The Ramble House editions I've got are well-edited (the guy who runs it used to be a magazine editor andis well-versed in this) and laid out. Paper, print and binding quality is good - it's POD'd through Lulu who have good quality and just one fault (though this may have been rectified since I last logged in) - they don't do good old fashioned paperback size! Only A/trade formats!
I'd recommend them for production quality, though.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Mar 18, 2012 18:56:16 GMT
I ended up buying the Bookfinger edition of Nightmare Farm as my first foray into the Gees series (the cover is all black, so here's the Ramble House edition instead).
It's an odd mix: imagine a cross between Carnacki and Sam Spade wandering the English countryside fighting supernatural evil--in this case, a trio of elementals that the ancestor of the local squire brought home after making his fortune at sea. The book's tone shifts rapidly back and forth between regional humor and syrupy romance, on the one hand, and some fairly dark territory, on the other.
All in all, I liked it enough that I'm planning on working backward to Grey Shapes and then forward to Maker of Shadows and The Ninth Life.
Post by cauldronbrewer on May 29, 2012 23:57:11 GMT
Having read Jack Mann's Nightmare Farm a while back, I decided to work my way back to Grey Shapes--the second novel in the Gees series and the first to deal with the supernatural. Here's the Ramble House cover:
Our hero is Gregory George Gordon Green (a.k.a. "Gees"), a private eye hired by country squire Tyrell to investigate a series of mysterious sheep murders/exsanguinations. Eyewitnesses report seeing a pair of large, grey dog-like shapes with glowing eyes roaming the night, but the local lawman, Inspector Feather, is stumped. Could the woolly deaths have anything to do with the father and daughter who recently purchased and renovated the castle next door? How about if I told you that the castle is supposedly haunted? And that the eyes of both Mr. McCoul and his daughter sometimes appear to glow? And that Miss McCoul is romancing Tyrell?
Grey Shapes, like its sequel Nightmare Farm, combines breezy private eye dialogue with a grab-bag of supernatural themes (here, the blend includes Irish tales of the Shee along with Loki from Norse mythology). It's fun, though it suffers from two related flaws: (1) Gees figures out the mystery early on (as should any reasonably alert reader), leaving characters and reader with not much to do except wait around for most of the story; and (2) the storytelling grows repetitive, particularly whenever Gees dodges questions about the case from Tyrell and Feather.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Jul 20, 2012 1:23:45 GMT
I'm continuing to work my way through the "Gees" series of supernatural detective novels written by Jack Mann (a.k.a. E. Charles Vivian). The one I just finished, Maker of Shadows, is easily the best of the three I've read so far. It's a major step up from Nightmare Farm, which in turn is a step up from Grey Shapes.
The Bookfinger edition of Maker is apparently not to be found for any price--probably due to Karl Edward Wagner including it on one of his "best" lists--so I bought the Ramble House edition instead. I'm quite pleased with the quality of the production; it even includes some interior illustrations (apparently reprints from a magazine version).
Mann wastes no time in sending Gees to face the novel's supernatural menace: MacMorn, an ancient sorcerer who uses human sacrifice to reincarnate himself. This time around, Gees declines his mission, which is to save his client's niece (who's slated for the latest sacrifice) by killing MacMorn. Having met Gees, however, MacMorn decides to take no chances and starts putting out his own supernatural hits on the detective. Gees is left with no choice but to head back north to face an opponent who heavily outmatches him. To make matters worse, MacMorn has an especially nasty trick in store for him.
One piece of advice: If you read the Ramble House edition, don't read the back cover--it spoils a major plot point that might well have taken me by surprise.
Those Gees novels are pretty good I thought. Her Ways are Death is supposed by some to be the best of the lot, but I haven't read it.
Now that I've finished The Ninth Life, Her Ways Are Death is next on my list.
For me, The Ninth Life ranks above Grey Shapes but below Nightmare Farm. A police inspector asks Gees to check out the beautiful but strange fiance of Tony Briggs, who serves in the Foreign Office and is an old friend of our hero. The fiance's name is Cleo Kefra, she's from Egypt, and she may be a bit older than she looks. Gees takes a quick dislike to her, but as he investigates her he has a difficult time figuring out whether she's more victim or villain.
I give credit to Mann for throwing a big monkey wrench into the plot halfway through and for allowing Gees to stray into unsympathetic territory. I still can't decide whether the oblique ending works--it includes a chilling touch but is oddly distant.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Oct 30, 2012 0:56:31 GMT
I wouldn't call Her Ways Are Death the best of Mann's Gees novels, but it's still a good read.
This time around, private detective Gees finds himself caught in an age-old feud between a self-proclaimed berserker and a "witch" who has learned the art of traveling through hyperspace (much like Keziah Mason in Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House"). They're the last branches of two ancient family trees that once crossed in blood. One can tell right away that this isn't going to end well.
The book is curiously static, but enjoyable nonetheless. I would rank it as equal to The Ninth Life, above Grey Shapes but below Nightmare Farm and Maker of Shadows.
And that wraps it up for me and Jack Mann; I don't have any interest in reading the non-supernatural books in the series. I'm impressed with the Ramble House productions, however. Based on what Timothy and James have said, I think I'll try some of RH's Mark Hansom and Walter S. Masterman reprints next. I wonder whether Fender Tucker could be persuaded to reprint the R. R. Ryan novels, as well . . .
I wonder whether Fender Tucker could be persuaded to reprint the R. R. Ryan novels, as well . . .
The problem might be copyright confusion - when I was researching R.R. Ryan there was a letter from Ryan's wife in the Herbert Jenkins' contract register, evidently selling the rights to the novels to Herbert Jenkins, which was eventually acquired by Random House. Given the battery of lawyers working for RH it might be risky to publish the novels, though they might be in the public domain in Canada, where apparently copyright expires 50 years after death, not the usual 70. But I'm no copyright expert.
Thanks, Cauldron Brewer, for those interesting notes about the Gees series. In the "blog" entry I just posted, the writer had a strong hunch that much of Grey Shapes was copied--or "suggested"?--from an earlier novel by another author.
I remember seeing a flurry of excitement when the final book in the series was reprinted by Bookfinger back circa 1975 or thereabouts--it was said to be a very rare book prior to the reprint; and now, I suppose it is again.
Thanks, Cauldron Brewer, for those interesting notes about the Gees series. In the "blog" entry I just posted, the writer had a strong hunch that much of Grey Shapes was copied--or "suggested"?--from an earlier novel by another author..
The basic plot of "Grey Shapes" is very similar to that of Gerald Biss' 1919 novel "The Door of the Unreal". I read both of them in the last couple of years, and noticed the plot similarities without having previously heard of them. Both are quite entertaining reads, but I think I prefer the Mann novel. I've read the first few "Gees" novels in recent years, and the transition from the first book, in which the hero is something of a BullDog Drummond type (minus the psychopathic racism) battling subversives, to the occult detective of the later novels, is quite startling. Makes you wonder what contemporary readers would have made of it.