Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, February 13, 2015


Murgunstrumm and Others by Hugh B. Cave (1977)

When August Derleth died in 1971, many people were concerned that his publishing imprint Arkham House would die with him.  Three of them from Chapel Hill, North Caroline -- Karl Edward Wagner, David Drake, and Jim Groce -- formed Carcosa House in 1973 to continue the tradition of rescuing stories from the pulps.  All their books were edited by Wagner.  The first, Worse Things Waiting by Manly Wade Wellman (1973), was a massive collection of stories from Weird Tales and other pulps.  This volume set the high production standard that made Carcosa House books stand out.  Their second book was Far Lands, Other Days by E. Hoffman Price (1975).  Their third was the book (and, unfortunately, the last) was Lonely Vigils, again by Manly Wade Wellman (1981).  A fifth book, Cave's Death Stalks the Night, had been announced but was cancelled when illustrator Lee Brown Coye suffered a major stroke and was unable to continue work on the book.  (Death Stalks the Night was eventually published by Fedogan & Bremer in 1995)  Other planned projects. including collections by Leigh Brackett, H. Warner Munn, and Jack Williamson, died aborning.
(Currently, Hafner Press is doing an admirable job bringing the pulp works of Brackett and Williamson into print; one hopes someone will do the same for H. Warner Munn.)

During its short life, Carcosa House was one of the major small presses in the field and won a special 1976 World Fantasy Award for non-professional work.  Yes, many of these small presses are works of love by the publishers and exist on shoestring finances.

Mugunstrumm and Others is a beautiful book, printed on 70-pound Warren's Old Style and typeset in 10-point Journal Roman.  It's just a pleasure to hold and to read.  Its 576 pages contains 26 stories first published from 1931 to 1943, with one additional story from 1966, and another from 1975.  Lee Brown Coye provided 36 full page illustrations.

The stories:

  • Mugunstrumm (Strange Tales, January 1933)
  • The Watcher in the Green Room (Weird Tales, September 1933)
  • The Prophecy (Black Book Detective Magazine, October 1934)
  • The Strange Death of Ivan Gromleigh (Spicy Mystery Stories, March 1937, under the pseudonym "Justin Case")
  • The Affair of the Clutching Hand (Ghost Stories, May 1931)
  • The Strange Case of No. 7 (Ghost Stories, January 1931)
  • The Isle of Dark Magic (Weird Tales, August 1934)
  • The Whisperers (Spicy Mystery Stories, April 1942, under the pseudonym "Justin Case")
  • Horror in Wax (Thrilling Mysteries, April 1935)
  • Prey of the Nightborn (Spicy Mystery Stories, September 1936. under the pseudonym "Justin Case")
  • Maxon's Mistress (Black Book Detective Magazine, February 1935)
  • Dead Man's Belt (Weird Tales, May 1933)
  • Boomerang (Argosy, June 10, 1939)
  • The Crawling Curse (Weird Tales, June 1933)
  • Purr of a Cat (Spicy Mystery Stories, March 1942, under the pseudonym "Justin Case")
  • Tomorrow Is Forever (Adventure, September 1943)
  • The Ghoul Gallery (Weird Tales, June 1932)
  • The Cult of the White Ape (Weird Tales, February 1933)
  • The Brotherhood of Blood (Weird Tales, May 1932)
  • The Door of Doom (Strange Tales, May 1932)
  • The Death Watch (Weird Tales, June/July 1939)
  • The Caverns of Time (Spicy Mystery Stories, May 1942, under the pseudonym "Justin Case")
  • Many Happy Returns (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, April 1966)
  • Ladies in Waiting (Whispers, June 1975)
  • The Grisly Death (Black Book Detective Magazine, August 1934)
  • Stragella (Strange Tales, June 1932)
Great literature?  For the most part, no.  (Although "Murgunstrumm" and "Stragella" rise far above m any of the other stories.)  These are stories pounded out of typewriter at a rapid pace to both meet the market's ravenous demands and to put food on the table.  Cave probably wrote over a thousand stories for the pulps and the slicks.  His hallmark -- as opposed to many who wandered through the pulp jungle -- was fast-paced readability in a time when political correctness did not exist.

If, like me, you enjoy those moldering pulps and the enjoyment they brought, Murgunstrumm and Others is a wonderful getaway island.

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