Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Memory Pool

The ghost story world has always had more than its fair share of unknown—or barely remembered—authors; writers whose work in the genre was scattered through various magazines, or whose one or two collections had fallen out of print and were difficult, or expensive, or both, to find. From the early 1970s onwards editors such as Hugh Lamb, Richard Dalby, Mike Ashley, Jack Adrian, and Michel Parry went some way towards resurrecting the names of many of these authors, either through anthologies or through single-author collections (notably the short lived Equation Chillers series), and in the 1990s small presses such as Ghost Story Press, Tartarus, Ash-Tree, and others began reprinting scarce collections, and putting together 'complete' editions of an author's scattered works.

There are, of course, authors who have yet to be reprinted, in some cases because their work isn't very good (there's a reason some of these people have been forgotten), or because the authors in question weren't very prolific within the ghost story field (no one will be doing a 'complete' weird tales of Perceval Landon, because three stories do not a book make). However, a few authors have fallen through the net, one of whom is Thomas St. John Bartlett (1875–1909), whose sole collection, the posthumously published The Memory Pool and Others (Chatto & Windus, 1917), saw almost its entire run destroyed when the warehouse holding the book was destroyed during the last German airship raid of London during World War One, in June 1917. Bartlett languished in obscurity until Hugh Lamb resurrected him in 1972, but the lack of a 'complete' edition of his ghost stories has meant that Bartlett's reputation, never high to begin with, has remained below the radar of all but the most devoted aficionados of the weird tale.

When Glen Hirshberg and Pete Atkins approached me, earlier this year, with the astounding news that the rest of Bartlett's 'The Memory Pool' (previously only existing in the form of a fragment) had been found, I was thrilled; when they asked me to write the introduction to the first complete publication of the story, I was honoured and delighted. The result is a handsome booklet published by Earthling Publications as The Rolling Darkness Revue 2009—Bartlett: A Centenary Symposium, containing not only Bartlett's complete story (and my introduction to it), and bio/bibliographical information by Mike Ashley, E. F. Bleiler, and Gary Hoppenstand, but two further stories ('Intricate Green Figurines' by Pete, and 'The Nimble Men' by Glen) which take their cue from Bartlett's writing. It's to be hoped that some enterprising small press is able to prevail on the Bartlett estate to make not only the stories contained in The Memory Pool available to a new generation, but to release any unpublished stories it may hold. In the meantime, anyone wanting to sample Bartlett's work, and who doesn't have one of the handful of anthologies containing one of his stories, has a treat in store in this complete version of 'The Memory Pool'. It's long been a minor mystery as to why the publisher chose to title Bartlett's one collection after a story fragment; but as I say in my introduction, the complete story shows the author breaking new, fresh ground, with a confidence and maturity that makes it all the more tragic that his life was cut short in so dramatic a fashion. The handsome chapbook is available through Glen Hirshberg's website, and it would make an excellent stocking stuffer for the ghost story enthusiast in your life.

Speaking of Christmas, I see that Turner Classic Movies has scheduled eighteen Sherlock Holmes films to run consecutively from 5.00 pm PDT on Christmas Day. 'Holmes for the Holidays' is doubtless running as a tie-in to the Robert Downey, Jr./Jude Law film Sherlock Holmes, which opens on 25 December, but whatever the reason for the scheduling, it's nice to think that a new audience might be introduced to the classic Holmes films of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Their two period adventures for Twentieth Century-Fox—1939's Hound of the Baskervilles and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes—kick off the programming, and eleven of the twelve Universal films (the only missing one is The Woman in Green) follow over the course of Boxing Day. Anyone who's read some of my earlier blog posts will know of my great fondness for these films, and I think it's safe to say that TCM will be playing softly in the background throughout at least some parts of Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

And still on a holiday note, let me say that at this time of year I thank goodness for online shopping. I became enamoured of mail-order shopping in 1997, when I had a three-month-old son and was living in a small town with, shall we say, limited shopping options. Tim is now twelve, and I'm a bit more mobile than I was in 1997, but the shopping options of Ashcroft have not increased in any meaningful way in the intervening years, and I've become a whole-hearted enthusiast of shopping electronically. The whole world is, quite literally, at my fingertips; so if you'll excuse me, I have to go and do some shopping. And I don't have to worry about finding a parking spot close to the door.


TheMadBlonde said...

I'm very intrigued by what you write of Mr. Bartlett. Speaking of Xmas, I'll have to add that to my (name of evil-empire mega-giant online store deleted) wishlist. Just when I start getting too depressed about all the cool things that disappear unnoticed, I hear news like this & am cheered.

Wish you guys were closer. We have a fantastically restored movie theatre not far from us- The Heights ( ) & they're showing the new movie starting Xmas Day. I'm trying to get as many Explorers to come see it there as I can, because it's such a beautiful theatre AND because the owner is a great guy, very active locally. Wish you & Christopher could make part of the group.

Hope your shopping went well. I actually got a little done today too- some @ the tea tasting & some online. Just a few more things & then I'm done until I can see if Kev & I actually GET a christmas (I'm hoping @ least for a tree), or if my trip out East is pretty much it.

Keep posting. Lovely to know what's going on in your life & the exciting brain of Barbara.

TheMadBlonde said...

Oops, remembered the website wrong. It's .

Ole Phat Stu said...

I was just telling Doug (Alder) about this, which may interest you too :-)

Not all Holmes stories were by Conan Doyle. I’ve just finished reading an excellent short story ‘A Study In Emerald’ by Neil Gaiman in his anthology ‘Fragile Things’, which is a crossover between Doyle and Lovecraft. Try it, you'll love it . The ISBN is 978-0-7553-3414-8