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Thursday, September 21, 2017

STARK HOUSE PRESS NEWSLETTER

STARK HOUSE PRESS
NEWSLETTER, VOLUME 6, NUMBER 7
SEPT. 2017

September belongs to Peter Rabe. This September, we are reprinting the entire Manny deWitt series, which includes Girl in a Big Brass Bed, The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall, and Code Name Gadget. Next year at this time, we will be reprinting his two Mafia novels, War of the Dons and Black Mafia. And in 2019, also in September, we will finish up with New Man in the House and Her High School Lover, the two obscure novels Rabe published under the Marco Malaponte pseudonym back in 1963. Something to look forward to.

But for now, we’ve got the deWitt novels, which are in a class by themselves. For these books, Rabe decided to try something new, adding an offbeat humor to his stories, and creating a series around an industrial lawyer who is sent on frustrating missions by his capricious boss, Hans Lobbe. Sometimes the humor works, sometimes it doesn’t. As Rick Ollerman points out in his introduction:

Crimes abound in all three but the books are not really about a crime per se...While Rabe said he admired the work of LeCarré and Deighton, who wrote spy thrillers, deWitt is not a spy. He’s just a lawyer, trying to carry out whatever instructions Lobbe has given him…On the other hand, there are spies in all three of the books, working against deWitt. It takes a master plotter to pull something like this...

So, what we have here are spy satires, sort of, with Rabe putting his main character through the paces while giving us a bit of a wink from the margins. For my taste, Code Name Gadget is the best, with most of the arch humor ditched in favor of a more traditionally gritty spy thriller. As Rick points out, Peter Rabe was anything but conventional and these three novels were a bit of an experiment. Kristofer Upjohn, writing in the Noir Journal, calls the book swift and fun. See if you agree.

Also this month, we are reprinting two more Algernon Blackwood supernatural classics: John Silence—Physician Extraordinary and The Wave: An Egyptian Aftermath. John Silence collects all the tales of the psychic investigator that were originally published in the 1908 hardback, plus a final story that appeared in Day and Night Stories in 1917 called A Victim of Higher Space.

John Silence was something of a supernatural Sherlock Holmes, aiding his clients by tracking down the origins of their various hauntings and weird manifestations, then dispelling them.

Earlier this year, critic Michael Dirda wrote a long article on Blackwood for The New York Review of Books. You have to subscribe to view NYRB articles online, but here is what he had to say about the John Silence stories: Whatever the background—ghostly invasion, devil-worship, a were-wolf, the depredations of an ancient Egyptian mummy—Blackwood expertly builds up an atmosphere of the otherworldly coupled with the spiritually threatening.

John Silence definitely presents Blackwood at his timeless best. The Wave, originally published in 1916, is an expansive story of love and reincarnation played out across the sands of Egypt. Critics at the time were profuse in their praise for this one: “The glory of words, the grandeur that was Egypt, the splendor of a brave and loving human soul—these are the very substance of this fascinating volume.”—New York Times. “A strange and unusual book, full of insight and imagination...the work of a very delicate literary craftsman.”—The Saturday Review

Anthologist and critic Stefan Dziemianowicz provides an excellent introduction to this mammoth volume. No one wrote like Blackwood, and the power of his visions still captivates today. If you’ve never read him, this probably isn’t the best volume to start with, but if you are already familiar with his metaphysical explorations, this is just what you need for a cold winter night. 

Stark House Crime Club members will automatically receive the Peter Rabe book. If you would like to receive the Algernon Blackwood book as well, let me know via email.

In the meantime, we’ve added a few more ebooks to the ever-growing list: The Goldseekers by W. R. Burnett, Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals by Rick Ollerman and Virgin Cay/A Night Out by Basil Heatter. Available now on Kindle!

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