“I have pledged myself to the worship of the Odd, the Queer, the Strange, the Exotic, the Monstrous.” – Lafcadio Hearn (letter to W. D. O’Connor, May 1884).

Boyd White & L. W. Currey

Since his death at age fifty-four, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) has never received the critical attention or appreciation that his significant body of work deserves.  Beloved by his Japanese students in the country he made his adopted home and arguably the single greatest Western interpreter of Japanese culture, Hearn has been dismissed by most critics and scholars as a second-tier author not worthy of serious consideration.  His adherents have attributed such negligence to the itinerant life Hearn led, comprised of significant periods in Ireland, the United States, the West Indies, and Japan, all of which prevents him from being easily seen as writer belonging to any particular nation or culture.  Primarily remembered for his kwaidan (“ghost stories” or “weird tales”), retellings of Japanese legends and folklore, Hearn’s style is sparse and lean, rooted in the oral tradition of the Japanese folktale as filtered through his work as a sensationalistic newspaper reporter, his own translations of Theophile Gautier and Guy de Maupassant, his love of Gothic literature, and the Irish fairy tales and ghost stories told to him by Catherine Ronane, his childhood nurse.   As Jack Sullivan, a clear admirer of Hearn, has noted, “His cross-cultural influences may cause Hearn’s final resting place to be in literary limbo.”

Hearn’s most vocal champion, Paul A. Murray, contends, “Few writers have been so permeated by horror in their lives and work, and few horror writers have been blessed with Hearn’s literary ability … In his horror writing, Hearn was not concerned with achieving cheap thrills or titillation; it was rather a means of expanding the boundaries of experience.”  Immersing himself in a culture that views elementals, ghosts, and goblins as a natural part of everyday reality, an accepted feature of the world in which we live and work, Hearn produced taught, terse highly polished stories that thrust his readers into a rich traditional of supernatural fiction that is still far too little known to most Western audiences, a mystic landscape populated by creatures both horrifically malignant and, at times, surprisingly benign.

In “The Legend of Yurei-Daki,” an angry Shinto god rips off the head of an innocent baby whose mother steals a collection box from a shrine, and in “Jikininki,” a priest is punished for his past sins by being reborn as a ghoul condemned to eat the flesh of the dead in a remote village.  By contrast, the beautiful snow demon in “Yuki-Onna,” falls in love with a stranded youth in a blizzard, sparing him as long as he never reveals he has seen her, and the shark man in the “The Gratitude of the Samebito” weeps tears that turn into jewels that facilitate a mortal man marrying his true love.  Hearn’s skill with such material is so great that in Japan he remains a cultural icon, an author often regarded as a Japanese writer even though he wrote entirely in English.

As Lloyd Currey’s Masters of Fantasy and Horror: Lafcadio Hearn reminds us, Hearn was much more, however, than just an accomplished writer of weird fiction.  Selections such as An American Miscellany (1924) and Editorials (1926) emphasize how, as a 19th-centrury American journalist, Hearn should be as highly regarded as Mark Twain or Ambrose Bierce.  As a young reporter covering the police beat in Cincinnati, Hearn produced notable examples of early American true crime writing, such as “A Violent Cremation,” an account of the notorious Tanyard Murder, and “Gibbeted,” a somber depiction of an execution, both characterized by a keen eye for gruesome detail seemingly incongruous with Hearn’s sensitive nature.  An outsider because of a disfiguring childhood eye injury that left him a painfully shy individual who viewed himself as a physical grotesque, Hearn quickly moved beyond mere newspaper sensationalism, identifying with individuals and cultures on the margins of society.  His articles about the Bucktown and Levee neighborhoods of Cincinnati are among the few depictions of African-American life in a post-Civil War border city.  Later, while living and working in New Orleans, Hearn continued in this vein, writing editorials against political corruption, child labor, lynching, and urban decay.  New Orleans also provided Hearn with the opportunity for studying and writing about local Creole and Negro folklore, including voodoo, in a series of eerie sketches posthumously collected in several volumes, including Fantastics and Other Fancies (1914) and Creole Sketches (1924).  Likewise, while Hearn did not publish any volumes of literary criticism during his lifetime,  Mr. Currey’s inclusion of works such as Appreciations of Poetry (1916) and Some Strange English Literary Figures of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1927), which consist of verbatim transcripts from his students’ notebooks of his lectures while he served as chair of English Literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo, reveal that Hearn was, in fact, a fine critic.  His lectures, as well as his correspondence, contain numerous insights into figures as diverse as the pre-Raphaelite and Romantic poets, Charles Baudelaire, Emile Zola, and Gustav Flaubert.  Scholars and readers interested in Hearn’s ideas and opinions of fantastic literature need look no further than the author’s “‘Monk Lewis’ and the School of Horror and Mystery” or his seminal essay “Goblin Poetry.”

An eccentric genius of seeming contradictions, Hearn drank blood in the abattoirs of Cincinnati slaughterhouses when the craze for the “blood cure” swept the city, yet he deeply loved children, flowers, and animals, particularly birds, cats, and insects.  The Masters of Fantasy and Horror: Lafcadio Hearn invites us to reconsider an author, who according to George F. Haas, “was a favorite of [Clark Ashton Smith’s] who had a complete set of his first editions.”  From his seminal collection of ghost stories Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904) to his sketches of modern Japanese life in “Out of the East”: Reveries and Studies in New Japan (1895) to posthumously published collections of his voluminous correspondence and journalism, Hearn’s work allows us to inhabit the unique perspective of a writer scholar Mary Gallagher lovingly characterizes as “an absolutely homeless storyteller, who dwelled long enough in the American South, the Caribbean, and Japan to be able to translate these worlds into words.”

View the selection of Lafcadio Hearn at my partner’s L. W. Currey’s website:

Two Shakespeare’s First Folios in One Trip!

Did we go to England looking for them? No, but we happened on both on our travels. One copy is at the British Museum, known to be one of only four surviving folios that contain the engraving of Shakespeare in the first state, and the second at Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair. These books were just two of the highlights of our recent two-week visit to England. How can you beat that? Well, let’s see…

We began our journey in Woking (yes, the Woking of War of the World fame). Please see the picture to check out the town’s pride for the H. G. Wells’ and his work. Wells lived in Woking while he was writing the novel and while biking around town imagined destroying it. My sister-in-law, a huge racing fan, was more impressed that it is the home to the McLaren Group, who are responsible for McLaren Formula One racing, but you reader, can decide which side you are on.

From there it was off to Farway, Devon, in Southwestern England, a town around 3 miles from the English Channel. We had the pleasure of staying with Andy and Angela Richards (Cold Tonnage Books), at “Poundwater,” a lovely cottage surrounded by a sheep farm. We are pleased to report that each village we visited boasted a used bookshop.

From there it was off to Bath, sometime home of Jane Austen (a tour guide told us that she hated the city!), Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley. Time well spent with an interesting day touring the Roman bath.

As our second week began we were on to London for the main events. After arriving we were off and running. On our way to the British museum we stopped and had a welcome visit at Jarndyce Books across the street from the museum. Dinner that evening was with colleagues enamored with the “French 75” cocktail, named after the WW I French field gun. The next day we trained to Royal Tunbridge Wells, about 45 minutes south of London, and spent a lovely day with Adrian Harrington and Jon Gilbert. After an almost four-hour lunch and a few bottles of wine we left assured that British collectors were indeed in good hands!

Of course, to be fair we also needed to also visit the firm of Peter Harrington in Kensington, after a side trip to Cecil Court. We had been there over 30 years ago, and were pleased to see that the street still boasts around 10 used bookshops handling a variety of printed work.

Thursday was the start of book fairs-three to be exact. Beginning with the PBFA fair at the IBIS Earl’s Court hotel. This was a well-attended event with a wide variety of printed material. Our U.S. colleagues were well represented, appearing to do well with purchases.

On Friday the main fair, London’s Firsts, opened in Battersea Park. It is an attractive venue with spacious aisles. A very nice opening ribbon cutting ceremony by actor Stephen Fry. I made the rounds of booksellers and my purchases accumulated. I returned Saturday, just to see if I had missed anything!

Finally, on Sunday, almost (but not quite!), out of book-buying energy, we attended a smaller fair at the Royal National Hotel, a relatively short walk from our hotel. Not as many dealers as the PBFA event (some of the same dealers exhibited), but we saw some new faces and we were happy with our purchases. Then on to the nearby British Library which no book enthusiast should miss.

After fairs relaxation

Book collectors are what Susan likes to call “constant learners,” in that they are interested in a wide variety of fascinating topics. Back home we have been reflecting on our travels and what we remember most is the wonderful, colorful, insightful, and fun conversations we had with book dealers and fellow visitors at both the book fairs and in the English countryside.

We hope that you will enjoy the array of books we brought home and are currently busy cataloguing. Look for a Constant Contact soon announcing our newest additions to our list of book offerings.

John & Susan Knott


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Over the past decade, the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in Chicago, Illinois, has become the premier venue for lovers and collectors of genre fiction. From original artwork by Robert McGinnis and Wally Wood to reading copies of paperback reprints of Doc Savage and The Shadow, the dealer’s room features a range of excellent material that fits any budget. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed with great conversations among dealers and collectors about what they love—all things paper related to science fiction, mystery and detective fiction, fantasy, and horror.


Lloyd Currey and I have had the pleasure of showing here for the past few years. The challenge and excitement of every fair is bringing along material that we think (hope?) will fit the culture of the gathering. Among some of the items we were excited to bring along were a first edition of Wilkie Collins’ The Queen of Hearts in the original cloth, a copy of A Gnome There Was inscribed by both Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore and the classic gothic novel The Monk. We also offered obscure mysteries such as John Bellamann’s The Gray Man Walks and Philip Johnson’s Hung Until Dead. In addition to the many fine books also on display were pulps and art, the highlight being a lovely unpublished hand-colored drawing by Roy Krenkel from 1948.


Held recently from April 12 to 14, this year’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention was spectacular. In addition to the 5.3 inches of snow on April 14, the most snowfall Chicago has had this early in the spring in 58 years, the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention set a number of its own records, including the most number of dealers and the best auction results in the show’s history. In addition to top genre dealers in books and artwork from the United States, a number of key figures from the United Kingdom also attended, including Malcolm John Edwards, the deputy CEO of the Orion Publishing Group, and Stephen Jones, editor of the Best New Horror series.

Wonderful, one-of-a-kind items routinely turn up at Windy City, and this year was no exception. Highlights included a review copy of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s Who Goes There? inscribed by Campbell to Anthony Boucher, the late Richard Dalby’s copy of The Hole of the Pit, a pristine jacketed copy of the first hardcover edition of John D. MacDonald’s Darker Than Amber, and a superb very fine run of Strange Tales.

Friday night’s auction featured a number of unique items from the late Robert Weinberg’s collection, including a copy of the first American edition of Not at Night! signed on the front free endpaper by editor Herbert Asbury, H. P. Lovecraft, and August Derleth, and Karl Edward Wagner’s handwritten manuscript for “Lacunae,” a Kane story. Equally impressive was Gabriel Lynn’s The Case Against The Comics, a 32-page pamphlet published in 1944 by The Catechetical Guild. Citing numerous examples from comic strips that supposedly resulted in juvenile delinquency and threats to democracy, this rare work predates Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent by a decade. Where else will you ever see such items?

We encourage everyone to mark their calendars for next year’s convention as soon as the dates are announced. Look for details at the convention’s official website.

Boyd White, John Knott & Susan Knott



This week at my website we are listing a large collection of Rex Stout books which feature all the Nero Wolfe titles. The first Wolfe book is a reprint and the second and third have facsimile dust jackets. I have below the introduction to the catalog written by Mr. Boyd White. I hope you will find it of interest.

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REX STOUT (1886-1975)

In 1959, at age 73, Rex Stout received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.  At the time, he had published 32 books featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, his most enduring characters, including classics such as THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN (1935), SOME BURIED CEASAR (1939), and AND BE A VILLAIN (1948).  Not surprisingly, given his outspoken left-wing political views, particularly on civil liberties, Stout had also created one of the earliest female private investigators, Theolinda “Dol” Bonner, in THE HAND IN GLOVE (1937), and a part-Native American farmer-turned-detective, Tecumseh Fox, in DOUBLE FOR DEATH (1939).  Having been named a Grand Master, however, hardly meant Stout’s career was done.  Fifteen years of writing still lay ahead of him, including two of his most highly regarded Nero Wolfe novels, DEATH OF A DOXY (1966) and A FAMILY AFFAIR (1975).  When Stout passed away at the age of 88, the Nero Wolfe series consisted of 77 titles, including novels, novellas, and short stories.  Stout scholar and biographer John McAleer has described the Nero Wolfe mysteries as “an epic that ultimately would encompass more than ten thousand pages.”  No wonder, as the 20th century drew to a close, that mystery and detective writers and aficionados at Bouchercon XXXI in September of 2000 nominated Rex Stout for Writer of the Century and the Nero Wolfe mysteries as Series of the Century.

From the publication of FER-DE-LANCE, the first Nero Wolfe novel in 1934, the Wolfe mysteries have always been a unique blend of golden age whodunit and hardboiled crime.  Stout’s work marries plot elements from UK mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers with the wisecracking verbal sophistication and cynicism of American crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.  Weighing a seventh of a ton and consuming 6 quarts of beer a day, as a character Nero Wolfe is a fascinating blend of personal quirks and idiosyncrasies  have been the defining traits of the traditional detective since Wilkie Collins introduced Sergeant Cuff and his penchant for roses in THE MOONSTONE in 1868.  Montenegrin by birth and in his middle 50s, Wolfe suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and adheres to a daily schedule that never varies.  He battles bouts of depression and only takes cases when his bank account runs low.  He is misogynistic, self-absorbed, and tyrannical, as well as being a devoted gourmand, voracious reader, and amateur orchid grower.  A polymath who speaks eight languages, Wolfe is agoraphobic, refusing to leave his West 35th Street brownstone except when extreme circumstances dictate.  By contrast, Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s personal assistant and close friend, is a variation of the noir private investigator that first appeared in the pages of Black Mask in the 1920s.  Tall, handsome, and in his early 30s, Goodwin was born in Ohio.  A gregarious natural ladies’ man, he is tough, witty, shrewd and resourceful.  He prefers milk to alcohol, is an avid poker player and baseball fan, and in addition to performing all of Wolfe’s legwork, acts as his employer’s bookkeeper and financial manager.  Stout’s synthesis of classic whodunit and hardboiled elements is not confined, however, to his two protagonists.  The plots of the Nero Wolfe mysteries are infused with both sensibilities, often in disconcerting ways that catch the reader wonderfully off guard.  The murder weapon in FER-DE-LANCE, for instance, a golf club that shoots a needle poisoned with viper venom from its handle, hardly prepares the reader for Wolfe’s somewhat cold-hearted manipulation of events to permit the novels’ antagonists to kill themselves rather than be captured by the police.

Central to the success of Stout’s Nero Wolfe series is the finely drawn relationship between Wolfe and Goodwin, a friendship rivaling even that of Holmes and Watson.  Noted scholar and collector Otto Penzler has referred to Stout’s main characters as “quintessentially American heroes.”  Likewise, Guy M. Townsend has asserted that the Nero Wolfe “stories are memorable for their ingenuity, their well-drawn, substantial characters, the wit and wisdom which Stout sprinkles liberally throughout, and, to a very large degree, the relationship which exists between its two principle characters.”  For all their antagonistic tendencies and banter, Wolfe and Goodwin’s relationship has long since moved beyond mere employer and employee.  The two men are close friends with a deep, abiding love and respect for one another.  They bring out the best in each other and function most effectively and efficiently when working in tandem to solve crimes.  As Doyle does in his Sherlock Holmes stories, Stout engages his readers not just in the mysteries Wolfe and Goodwin undertake but also in the details of their daily lives and routine interactions with one another.

We welcome you to explore the works of Rex Stout and to immerse yourself in the remarkable adventures of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.   Meet Fritz Brenner, Wolfe’s ingenious private chef; Saul Panzer, Wolfe’s disheveled but reliable top freelancer; and Lily Rowan, Goodwin’s resourceful socialite girlfriend.  See what befalls Wolfe in TOO MANY COOKS (1938) when he ventures outside his beloved brownstone to speak at a gathering of the worlds’ greatest chefs at a West Virginia resort in hopes of learning Jerome Berin’s secret recipe for saucisse minuit.  Follow Wolfe as he unexpectedly retires and mysteriously vanishes, losing weight and transforming his appearance, for one final confrontation with criminal mastermind Arnold Zeck, his own Moriarty, in IN THE BEST FAMILIES (1950).  Grieve with Wolfe as he travels back to his native Montenegro in THE BLACK MOUNTAIN (1954) to avenge the death of Marko Vukcic, his oldest friend.  After a while, Wolfe’s West 35th Street brownstone with its chef’s quarters, basement billiards room, and rooftop greenhouse will be as familiar to you as your own home.  Discover the mystery series loved and admired by fans as diverse as Marlene Dietrich, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and William Faulkner, what Otto Penzler sums up as “a world as sure-handed and richly-textured a cosmos as the gas lit London of Sherlock Holmes or. . . Tolkein’s Middle Earth or the Oz of L. Frank Baum.”  – Boyd White

Nothing is simpler than to kill a man; the difficulties arise in attempting to avoid the consequences. – Nero Wolf TOO MANY COOKS, Ch 3

I told him I was Archie Goodwin, the heart, liver, lungs, and gizzard of the private detective business of Nero Wolfe, Wolfe being merely the brains. He asked sarcastically if I was a genius too, and I told him no indeed, I was comparatively human. - Archie Goodwin converses with the prospective client in TOO MANY WOMEN, Ch 1

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The Richard W. Dodson Collection of Science Fiction:

Important works that includes correspondence with E. E. “Doc” Smith and three of his rough draft manuscripts (TRIPLANETARY, SKYLARK OF VALERON and GALACTIC PATROL),
as well as correspondence with A. Merritt, Clark Ashton Smith, Julius Schwartz and others

In his introduction to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum (1974), Isaac Asimov refers to the three novas of science fiction, stories that changed the genre instantaneously upon their first publication.  In order, Asimov’s three novas are E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space” (Amazing Stories, August 1928), Stanley G. Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey” (Wonder Stories, July 1934), and Robert Heinlein’s “Life-Line” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1939).

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While Doc Smith’s name may be virtually unknown to fans of contemporary science fiction, Smith’s influence on the development and scope of the field is undeniable.  With the publication of “The Skylark of Space,” Smith introduced the concept of interstellar travel and created the science fiction genre known as the space opera.  Space operas are characterized by interstellar wars waged among galactic empires, conflicts that involve advanced technology and consume entire worlds, often lasting hundreds of years.

Smith’s greatest achievement as an author is The History of Civilization (1955), comprised of his six Lensman novels—Triplanetary (1948), First Lensman (1950), Galactic Patrol (1950), Gray Lensman (1951), Second Stage Lensman (1953), and Children of the Lens (1954)—a number of which were originally published as serials in Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction from 1934 to 1948.  The defining space opera of science fiction’s golden age, The History of Civilization chronicles the interstellar war between two alien races, the peaceful, benevolent Arisians and the vicious, dominating Eddorians.  In order to stop the Eddorians from conquering the known universe, the Arisians institute a eugenics program on several planets in hopes of creating a superior race that can defeat their enemies.  As a result, the Galactic Patrol is formed, an interstellar military and law enforcement agency headed by the Lensmen, human beings of superior intellect and physical ability who are natural, capable leaders.  Each Lensman is equipped with the Lens, a badge that gives its wearer a wide range of telepathic abilities.  As tensions mount between the Arisians and the Eddorians, alien races align themselves with either the rational, orderly forces of Civilization or the ruthless criminal empire of Boskone.  The ensuing battles between Civilization and Boskone last centuries and involve vast space fleets, army units with millions of soldiers, and the casual destruction of entire worlds and races.  The turning point in the conflict comes when third-stage Lensmen develop the ability to merge their minds and the minds of the entire Galactic Patrol into a massive mental entity known as the Unit.

If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because the influence of Doc Smith’s Lensman novels on popular culture is pervasive, ranging from comic strips such as Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon (1934-2003) to classic TV series such as Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek (1966-1969).  The concept of the Galactic Patrol, an interstellar police force consisting of numerous alien races, is a clear precursor to DC Comics Green Lantern Corps (1959 to present) with the Lenses reimagined as power rings and the Arisians becoming the immortal Guardians.  George Lucas has acknowledged Smith’s Lensman series as a direct influence on Star Wars (1977); the Force find its roots in the Unit, as does the Empire in the Boskone.  Likewise, contemporary high spots of science fiction, such as Louis McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga (1986 to present), Vernor Vinge’s A Fire on the Deep (1992), and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (2013), are all space operas and would not exist with the work of Doc Smith.  In thanking Smith for dedicating the hardcover publication of The Vortex Blaster (1960) to him, Robert Heinlein wrote:
“I have learned from many writers—from Verne and Wells and Campbell and Sinclair Lewis, et al.—but I have learned more from you than from any of the others and perhaps more than for all the others put together. . . .  For the past twenty years I’ve been trying to emulate you and any really astute literary detective could trace down hundreds of things in my stories which derive from your ideas, style, moral standards, et endless cetera.”

Every time we pick up a new science fiction novel that involves political intrigue and warfare on a galactic scale or eagerly anticipate the next Guardians of the Galaxy sequel or any of the myriad of sequels, prequels, and TV series set in the Star Wars universe, we are literally enjoying the Children of the Lens.

While the Richard W. Dodson Collection of Science Fiction contains fascinating correspondence with A. Merritt, Clark Ashton Smith, E. R. Eddison, and Julius Schwartz, the heart of the collection is the remarkable material pertaining to Doc Smith.  Manuscript material from the formative era of science fiction is rare, and it is impossible to overstate the historical and cultural importance of these Smith manuscripts.  The Richard W. Dodson Collection of Science Fiction provides numerous invaluable insights into Doc Smith’s work and his writing process, highlighting one of the early architects of all we have come to know as science fiction.

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“Within SF fandom — that is the coterie of readers to whom science fiction virtually meant the magazines — E. E. Smith, Ph.D. (known as ‘Doc’ Smith) was one of the greatest names, if not the greatest of all. It was E. E. Smith who started science fiction off on the trillion year spree which is now an integral part of its image. Beneath Smith’s advance, the light-years went down like ninepins and the sober facts of science were appropriated for a binge of impossible adventure” (Brian W. Aldiss, TRILLION YEAR SPREE, pp. 210-212).

“When George Lucas researched the background for the Star Wars saga, it was no accident that one of his sources was the Lensman series. But even the Death Star seems a puny weapon next to what Edward E. Smith (1890-1965) imagined in SECOND STAGE LENSMAN (1941-1942): a whole fleet of mobile planets assaulting Earth. “Doc” Smith, as he was known to SF fans, hardly seems a candidate for literary recognition. By prevailing standards, his style is quaint, his dialogue stilted, his characters embarrassing, his values sentimental. Yet Smith was a literary revolutionary. His place in science fiction can be compared to that of James Fenimore Cooper in the development of the American novel. Cooper was a clumsy writer, as Mark Twain demonstrated in a devastating piece of criticism; yet he created the entire mythology of the frontier in his Leatherstocking Tales. Similarly, Smith created the mythology of space opera in his Skylark and Lensman adventures … Both the Lensman and Skylark series retain an elemental appeal that transcends pulp limitations. If a classic is a work that fulfills all the possibilities of its form, then these are classics” (John J. Pierce, FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE FICTION, pp. [129], 134).

Science fiction fandom grew out of science clubs, all facilitated by Hugo Gernsback, “The Father of Science Fiction,” who published the addresses as well as the names of those whose letters were published in his magazines. What ties the Dodson collection together is a classic example of the interaction of science fiction readers with the genre’s writers and editors during the 1930s. Historically, this interaction resulted in the publication of hundreds of amateur magazines (fanzines), the first locally organized fan clubs and, ultimately, the First World Science Fiction Convention, held in New York City in 1939.

Like many young fans, Richard Dodson’s interest in both science and in fiction led to correspondence with writers, editors and other fans. Some writers working in this popular fiction genre wrote science fiction rather than science fantasy. In the tradition of Verne and Wells, they made an effort to provide at least some plausible science in their scientific romances. In the main, E. E. “Doc” Smith, a chemist who wrote science fiction, was one of these writers. When John W. Campbell became editor of ASTOUNDING in 1937, his editorial policy called for realism and scientific verisimilitude. With his engineering background and his appreciation of “hard” science fiction stories written by fellow writers with science backgrounds, Campbell ushered in what is now called science fiction’s “golden age.” The need to employ at least somewhat plausible science while telling the story is a connecting thread throughout the correspondence between Smith and Dodson.

Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith (1890-1965), American chemist and pioneer science fiction writer, is historically important as the best known and most imitated writer of early “space opera.” Smith’s first novel, THE SKYLARK OF SPACE, was begun in 1915 and finished in 1919, but its was not published until 1928. While other pulp writers (Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson for instance) wrote and published this type of story before Smith’s debut novel appeared in AMAZING STORIES, his first story and those that followed significantly expanded the boundaries of pulp superscience yarns by humanizing the scientist/hero, making science relevant to the plot, and moving the action beyond the confine of our Solar System. He became the master of the form.

“After Smith, all science fiction bore the stamp of his influence, most clearly in the writing of Jack Williamson and John W. Campbell, Jr., but in many other writers’ work as well … That influence endures to the present. At a panel during the 1982 World Science Fiction Convention a group of writers including Larry Niven, Jack Chalker, Phylis Eisentein and Michael Resnick agreed that they stand on the shoulders of earlier writers, in particular Doc Smith because of his positive belief in the future as a place where humans will be free to take significant action. Thus, Smith’s identification with the scientist, or rather the spirit of optimistic rationality that he attributes to science, has become one of the foundations of science fiction” (Sanders, E. E. “DOC” SMITH, pp. 83-84). Smith’s influence is also evident in film and TV, from Star Trek and Star Wars to the latest episode of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The first installment of “The Skylark of Space,” written by Smith with some help from Lee Hawkins Garby, was published in the issue of AMAZING STORIES dated August 1928. “It is the first ‘space opera’ in which men go outside the Solar System to meet alien races, engage in struggles, and generally reach the maximum limits of exotic adventure … The story remains one of the great classics of the field, and is almost required reading for anyone who tries to understand the history of science fiction” (Lester Del Rey, THE WORLD OF SCIENCE FICTION, p. 45).

The “Letters” column of AMAZING STORIES printed the addresses of the writers as well as their names, thereby facilitating correspondence between readers of the magazine. Richard W. Dodson (1915-2008), a high school student at the time, read several of Smith’s stories and was inspired to write to him. The result was an exchange of letters, with topics ranging from the nature of science fiction writing and critiques of Smith’s work to the study of science, that would continue for the next twenty years.

Dodson, later a prominent American atomic scientist, also corresponded with Clark Ashton Smith, A. Merritt and other writers, as well as Julius Schwartz, a young fellow fan, but Smith was the author Richard admired most. As a teenager, science was as important a part of Dodson’s life as it had been for Smith. Richard enrolled in the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in Pasadena where he was one of Linus Pauling’s assistants. He graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1936. He then went to Johns Hopkins University from which he received his Ph.D. in Chemistry. He did research in radioactive materials and in 1943 he joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory to work on the Manhattan Project. After the war he returned to Cal Tech, but soon left for Columbia University where he joined the Chemistry Department, first as an assistant professor, later as a full professor. At this time he also worked for the newly established Brookhaven National Laboratory where he was appointed first chair of the Chemistry Department. He served as well on General Advisory Committee of Atomic Energy Commission.

The core of the Richard W. Dodson Science Fiction Collection is the work of Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith. All pre-golden age science fiction manuscripts by any writer are rarely available for sale, and these “Doc” Smith manuscripts are not only rare, but historically important as well.

“Together with the earlier Skylark series, the Lensman series provides the paradigm for the subspecies of science fiction usually known as ‘space opera.’ It is exemplary of a literary strategy which exploits the illusion of plausibility conferred by the use of scientific and pseudoscientific jargon to turn the cosmos into a colossal playground where assorted heroes can do battle on a spectacular scale with entire races of loathsome aliens. Space opera is basically costume-drama of a very simple and elementary kind, but its essential simplicity and repetitiveness are cloaked by a continual escalation of magical superscience. Smith was the first writer to realize and exploit to the full the fact that the pretence of fidelity to known science and future possibility maintained by science fiction was not an imaginative constraint at all, but permitted absolutely anything to happen at the whim and convenience of the author, provided that a suitable jargon of apology was included … Smith was an inelegant writer and an unimaginative one, but neither of these failings proved to be the least handicap to him, for the nature of his endeavors made them irrelevant. The raw audacity of his adventure stories gave them the capacity to exercise an almost mesmeric effect over many readers, pandering to one of the most elementary of human needs: the need for compensatory fantasies in which to express impulses that have to be restrained in everyday social intercourse” (Stableford, SURVEY, pp. 1183-1184).

The collection includes three draft manuscripts, all handwritten with TRIPLANETARY also having a typewritten copy, letter correspondence with E.E. Smith, A. Merritt, Clark Ashton Smith and others, signed books, photographs, artwork and other materials.

This collection, new to the market, will be available for inspection at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, November 10-12, 2017 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Please inquire for free passes for the fair. Any queries please contact either Lloyd Currey or John W. Knott.

Post written by Boyd White, L.W. Currey and John W. Knott

Pulpfest 2017


pulp group

July 2017-PULPFEST

The weekend of July 27-30 Lloyd Currey and I attended Pulpfest held in Cranberry, Pa, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh. A thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable low-key show. The dealer’s room was well represented with many interesting pulps, books, magazines and much more. One of the very nice things about the show was how relaxed it was, good conversations were held about collecting, pulps, books, etc. This show largely has “old-timers” on the dealer’s room floor, but the amount of knowledge available is vast, and most love to talk. You never know who may turn up at a show like this, Saturday afternoon Jim Steranko, veteran pulp collector, stopped by our table to chat and make a few purchases. In addition to the Windy City show, which we highly recommend, this show made for a very pleasant week-end. We purchased a number of interesting items that will be coming to our new arrivals sections soon.

Our next show for both Lloyd and myself will be the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, held at the Hynes Convention center in Boston on November 10-12.


Windy City Con 2017

After a busy early part of the year exhibiting successfully at the California Antiquarian Book Fair and the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, Lloyd Currey and I exhibited together at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. The Windy City Con was held in Lombard, IL recently (April 21-23).

We were planning for a relaxing weekend as this is a relatively small show but the buyers are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Sales were robust and exceeded expectations. It was enjoyable meeting old and new customers and our tables remained busy throughout the show.

This show could easily become the premiere show for genre material. There are great selections of pulp magazines that run the gamut from reasonably priced material to rare and scarce issues. Dealers also bring a wide selection of books from reading copies to interesting and rare books that cover a wide range; science fiction, fantasy, horror and supernatural, mystery and detective, and other popular fiction. Also original artwork is available for purchase.

The convention is a casual affair during which fans and dealers conduct business and socialize most of the day and evening. A few seem to have no issues with closing down the bar. Each year a stunning art show is put on, there are auctions in the evening and a film program. The venue of the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center provides a comfortable atmosphere with a number of dining choices as well as plenty of nearby restaurants.

Doug Ellis, John Gunnison and their staff put on an enjoyableweekend. If you have an interest in this type of material, this is the show to come to.

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One of the most important twentieth century small publisher’s archives offered for sale in the last several decades is now being offered by my colleague L.W. Currey and myself. The core of the archive is correspondence, often extensive, from several hundred authors whose work Derleth published under his own imprints or in his highly important non-Arkham House anthologies published in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as manuscripts, mostly typewritten (including fair copies and carbons), submitted by Arkham House authors.

AH logo.1  Derleth crop Beyond the Wall Proof CAS photo Hodgson MS HPL photo


by contributor Boyd White

Recently cataloged by Lloyd Currey and John Knott, the David H. Rajchel Arkham House Archive is one of the most impressive and important collections of material related to fantastic fiction to ever be offered publicly for sale. Consisting of over 4,000 individual items, the 95-page calendar of the archive, available for download at L. W. Currey, Inc., is a virtual who’s who in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. David Rajchel purchased the materials in the archive over the years from April Derleth, August Derleth’s daughter, and in some cases, he prevented important documents in which the Wisconsin Historical Society took no interest from being recycled or thrown out.

August Derleth’s contributions to the field of weird fiction as an editor and publisher are well known. Derleth and his business partner, Donald Wandrei, preserved the legacy of H. P. Lovecraft with the publication of The Outsider and Others in 1939 and did the same for Robert E. Howard with Skull-Face and Others in 1946. In addition to publishing the first collections of short fiction by such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, and Fritz Leiber, Arkham House brought the work of William Hope Hodgson to an American audience with the publication of The House on the Borderland and Other Novels in 1945. Derleth’s practice of introducing writers of weird fiction from the UK to a broader audience continued throughout his career and included Marjorie Bowen, J. S. Le Fanu, Margery Lawrence, M. P. Shiel, and H. R. Wakefield.

Even a cursory glance at the items contained in the David H. Rajchel Arkham House Archive quickly demonstrates that Derleth’s influence extended well beyond Arkham House. His landmark science fiction and fantasy anthologies of the 1940s and 1950s, many published by Pellgrini and Cudhay, brought Derleth into contact with most of the major authors of fantastic fiction of his day, such as Charles Beaumont, Robert Bloch, Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, Frederik Pohl, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. The archive also extensively documents Derleth’s work with the TV and film industry, including properties that Derleth developed for Revue Productions, including H. R. Wakefield’s “Farewell Performance” and William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki story “The Whistling Room.”

While no summary can do justice to the scope and depth of the archive, notable highlights include

  • R. Wakefield’s handwritten manuscript for “A Man’s Best Friend,” a story which would not see the light of day until the 2000 Ash-Tree Press collection Reunion at Dawn
  • 38 poems by Clark Ashton Smith, all typewritten, most signed with corrections in Smith’s own hand
  • Page proofs for H. P. Lovecraft’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep and Marginalia
  • Letters to Derleth from Robert Aickman, Marjorie Bowen, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, L. P. Hartley, Fritz Leiber, Margery Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, John Metcalfe, and M. P. Shiel
  • Photographs of the members of the entire Weird Tales circle, including a snapshot of Robert E. Howard signed in pencil “R.E.H” on the back

Anyone interested in gaining more insight into Arkham House and August Derleth is strongly encouraged to visit L. W. Currey, Inc. to read Lloyd Currey’s introduction to the archive and to download the complete calendar of the archive. The archive is illustrated by a number of fascinating photographs of select material. We will not see its like again.