Tuesday, December 4, 2018

This is a good one: Number Seven Queer Street, by Margery Lawrence

Mycroft and Moran, 1969
236 pp
hardcover
originally published 1945, Robert Hale


"People do generally come to me as a last hope!"


There's nothing like getting to the end of a book only to discover that it's an abridged edition, which is exactly what happened to me with this one.  First panic set in, and then I got busy trying to find the remaining two stories that had come with the 1945 original.  After a little sleuthing, I found a modern edition so I could finish the book as it was intended to be read.




from the IFSDB

It's a bit confusing, actually, since in the 1945 original shown on the right (Robert Hale), there are seven stories; in the 1969 edition I have there are five, and in the Ash-Tree Press kindle version,  Ash-Tree Press Occult Detectives Volume Two: The First Casebook of Miles Pennoyer, there are six.   Luckily between the Mycroft and Moran edition and the Ash-Tree Press edition, I managed to read them all.  There is yet another edition of four later stories featuring Miles Pennoyer, Master of Shadows (1959) that to my knowledge has not been reprinted since it was published, and according to Biblio.com, there was a twelfth Pennoyer story published after the author's death.   I'm really hoping that Ash-Tree decides to publish (as promised at the end of the Kindle version of Volume 1),  The Second Casebook of Miles Pennoyer, which the blurb says "will be available soon."    Not soon enough for me -- even though these stories can definitely become a bit long winded at times, as the author starts to hone in on the actual problems solved by the "psychic doctor" and their cures, it's eyes on the page without budging an inch.


Ash-Tree Press, 2013
Kindle edition, B00H599QN6
234 pp

In the foreword which is given by Jerome Latimer, the fictional pupil, assistant, and chronicler of  the exploits of  Miles Pennoyer, we are given a clue as to the author's influences in writing this book:
"There are not many people who are fortunate enough to know these selfless and splendid people, the psychic doctors -- and there are still fewer books that record the wonders they can do and are still doing.  Algernon Blackwood's book John Silence was one of the first, and Dion Fortune's book The Secrets of Dr. Taverner is another..."
 The title of the book comes from Pennoyer's address, No. 7 Queer Street, where Pennoyer lives with his housekeeper Friedl and his dog Hans; it is a "top-floor eyrie" perfectly suited to his need to be alone, without "too close contact with the crowd."   According to Latimer, Pennoyer is  a "psychic doctor -- one who deals  in ills that beset the soul rather than the body of man;" Brian Stableford says in his entry on Margery Lawrence in St. James Guide to Horror Ghost and Gothic Writers that   Pennoyer's "ostensible purpose" is to "put an end to the supernatural disturbances by healing the experiential wounds they symbolize." (350)   Over the course of these seven stories, he arrives on the scene to try to understand what is causing someone to act the way they do, but before he can do that and effect a cure, he must get to the root of his or her psychic disturbance. Sometimes he is able to do this alone; at other times he must call on "Them," aka "the Masters" for guidance and help.

In "The Case of the Bronze Door," Pennoyer reveals to Latimer how he came to be the owner of  a certain Chinese screen, a gift from "a patient" who marriage started going very wrong once the piece was put in his study.   "The Case of the Haunted Cathedral" finds him investigating a new cathedral which is haunted by not just one, but two spirits, keeping the practitioners from wanting to worship there.  An invitation in the mail prompts Pennoyer to tell Latimer about "The Case of Ella McLeod," whose strange attachment to a stray dog and her strange knowledge of Ancient Greek gives Pennoyer his first clues as to what's going on.  And then we come to "The Case of the White Snake," which to be really honest, absolutely disturbed me at first because of the device used in this story, which honestly made me question her judgment here.  I won't go there so as not to spoil things, but even Brian Stableford notes that the symbolism was "sanitized."  Yikes.

Next is my favorite of the collection, "The Case of the Moonchild."  To bring Stableford into the discussion again, he remarks that this one was "obviously borrowed from Alistair Crowley," and it shows.  Talk about creepy! In this story, Latimer gets a call from Pennoyer to come to Exeter, where the doctor is visiting an old friend.  He asks Latimer to bring the "bogey-bag," a nickname for a bag
"filled with all sorts of oils and unguents, queer-looking metal contraptions, robes and headgear, various documents, and a book or two, packets of herbs, odd-looking amulets, all manner of things that might be needed by my colleague in his frequent battles with the Forces of the Outer Dark..."
Obviously something weird is happening where Pennoyer is, and Latimer will get his chance to discover what it is when he gets involved in the case on his arrival.

At this point, I bought the Kindle edition for the remaining two stories, "The Case of the Young Man with the Scar" and "The Case of the Leannabh Shidhe."  In the first one, Pennoyer takes on the strange case of a young fellow whose prospective father-in-law wants the boy's "trouble" to be "cleared up" before the relationship can go any further.  It seems that the young man has a strange scar that "comes and goes," one that takes on the shape of a "dull red snake curling round the arm." Possibly the most pulpish story of the seven (and to be honest, for me, the most fun because of the all of the elements involved in this tale), Pennoyer will have to depend on the word of a strange source to get to the root of the scar's random appearance.   The last story finds Pennoyer in the guise of a tutor to a child who
"had got the entire village, besides his mother and the staff of the Manor House, entirely under his thumb. They dreaded and feared without in the least knowing what they feared..."
 It seems that "if Master Patrick's crossed, and especially if he's struck, something nasty'll happen to whoever touches him," reminding me so much of the boy played by Billy Mumy in that episode of  The Twilight Zone called "It's a Good Life."   The doctor and the family have to travel to Ireland to unravel this one, as it turns out, on Halloween.

On the strength of these stories I bought Margery Lawrence's Nights of the Round Table, The Terraces of Night, and The Floating Cafe. While it may not be great literature, Number Seven Queer Street is by an author whose works have been left to drift into obscurity, and that's just a shame.  I agree with  Brian Stableford, who says that "an eclectic collection of her best supernatural short stories...is long overdue."  I'd be first in line to buy it, for sure.

Recommended highly for readers of lost or forgotten authors of dark/supernatural fiction, who also don't mind the pulpy side of horror.


Monday, November 19, 2018

a little late for Halloween, but read it anyway: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume Three, by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle (eds.)

9781948405133
Valancourt Books, 2018
327 pp

hardcover


I actually meant to make this post around Halloween when I read this book,  but life's been seriously hectic here at home so I'm a bit late.  It doesn't matter though, since this third volume of The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories can really be read and enjoyed at any time.

There is not a single misstep in this entire collection, something I can't always say about most horror anthologies I read.  Normally I find at least one story that just doesn't work; that is just not the case here. Here's something else that's great about this book: the arrangement of the stories is excellent.  It starts off with R. Chetwynd-Hayes' somewhat humorous  "Don't Go Up Them Stairs" and concludes with Robert Westall's   "Beelzebub" (also somewhat laughworthy), almost as if the editors thought they'd put their readers through enough horror in between.  I don't know about anyone else, but I tend to carry tension while reading horror, so beginning and ending with touches of humor here is perfect. 

While each and every story in this book is top notch, I did have a few personal favorites, with  "Mr. Evening" by James Purdy at the top of the list.   It is probably the most atypical horror story in the book, but in my case, it did its job.  The chills grow slowly in this one,  increasing in increments until the end where I had a sort an overall  bird's-eye view of what was happening here, and then I actually had to put the book down for a while to recover as the actual horror of it all left its impact. When I come across a story like this one where the implications are truly frightening, sometimes they scare me much more than the ones where all is explained.    Forrest Reid's "Courage" offers a new dimension to the standard haunted house story, as does Helen Mathers' "The Face in the Mirror," which also hits every one of my Victorian ghost story buttons.  "Mothering Sunday" is another great tale by one of my favorite writers of horror and the strange,  John Keir Cross, whose "Glass Eye" remains one of the creepiest stories I've ever read.  Steve Rasnic Tem's "The Parts Man" while horrific, is also surprisingly poignant, in which a man strikes a strange deal, with high costs to pay.    I'll also add Elizabeth Jenkins' "On No Account, My Love" to this list, although I have read it before. It's another one where only in the final moments do you realize the nature of the implications of this story, at which point the chill runs up the spine. And finally, there's  "Blood of the Kapu Tiki" by Eric C. Higgs,, which has a great, old-fashioned pulpy horror feel to it that I absolutely couldn't resist. 


the tiki cover edition of this book,
9781948405157 (from Valancourt)

And speaking of "Blood of the Kapu Tiki,"  I also had to buy the paperback tiki cover edition of this book.

I'm beyond happy that James and Ryan have continued the tradition they started with the first book in this series, compiling amazing horror stories written by the authors whose work they publish. As I've said all along, they have an uncanny feel for knowing not only what's good, but also unique; I appreciate  both of them for having such great taste.  The same applies to Valancourt's publications in general; as I've also said all along, they somehow manage publish exactly what I want to read.  And as for this book in particular,  to be honest, at this point it just wouldn't be Halloween without a volume of Valancourt horror stories in my hands. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Virgin Vampire, by Etienne-Leon de Lamothe-Langon

9781612270326
Black Coat Press, 2011
translated by Brian Stableford
257 pp

paperback

"Who dared to lift the mysterious veil with which Heaven covers the accomplishment of its terrible will?"

While I'm not a huge fan of vampire fiction, last year I discovered Black Coat Press, and their lineup of novels featuring vampires sort of reinvigorated my interest. And while The Virgin Vampire isn't likely to land in the category of  greatest vampire fiction ever written, it is still historically significant in terms of the history of vampire literature, and offers readers a look at an entirely different sort of vampire altogether.

Originally published in 1825 (or quite possibly 1824),   La Vampire, ou la vierge de Hongrie is not your average vampire tale by any stretch. The story opens in 1815, as  Colonel Edouard Delmont has resigned his army commission, and has informed his dutiful and loving wife Hélène that he wants to move the family to the countryside just out of Toulouse, to an area where he is "unknown" so that they can life a life of "peace and quiet." After the usual strangers-in-the-village uneasiness passes, the family settles  comfortably in their new home where they find happiness for quite a long time; soon,  however,  Delmont is called away for a family matter, leaving  Hélène and their two children  in the hands of his former sergeant and now trusted servant Raoul. During his absence, the two Delmont children, accompanied by Raoul, make the acquaintance of a "foreign woman" along with her strange servant.   While she is new to the area, to his horror, Raoul discovers that she is no stranger, and  immediately writes the Colonel to inform him that Alinska is in the neighborhood, reminding him that he
"will never be happy or tranquil as long as that unfortunate Hungarian woman exists"
or as long as she continues to pursue him.  It isn't too long before some strange events take place in the area, including  the discovery of a dead body drained of all of its blood, leading Raoul to bring up the subject of vampires:
"No blood!...No blood!  O Heaven! The horrors of Hungary are being renewed in France!"
Shortly thereafter Alinska's house burns down, and in doing her Christian and charitable duty Madame Delmont  invites her to come to their chateau to live. Raoul, who has a "peculiar presentiment" that this is probably not a good idea, can't bring himself to tell  Hélène of his misgivings because it would mean that he would have to reveal something involving the Colonel's past, of which his wife is completely ignorant. He promises himself that he will watch over Delmont's family, but not even he can imagine what's about to happen next.

If you're suspecting that you know how the story is going to play out from this point on, well, you're probably wrong. I know I was way off the mark with my own predictions, and that was a definite plus as far as the reading experience.  But it's not just a matter of the book deviating from the usual path taken in vampire fiction as we know it -- as Brian Stableford says in his afterword, Lamothe-Langon's vampire is "not a predator in her own right," but more a "mere instrument of a higher power, more puppet than actor," caught up  in a "plan for vampiric vengeance." This facet of the story is only one way in which The Virgin Vampire differs from the more familiar plots of  vampire lore; another difference  is found in the very nature of this "higher power."  And there are many more deviations to be found here as well if you read carefully.

The Virgin Vampire is a fine bit of dark, supernatural, and gothic fun which can be chilling at times, and while I wouldn't say that Lamonthe-Lagon's  writing is destined to make this book a classic,  Stableford believes that this book is "not without literary merit as an item of dark Romantic fiction." I agree, and  I also think that the story reveals much about the nature of Enlightenment thinking in terms of rational thought vs superstition.

It may be  a bit tame for readers of modern vampire tales, but it does make for a rollicking good yarn;  to be very honest, it was unputdownable fun. Considering that I'm not a rah-rah fan of vampire stories, well, that should say something.

recommended, but mainly for people interested in the history of literary vampires, and for readers who are looking for something entirely different in their vampire fiction.


Monday, October 1, 2018

haunted house, anyone? The Silent Companions, by Laura Purcell


9780143131632
Penguin, 2018
originally published (UK) 2017
304 pp

paperback

The Silent Companions is my real-world book group's pick for our meeting on October 30th.  I racked my brains trying to come up with a book that would be a good Halloween-ish read -- I could have, of course, easily gone and scanned my shelves for a title but the women in my group tend to not share my love of dark dark books, so it was tricky.  I needed to find a novel that would not only fit in with the occasion, but one that was well written with intelligent themes that would hopefully provide for some good discussion.  When I found out about The Silent Companions, I added it to the list.  I will confess that near the midpoint of this novel, I was beginning to regret my choice because the book was moving along at a slow pace, but just after complaining about it on Goodreads, a few pages later I was actually hooked and couldn't put the book down.  It's not great literature, but on the other hand,  it's fun, it's creepy, and once I got in the groove of its gothic weirdness, I couldn't stop turning pages.  Certainly it isn't without its faults, but it is a perfect Halloween read, just filled with that lovely ambiguity that made me wonder if there's more than meets the eye here, right up until the very last page.


This book spans three different timelines, alternating between present and the past.  First, as the novel opens, we find ourselves in main character Elsie Bainbridge's present, which, as we learn pretty quickly,  is during Elsie's time in an asylum  where she is undergoing a psychological assessment.  Before her doctor can pass judgment, though, he begs her to tell the truth about the events that landed her there, but Elsie cannot speak.  Giving her a slate, and then later a pencil and paper, he encourages her to write down all she knows, and we are immediately taken back to the time before Elsie's incarceration when she had first arrived at the Bainbridge family home, The Bridge, in 1865.  Her husband Rupert had gone ahead of her,  leaving Elsie in London while he got the place ready for the two of them and their unborn baby, but his unexpected death while at the house brings Elsie there as a woman in mourning.   Also at The Bridge  are a handful of servants, as well as Rupert's cousin Sarah, who had served as lady's companion and who is now at The Bridge to keep Elsie company.  It doesn't take long until Elsie becomes aware of strange noises that seem to emanate from a room that has always been kept locked, but that's just the beginning of a series of bizarre events that plague the household.   The house itself has a long history and a dark past that continues to keep the villagers away, which is reflected in the third timeline (the 1630s) during the reign of Charles I.  I'm not saying another word about the actual plot here or how the time periods interweave; I was perfectly happy not knowing anything at all about this story until I'd it read it.



from Treasure Hunt


The Silent Companions has it all: hints of witchcraft, gypsies, locked rooms, strange noises, a black cat, eerie happenings, madness and an asylum, but as the title suggests, the centerpiece of this story is "the silent companions."  The photo above is one of these and is the cover image of the Penguin edition of this book; they are also called "dummy boards,"  which as noted by the blogger at Treasure Hunt, were made out of wood, but had a "lifelike quality"  which could "render them a little spooky as you suddenly come upon a solemn little child, a gesturing servant or even a soldier with gun at the ready."   The first of the silent companions is discovered in a locked garret, but soon others begin to appear, heightening the already-existing tensions within the household, making for a creepy and unforgettable tale.

As I said earlier, the book starts out very slowly and sort of trudges along for a while as we get the picture of the house and its environs as well as the people within, but that all changes very quickly just about midway and zooms toward the ending.  Aside from the atmospheric sense of place and time that is built into this story, the best part of this book is the underlying and particularly unsettling sense of ambiguity that not only ratchets up the tension, but makes you want to question everything you've read after finishing. 

Considering that I prefer my horror from yesteryear, the author's done a fine job here and I can certainly recommend this novel.  Do yourself a favor and carve out a few hours -- once the creepiness gets rolling, it doesn't let up.



It's October again,


and that means Halloween reading. I'm so ready. 





Tuesday, September 18, 2018

rats. I should have saved this book for October: The Moons At Your Door, (ed.) David Tibet

97981907222429
Strange Attractor Press, 2016
450 pp
paperback

As I'm sitting here writing this, in the background I'm listening to the eerie music of Current 93's album Faust .  Had I been listening to this  when I read Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock's tale in this book of the same name,  it would have totally heightened the creep factor that the story produced in my head.   The editor of this collection of strange, hallucinatory tales just happens to be David Tibet, the founder of Current 93, and that particular album was inspired by that particular story. 

Tibet's music isn't solely limited to Stenbock as inspiration though;  it reflects at least one way in which the stories and authors in this book (and beyond) have "crept, crept, crept" into his work; in the introduction to this book he lists other music which has been inspired by Ligotti, Machen,  M.R. James and others, whose "names and phrases and worlds and dreams" he has "channeled" into what he's done.  And if Faust is any indication of how he's managed this, I need to listen to more.

Getting to the book now, it's one thing reading an anthology of strange, supernatural tales and it's quite another to read a book that serves as part of a roadmap of stories that have not only made a huge influence on someone's life, but continue to "enthral, and terrify" that person. All of these stories, he says,
"...spell how close is the darkness, how subtly and slyly it may seep into our lives and change them utterly." 
"Enthral, and terrify" they did in my case, and seep into my life is an understatement in the case of some of these stories.  For example,  Stenbock's "Faust" I had to put down in the middle and continue the next day because it was so utterly terrifying;  "The Tower of Moab" by L.A. Lewis and  "The Testament of Magdalen Blair" by Aleister Crowley  took me out the comfort of my reading chair, out of my living room, and into another place entirely.  Those last two are probably imprinted on my brain forever now, and along with the two stories and two poems by Stenbock in this book, have raised the bar for what I'll be expecting from my strange/dark fiction reading from this point on.  Some of these twenty-eight stories I've read before, but I didn't care -- I got a  sense that they belonged here for some reason so I reread them with absolute pleasure.


I'll post the contents here, but I will not be going into any detail about any of them. That should be a pleasure best left to anyone reading this post.

"The Moons at My Door" by David Tibet

*"Faust," "The True Story of a Vampire," "Vol d'Amor," and "Requiem"  by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock 

"Casting the Runes," "A School Story," and "O, Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad" by MR James

*"He Cometh and He Passeth By" and "Look Up There!" by HR Wakefield

"The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant

"The White People," by Arthur Machen

* "The Testament of Magdalen Blair," by Aleister Crowley

"The Frolic" and "Les Fleurs," by Thomas Ligotti

"The Monkey's Paw," by WW Jacobs

 * "Ravissante," by Robert Aickman

"Smee," by A.M. Burrage

"Sredni Vashtar," by Saki

"Bluebeard," by Charles Perrault

"The Touch of Pan," by Algernon Blackwood

From "The King in Yellow," by R.W. Chambers

 *"Young Tambling," traditional (as sung by Anne Briggs)

* "The Hobyahs," traditional

 *"Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrows," by Thomas de Quincey

 *From "The Thunder: Perfect Mind"

From The Epic of Gilgameš

 *"Couching at the Door," by DK Broster

"The Old Nurse's Tale," by Elizabeth Gaskell

Rounding out the rest of this book are "Biographical and Story Notes," by Mark Valentine and "Lunar Tunes," by David Tibet. 

The asterisks by a few of the story titles mark those I hadn't previously read; I'll just briefly mention a few of those here.  Some time ago I preordered (and am now anxiously awaiting) Strange Attractor's  edition of Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbockalso edited by David Tibet. Not to steal Strange Attractor's thunder, but if anyone's interested, Snuggly Books has recently published a collection of Stenbock's work called Studies of Death.   If the Stenbock entries in The Moons at Your Door are any hint of what's to come, I'll be freaked out, utterly terrified, and delighted all at the same time. HR Wakefield's two entries reminded me of MR James, perhaps not with as much depth, but both had eerie twists; Aleister Crowley's "The Testament of Magdalen Blair" chilled me to my bones with its implications.   Aickman's "Ravissante" actually woke me up one morning at 4:30 with an "aha" moment; evidently it was strange and powerful enough to have lingered on in my sleeping subconscious after reading it twice.  "Young Tambling" sent me to youtube to listen to the haunting voice of Anne Briggs;  "Couching at the Door" seems mild and even a bit silly at first but don't let it fool you: it hides a darkness that completely crept under my skin and has stayed there. 

I'm now deep into a second round of Current 93's Faust and thinking how sad I am that this book is over, but fortunately all is not lost.  I have Tibet's newest collection, There is a Graveyard That Dwells in Man (also preordered) to look forward to.  I'm just sorry I didn't save The Moons At Your Door for October reading -- it would have been great to include it in the heading-to-Halloween lineup.

One more thing: yes, you may have many of these stories in various anthologies shelved in your library, but the ones you probably don't are well worth the cost of this book.  The Moons At Your Door should be a mainstay in the home libraries of any serious reader of strange/dark/supernatural fiction.




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

two beautiful books from John Gale: Saraband of Sable; A Damask of the Dead

"For do not we all wait for something that we know nothing of, something that has not arrived, and possibly never will."  -- from "Vigil," A Damask of the Dead 



A few months ago for reasons I still can't put my finger on, I picked up a copy of his Saraband of Sable from Egaeus Press (the third book in the Egaeus Press Keynote Edition series), never having read anything by John Gale before that time.  Now I would read anything this man writes.




9780993527890
Egaeus Press, 2018
illustrated by Alfredo Guido
185 pp; hardcover

With absolutely no idea what to expect from this author on opening the book,  it didn't take me long at all to realize that I had something exquisite in my hands. By the time I'd finished it, I was telling everyone and anyone who reads dark/strange/weird fiction that they need to buy a copy of this short but sophisticated, highly-satisfying collection of tales, not just because the stories are so good, but also because of the unique quality of the writing.  I'm actually lost for words in trying to describe it, so perhaps I should refer to the description at Egaeus (from the link above) which says that
"Saraband of Sable presents eight of Gale's sumptuous strange tales; dreamlike at times, dense in their imagery yet delicate as dimming perfume."
It also noted there that the author's "previous collections" ... "garnered praise for their sophisticated and decadent prose styling," and I'd only add that I found a sort of ethereal quality to his work, but it really goes much deeper than any description that my non-writer's head can produce.  The most surprising quality of these stories, though, is that while basking in the sheer beauty of the writing, it's like the clouds lift and there at the heart of each story is the darkness that's been peeking through all along, finally emerging with gut-punching force. And while it seems that we're in the middle of long ago and far away, the essentially-human traits that are represented here are tragic, real and timeless. One more thing -- the incorporation of the natural world flows beautifully through each and every story, as in this description of a city's necropolis:
"... a few do venture here, to tarry for a while amidst the cypress and the ebony poplars, basking in the light which falls here like tarnished copper during the diurnal hours; they are the dreamers that revere the lank and elegant grasses that grow between the monuments of obsidian and chrysoberyl, the grasses that turn from jade to gold during autumn; and they love the jackdaws who inhabit the sable green of the elder yews and who often speak in the voices of the dead through eating the fruits of the trees that look like crimson pearls, the trees whose roots bind tight the ivory bones of the long departed."  (from "Lord of the Porphyry Nenuphar"). 
The truth is that even before finishing Saraband of Sable, I was so enchanted that I absolutely had to have more, so I tracked down a copy of the now out-of-print A Damask of the Dead published by Tartarus.




1872621635
Tartarus Press, 2002
100 pp, hardcover (#136)

The dustjacket blurb really tells you all you need to know about this book:
"The perfumes of the East suffuse these tales, of poets, lovers and kings who, despite the luxury and beauty of their surroundings, desire something beyond."
Immediately we find ourselves standing at the gates of  "Death's City", with "palaces with colonnades flooded with darkness, stretching away into infinity," moving later onto "a castle of many turrets that reared up from a cliff of dark rock," complete with "black tourmaline crypts," at some point reaching an "onyx-domed city."  The fourteen stories in this book transport the reader completely out of this world and into others where sorcery is a natural part of life, where poets can really fall in love with the moon, or where the ghost of a king appears one night to give advice to his son and heir, and more.

Fantastical these stories may be, but they are not breezy tales with rewards at the end; as with Saraband of Sable, there is only tragedy, unhappiness, and darkness to be found within.

On the dustjacket blurb of A Damask of the Dead, Mark Valentine has this to say:
"As Machen has observed, literature consists in the art of telling a wonderful story in a wonderful manner. Few writers today acknowledge the need for either element. John Gale is someone who has mastered both."
I couldn't agree more, and that goes for Saraband of Sable as well.  John Gale is a rare find indeed.

So highly recommended that no scale exists for how highly I recommend these books.