Here’s what I love about small presses: they’re quirky, they look for (and fill) niches that the big guys have missed, and they often appear to be as governed by personal passions as market research.
Today’s shout-out, Valancourt Books, is no exception. Their catalog sports many overlooked and forgotten gothic books. Because they’ve identified a missed opportunity? Maybe. Because they think there’s a readership out there who would love to see these books dusted off and brought out in new editions? Maybe.
Because they just plain love these books? Definitely.
Publisher and general editor James D. Jenkins has the story:
Jay first became interested in Gothic and other lost popular literature as an undergraduate after stumbling upon a small, strange, old black book called The Castle of Otranto in the library stacks. Enthralled by this odd book, which was so much different than all the other old books they make you read in English class, he quickly devoured the few other Gothic novels available in print before discovering that the overwhelming majority of these wonderful books were long out of print and impossible to get. But not anymore, thanks to the efforts of Valancourt Books.
Inspiring! As readers of mysteries and Gothic novels know, there is simply no substitute for finding a great period novel. The language, the setting, the mood, and the atmosphere all age with time. Don’t get me wrong, I like contemporary mysteries too. But sometimes uncorking one of an older vintage can bring its own special pleasures.
Here they are on their Gothic Classics series:
Our Gothic Classics series brings out new editions of rare fiction from the 1790s to the 1830s, the heyday of the Gothic novel. Many of these books are so scarce that they survive in only a handful of copies worldwide–sometimes only a single copy–and most of them are being reprinted here for the first time ever.
This is truly the work of the gods. Take this book by Francis Lathom:
Who was Francis Lathom?
Between 1795 and 1809, Francis Lathom (1774-1832) established himself as one of the most popular and prolific novelists of his day with Gothic novels such as The Midnight Bell (1798) and The Mysterious Freebooter (1806) before disappearing without a trace.
In 1820, Lathom made his triumphant return to the literary scene with this collection of three tales.
In the title story, things seem to be looking up for young William McTavish after he wins a fortune in the lottery. But much to his horror, he arrives home to find his father on the scaffold to be hanged for having forged a one pound note!
This edition, the first since 1820, features a new introduction and notes by Max Fincher, the text of contemporary reviews, and a facsimile of the original title page.
Awesome. Lathom apparently was an influence on Sir Walter Scott, and how could he not be? These books were all over early nineteenth-century Scotland. Surely they, and their forgotten brethren, deserve to be on a shelf or two now.
Check out Lathom Books’s full catalog (which in addition to “Gothic, Romantic, and Victorian” also includes “Literary Fiction,” “Horror and Supernatural,” and “Gay Interest” categories) or visit their blog today!
Previous Small Press Shout-Outs: