Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 Books A Day: #155

A Spell For Chameleon...Piers Anthony...Del Rey

The Source Of Magic...Piers Anthony...Del Rey

Castle Roogna...Piers Anthony...Del Rey

The Dark Tide...Dennis L. McKiernan...Signet

Shadows of Doom...Dennis L. McKiernan...Signet

The Darkest Day...Dennis L. McKiernan...Signet

Trek To Kragen-Cor...Dennis L. McKiernan...Signet

The Brega Path...Dennis L. McKiernan...Signet

The Year's Finest Fantasy...ed. Terry Carr...Berkley

The Year's Finest Fantasy, Vol. 2...ed. Terry Carr...Berkley

The Source of Magic was one of the first three books I ever bought for myself. It was okay, and since I am rather obsessive-compulsive about what I read, I kept reading Xanth books until they degenerated into completely repetitive, formulaic garbage. I dumped most of my volumes, but kept the first three as being fairly good; also for the memories.

Back in the early 80's I put together a little "fanzine" called The Broadsheet of Fantasy Literature (a distant ancestor of this blog, I suppose) that included reviews, essays, and original material from my friends and relations. I wrote my most scathing review ever on The Iron Tower Trilogy; it was and remains the most terrible wad of tripe I've ever read, a terrible rehash of The Lord of the Rings strained through the most unimaginative game of D&D ever played. Why do I still have it? It is as fascinatingly horrible as a train wreck: it's sickening to watch, but impossible to look away. And somehow it rated Alan Lee covers! The sequel, The Silver Call "duology", was that return to Moria ("Kragen-Cor") that all Tolkien fans have thought about, but had the good sense to keep their hands off of. McKiernan has written many more books, and one can only hope he has got better with experience. I'll never know because nothing will ever make me read another one of his works.

The Year's Finest Fantasy volumes aren't. But they have a couple of Carl Lundgren covers.

Book Count: 1864.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

10 Books A Day: #154

Toad of Toad Hall...A. A. Milne...Avon Bard

Dr. Syn Alias The Scarecrow...Vic Crume...Pyramid Books

The Prince and the Pauper...Mark Twain...Airmont

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz...L. Frank Baum...Airmont

Mistress Masham's Repose...T. H. White...Berkley Books

Meet the Austins...Madeleine L'Engle...Dell Laurel Leaf

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH...Robert C. O'Brien...Scholastic

The Cricket in Times Square...George Selden...Dell Yearling

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other stories...Washington Irving...Airmont

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other stories...Washington Irving...Magnum

The Little Prince...Antoine de Saint Exupery...Harbrace Paperbound Library

Old Peter's Russian Tales...Arthur Ransome...Puffin

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...Ian Fleming...Scholastic

The Little Leftover Witch...Florence Laughlin...Collier Books

Another batch of "juvenile fiction," including movie tie-ins, books that went on to become movies after I had read them, classics, and another one of my many copies of The Wizard of Oz, here given the dignity of its full title, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Also, I finally figured out the simple way of getting more than five pictures to a post, and remembered I was including publishers in the title description.

Book Count: 1854.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Scholastic Covers

10 Books A Day #153

While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away...Mary Nash

Mrs. Coverlet's Magician...Mary Nash

Baked Beans For Breakfast...Ruth Chew

The Secret Tree-House...Ruth Chew

Witch's Broom...Ruth Chew

The Witch's Buttons...Ruth Chew

The Wednesday Witch...Ruth Chew

The Enormous Egg...Oliver Butterworth

Miss Pickerell Goes To Mars...Ellen MacGregor

Mr. Popper's Penguins...Richard and Florence Atwater

Rudyard Kipling's First Jungle Book...Rudyard Kipling

Treasure Island...Robert Louis Stevenson

The Seven Voyages of Sinbad...retold by Gladys Davidson

Tales From Silver Lands...Charles J. Finger

Paul Bunyan Swings His Axe...Dell J. McCormick

The Wizard of Oz...L. Frank Baum

Many readers of a certain age are familiar with Scholastic Book Services books, available from order forms in Weekly Readers for school kid affordable prices. Often they were the first books you might personally own. Copies populated our classroom libraries. Although Scholastic still supplies books to school, it is the old style that has nostalgic websites and collector's blogs dedicated to them. Here's a selection of a few I own; most are "new" copies bought at garage sales and used book stores, mostly because the ones I owned were read to rags. Some I never owned but read at school.
Book Count: 1840.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Hancock Covers

I have another copy of Dragon Winter with an older cover, but I think I already listed it in a previous post.

10 Books A Day: #152

All titles are by Neil Hancock.

Greyfax Grimwald

Faragon Fairingay

Calix Stay

Squaring the Circle

Across the Far Mountain

The Plains of the Sea

On the Boundaries of Darkness

The Road to the Middle Islands

Dragon Winter

The Fires of Windameir

The Fires of Windameir

The Sea of Silence

The Wanderer's Return

The Bridge of Dawn

Neil Hancock is an author toward whose books I have a peculiarly ambiguous attitude. He began publishing them and I reading them in the late Seventies, right before the huge tidal influx of Epic Fantasy began. At the time you kind of had to take what you could get, but that also meant there were fewer simply "genre" writers clogging the river. In other words, I think you could find more fantasy writers dedicated to their personal visions rather than simply writing in a lucrative genre. And Hancock certainly has a highly individual approach, so much so that you sometimes wonder exactly what he's getting at.

That being said, I have to say I find Hancock (technically) a rather poor writer, but he has an enthusiasm of storytelling and a certain love for his characters that carries him through. But in all fairness I can only say this with personal certainty about his first "quadrology", The Circle of Light (comprising the first four books on this list); I read less of the second quadrology, and almost none of the third. Perhaps his skill has improved through the years; he seems to have been able to get his books published up into the Nineties. A projected new book, The Brandigore Gate, returning to the original characters from the Circle of Light series, has been announced as of at least four years ago, but has yet to see the light of day.

One of the things I always enjoyed about these books was the weird covers; they always gave off a rather Gervasio Gallardo-ish vibe, but I find them ascribed in a Wikipedia article to Hancock's wife. Beginning with the Questar release of The Fires of Windameir the covers were by the late Tim Hildebrandt, furnishing another reason for me to keep buying the volumes.

Hancock is a Buddhist and a Vietnam War veteran, and these philosophies and experiences infuse his work. He is also a Texan, which puts him in the company of Robert E. Howard, (immigrant) Michael Moorcock, and (er-hem) yours truly. At the risk of any future repercussions I must admit that two of his characters in the Circle of Light books were a definite influence (however unconscious) on the two main characters in the one book I've managed to finish writing.

And so Neil Hancock remains in my archive, a sentimental and nostalgic presence, a writer I can't quite whole-heartedly endorse for everyone, but whose books I can't just yet do without.
Book count: 1824.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Kurtz Covers

10 Books A Day: #151

All titles are by Katherine Kurtz

Camber of Culdi

Saint Camber

Camber the Heretic

The Harrowing of Gwynnedd

King Javan's Year

The Bastard Prince

Deryni Rising

Deryni Checkmate

High Deryni

The Bishop's Heir

The King's Justice

The Quest For St. Camber

King Kelson's Bride

The Deryni Archive

Deryni Magic

Lately I've been hauling containers of books out of storage and going through them, thinning out what I feel I can do without now. Three or four years of separation gives you some perspective on what you really don't need to have. I'm happy to pass along some good stuff to my family, and looking forward to selling some other stuff to Half Price Books (the proceeds of which will probably go to getting more books--but fewer, so easier to have around). Anyway I've got seven tubs of books from storage that I'm keeping, and five tubs that are going out. I figure while I've got them here I should catalog the keeps into the 10 Books A Day posts, so here goes.

Today the list is of all my Katherine Kurtz books, all paperbacks as you can see. A quick look around the web informs me that I'm at least another trilogy behind on the Deryni books. I'm not sure how enthusiastically I'll be pursuing the latest books; the series seemed to me by the time of King Kelson's Bride to have evolved into a sort of soap-opera, a variety of story telling that never needed to ever come to any real denouement or satisfactory ending. I had succumbed to a kind of serial exhaustion, and I felt a decided absence of any of the sense of wonder for which I go to Fantasy. Also, I loved the Darrell K. Sweet covers, not the new ones so much.

Book Total: 1810.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Baba Yaga, Jack And Jill, and Katherine Kurtz

When I was going to McQueeney Elementary School back in the early 70's, each classroom was furnished with generous supplies of Jack and Jill magazines. I loved to browse through them during free time, and I remember I used to really enjoy the Baba Yaga stories that would be occasionally published in them. In these tales Baba Yaga, though grumpy and a little greedy, was a far cry from the cannibalistic hag depicted in old Russian tradition. The real hero was her put-upon black cat, who was sent out on missions by the old witch and had to brave whatever challenges that entailed. I remember enjoying the illustrations as well.

A couple of years ago my sister got a lot of old magazines and books for five bucks at a local auction, and included were several old copies of Jack and Jill. To my delight, one issue (July 1964) had the story "Baba Yaga and the Peddler", illustrated in the style I remembered. I was able to finally identify the artist I had admired as Ursula Koering, and the author of at least some of the Baba Yaga stories was Katherine Kurtz! The same Katherine Kurtz (I assume) who went on to become famous for her Deryni books.

A little further research uncovered a slim little book (34 pages) of four tales published in 1976 entitled Baba Yaga Stories, by Katherine K. O'Connor. Included was "Baba Yaga and the Peddler", so it's pretty sure the K. is for Kurtz. I couldn't find much information on the book; no picture of the cover or whether there were illustrations. So I suppose if there are any Katherine Kurtz collectors out there, this would be a rarity to look out for; I don't find it mentioned on any site dedicated to Kurtz.

I'd love to find more of these old Jack and Jills with Baba Yaga.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Perhaps This Is Why

More Fritz Eichenberg, this time from Mistress Masham's Repose, by T. H. White, in which a young girl named Maria finds an island inhabitated by Lilliputions. There is a slight shadow on these scans because the book wouldn't open perfectly flat.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Illustrations By Fritz Eichenberg

From Heroes of the Kalevala, Finland's Saga, by Babette Deutsch, a simplified adaptation of the Kalevala for young people. Fritz Eichenberg is a rather famous artist better known for his work on heavy religious and social themes, but during his career he also illustrated and wrote many "children's books." Considering that the Kalevala was one of Tolkien's major influences, I sometimes can see these pictures as a sort of transposition of themes, a kind of "Silmarillion-Lite," especially images of two trees with the Sun and Moon at their tops.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010