Building a Weird Tales Library: Part 1

Sunday , 10, April 2016 4 Comments
1977 reprint

1978 reprint

So, you have read your Del Rey trade paperbacks of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. You might even have picked up the Penguin collection of Clark Ashton Smith stories. You keep hearing about a magazine called Weird Tales where Lovecraft and Howard’s stories first appeared. There is some curiosity if there were any other gonzo stories in that magazine.

Fortunately, there were some paperback anthologies that reprinted other authors and make for a good start in exploring Weird Tales.

I recently had a piece in a book of non-fiction, ostensibly literary criticism, about Weird Tales. After I submitted my first draft, one of the co-editors wrote to me that he learned a lot from my essay having never heard of H. Warner Munn or Nictzin Dyalhis. I was astounded. Munn was one of the solid second stringers of Weird Tales and Dyalhis has a certain mythological status.

So, if you are just a fan looking for more weird fiction or a professor desperate to publish or perish, I am going to help you out.

My gateway was the Arkham House edition of Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. The book’s contents are not all Weird Tales reprints but this is where I first read Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch (not to mention Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley). The book was broken up into two paperbacks. Volume 1 is almost all Weird Tales. There were four paperback printings, so copies are out there.

John Haefele (The Derleth Mythos) pointed out to me that August Derleth has a  large part in building the legend of Weird Tales. He ran ads for Arkham House Books in the 1940s, which undoubtedly helped the magazine—and which he continued in the 1950s, more out of loyalty than because it was good business.  He had a good working relationship with editor Dorothy McIlwraith sending her Cthulhu Mythos stories for which there was a demand. His collections of Lovecraft, Howard, Bradbury, Smith, Bloch, Whitehead , in general reprinting the best from the magazine created a retrospective aura.

The legend grew with the paperback anthologies.Macabre Reader

Donald A. Wollheim edited The Macabre Reader (Ace, 1959) and More Macabre (Ace, 1961). The Macabre Reader has seven stories from Weird Tales and one from Strange Tales. The story by Donald Wandrei, a writer normally associated with Weird Tales, is from Esquire. The paperback has Lovecraft, Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and Henry S. Whitehead. More Macabre has three stories from Weird Tales by H. Warner Munn, Theodore Roscoe, and George Fielding Elliot.

Leo Margulies was listed as editor for four paperbacks from Pyramid. Sam Moskowitz claimed to have ghost edited two of them.Ghoul Keepers

The Unexpected (Pyramid, 1960)  was the first and has 11 stories, all from the late 1940s and early 50s. Manly Wade Wellman, Fredric Brown, Isaac Asimov & Frederik Pohl, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon included among others. Not representative of the magazine in general but a best of snapshot of a certain time.

The Ghoul Keepers (Pyramid, 1961 and 1965) was the second. Nine stories, mostly from the late 1930s and the 40s. Stories by Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Seabury Quinn, and one of Henry Kuttner’s “Elak of Atlantis” stories.

Weird Tales (Pyramid, 1964) and Worlds of Weird (Pyramid, 1965) are the two books ghost edited by Sam Moskowitz. The contents are more from the golden age of the 1930s. Weird Tales has eight stories from Lovecraft, Howard, Fritz Leiber, Edmond Hamilton, Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Frank Belknap Long, and Nictzin Dyalhis.

The follow up volume, Worlds of Weird (Pyramid, 1965) is even more representative of the 1930s golden age with entries from Seabury Quinn, Nictzin Dyalhis, Frank Belknap Long, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard. There was supposedly a 1977 reprint of this anthology by Pyramid though I have never seen it.

Weird TalesBoth Weird Tales and Worlds of Weird were reprinted by Jove Books in late 1978 and early 1979 with a Margaret Brundage cover.

The original Avon Fantasy Reader digest magazine reprinted a lot of fiction from Weird Tales by the indispensable Donald A. Wollheim in the late 1940s and early 1950s. There were two paperback anthologies derived from the magazine.

The Avon Fantasy Reader (Avon, 1969) was put together by George Ernsberger. Five out of seven stories were Weird Tales reprints including Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, Nictzin Dyalhis, Thorp McCluskey, and Manly Wade Wellman.

The 2nd Avon Fantasy Reader had nine stories. Five stories were from Weird Tales and one by Donald Wandrei from Esquire.Avon Fantasy Reader Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, H. P. Lovecraft & Zealia Bishop, Henry Kuttner & Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith are the Weird Tales reprints.

Over in the U.K. there were some paperback editions of the Not at Night series from the 1920s and 30s.

Not at Night (Arrow, 1960) had 14 stories, nine are Weird Tales reprints. This contains some stories off the beaten path. “A Hand from the Deep” by MRNTTNGHTS0000Romeo Poole is not a story normally reprinted. Same for Bassett Morgan’s “Island of Doom.” H. Warner Munn’s “The Chain” is included as is Mary Elizabeth Counselman’s “The Accursed Isle.”

More Not at Night (Arrow, 1961) contains another 14 stories, ten from Weird Tales. Again, the contents are not what would expect with Harold Ward’s “The Closed Door” or “Swamp Horror” by Will Smith and R. J. Robbins. There is a Robert E. Howard Conan the Cimmerian story in the book, making it the first anthology appearance of Conan in paperback. There were three printings of this paperback.

Still Not at Night (Arrow, 1962) had 13 stories, six are from Weird Tales, one from Oriental Stories (Hugh Cave). Henry S. Whitehead, someone barely mentioned so far, but held in high regard by other writers has “Passing of a God.” August Derleth is the only other recognizable writer of the group. There was a second edition in the 1970s of this paperback.

The Not at Night reprints are interesting in they give a window of what was liked at the time. The preferences changed with the retrospective anthologies which goes to show how August Derleth molded opinion over the decades with his Arkham House collections.

The 1960s were a fertile time for Weird Tales reprints in paperback. You can find the Pyramid paperbacks generally at Windy City Pulp & Paperback Show and Pulpfest. I would imagine the recent LA. Paperback Show is also a good place for hunting.

  • John D Haefele says:

    Derleth also wrote several retrospectives about Weird Tales, which circulated in crucial venues and certainly helped build its reputation…

    • John D Haefele says:

      Just to be clear, Weird Tales for many reasons was amazing and would never have been lost to history. My comments here (and in August Derleth Redux) are merely to demonstrate August Derleth’s contributions to this end.

  • Alfred Genesson says:

    Piles just added to the backlog. I only have so much time.

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