was not aware of any of the things that TOR was doing with my work—and not compensating me for, which by law they are supposed to do.  As you know, last year I found out about quite a few of the things that TOR has been doing illegally with my art. Obviously I'm not happy about it. I'm not happy about not getting paid, nor with the way they have manipulated my work. Unfortunately prosecuting them would not be financially worthwhile.

bb: That revised artwork (cropped - perhaps to remove a vampire baby, blurred, and one foreground head relocated - see below) has gone on to be used in several countries around the world, second only to the Will Smith movie tie-in art. How does it feel to have your art (albeit in an altered form) seen by millions of readers around the globe?

JT: The art has changed so much it hardly feels like mine anymore.

Jim Thiesen Art Gallery

Rejected preliminary sketch for Blood Beast
Original painting for Bloodwings
Revised final cover for Bloodwings
Original concept art for Beastnights
Preliminary sketch for Beastnights

Thomas Harris' Red Dragon for Simon & Schuster Audio