Mystery Box

(Click on any of the listed titles to get a copy of your own.)

Dare You Open The Mystery Box?

For serious book collectors, small press is where it’s at (hear me wax eloquent about small press here). And for my money, no small press does it like PS Publishing in the UK, offering unique titles from relatively unknown authors, and boutique titles from genre standbys—signed, collectible limited editions that class up your shelves and give your catalog some cachet.

Visit the PS Publishing website and see for yourself.

The Mystery Deepens...

So imagine my salivation over their new year’s sale: three titles, chosen by them, for a low lump sum. They saw me coming. I opted for both the novel/anthology/collection package and the paperback package.

Enter the Mystery Box. I usually order my books one at a time, so I recently thrilled with unparalleled book-geek glee at finding a large PS Publishing parcel on my front stoop. What would it contain?

Savoring the anticipation, I opened it slowly, reverently—almost ritually—digging through Styrofoam peanuts to exhume the bubble-wrapped brick within.

And behold…

The Mystery Solved!

I was fully prepared for at least one off title that I probably wouldn’t like. You buy clearance, you take your chances. But there’s not one dud in the bunch. NOT ONE. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PS Publishing is the best small press outfit going. Peter Crowther and gang, you’re my heroes! Here’s the haul:

The Novel/Anthology/Collection package

The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell

From the PS Publishing website:
Once upon a time Tubby Thackeray’s silent comedies were hailed as the equal of Chaplin’s and Keaton’s, but now his name has been deleted from the history of the cinema. Some of his music-hall performances before he went to Hollywood were riotously controversial, and his last film was never released – but why have his entire career and all his films vanished from the record?

Simon Lester is a film critic thrown out of a job by a lawsuit against the magazine he helped to found. When he’s commissioned to write a book about Thackeray and restore the comedian’s reputation, it seems as if his own career is saved. His research takes him from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, from dusty archives to a hardcore movie studio. But his research leads to something far older than the cinema in its latest and most dangerous shape…

Ramsey Campbell has found terror in the lore of cinema before – in The Parasite and Ancient Images – and now he turns to the silent era. Lon Chaney once invited us to contemplate opening our door at midnight to be confronted by a clown. Just hope you never find Tubby Thackeray there or, even worse, on your television or your computer.

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Where or When by Steven Utley

From the PS Publishing website:
In the near future, as eco-disaster and political repression take their devastating toll on the human race, the past seems like an ideal destination, quieter, more hopeful, known. In response, a few individuals develop an ability to travel in time: first, simply to cast their consciousnesses back, passively sharing the experiences and sensations of people and creatures long dead; then, actively to usurp the bodies of our ancestors, and, ultimately, to venture into history physically, standing in their own right on the streets of Elizabethan London or Pompeii.

But human nature being what it is, madness, jealousy, and fear accompany the time travellers wherever they go; and as history is inflexible, subject to no alteration or redirection, the past is no utopia anyway…

Highly imaginative and powerfully bleak, Where or When is Steven Utley’s mosaic vision of time travel as a crucible of the human soul. Visit ancient cities or modern battlefields, and you begin to understand history and yourself; whether liberating or imprisoning, satirical or hopeful, the resulting insights are cogent indeed.

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Desperate Moon by R. Andrew Heidel

From the PS Publishing website:
The work of R. Andrew Heidel has been acclaimed by some of the greatest writers of short fiction of our time. Both Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison have praised his skill at the craft of writing. Now Heidel tantalizes the mind and spirit, invokes an otherworldly journey, and reaches into the darkness with Desperate Moon, Three Collections.

Including Beyond the Wall of Sleep, and the never before published Angry Sunflowers and Weep.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep is a collection of prose and poetry that defy categorization. They run the gamut from esoteric to experimental drawing upon the personal mythos of R. Andrew Heidel and his views on life before living, after dying, as well as the immortality of the soul and creation of gods.

Angry Sunflowers contains several metaphysical wonder tales and science fiction short stories that range from the voice of a sentient generator on the surface of the moon, to an allegory of sorts based on his experience as Neil Gaiman’s publicist.

Weep explores the dark things in Heidel’s imagination and life through dark fantasy and horror stories and one deeply personal essay. It is a place in which The Kevorkian Act allows a dominatrix to administer euthanasia, an ice-cream truck jingle drives a teenager to homicide, and golden youth is swallowed whole.

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The Paperbacks Package

Turns and Chances by Juliet E. McKenna

From the PS Publishing website:
The country of Lescar was carved out of the collapsing Tormalin Empire by ambitious men who felt entitled to seize power. Now six rival dukedoms are ruled by their descendants, each of whom feels entitled to the crown of high king.

Dukes pursue their ambitions through strategic alliances and strength of arms while their duchesses plot marriages and discreet pacts. As long as the battles stay inside Lescari borders, neighbouring powers are content to buy up whatever the dukedoms can produce and sell their rulers whatever they can afford by way of luxuries or necessities. Amoral opportunists come from far and wide to seek their fortunes in the mercenary bands who ride the successive tides of warfare.

All the while the ordinary people struggle to raise their crops and families amid the turns and chances of uncaring uncertainty. Some have had enough.

Common cause unites a duke’s beautiful mistress, a stable lad, a goodwife, a priest and teacher, the bereft mother of an infant son and guild masters weary of seeing apprentices drafted into brutish militias, often never to return. Conflicting loyalties set a duke’s dutiful bastard son on a deadly collision course with a journeyman blacksmith with most unexpected skills.

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No Traveller Returns by Paul Park

From the PS Publishing website:
What awaits us beyond the boundaries of death? What mysterious landscape, what punishing terrain? In this powerful new novella, Paul Park submits some answers, alternately menacing and absurd.

Encountering an ape-man in the mountains of North India, and then returning to America to experience the death of his old mentor Jim Carbone, our narrator finds himself dangerously susceptible to the attractions of the afterlife. When Jim passes away, our young man follows him to bring him back, entering a harsh borderland of high mountains, lunatic monasteries, evil instincts, totalitarian coercion, incomprehensible cities, fascist police, and beautiful women.

In the end, his only chance of finding his way home lies with his friend, who has receded away from him, and yet is still able to dispatch a messenger to help him one last time.

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Floater by Lucius Shepard

From the PS Publishing website:
Detective William Dempsey of the New York Police Department is having a bad time of it. Having endured — along with his brothers in blue, Manny Pinero and Evan Haley — a months-long homicide trial for the inadvertant (or was it?) shooting of Haitian immigrant, Israel Lara, he’s been abandoned by his fiancee, deemed unfit for duty, and is sinking into an oblivion of vodka and pills. Then there’s that little problem with his eye.

A floater, his optometrist says. Nothing to worry about. Microscopic bits of protein adrift in the humor that cast shadows on the retina. But Dempsey’s worried. For one thing, instead of dispersing, the floater continues to grow, occluding his vision and causing disturbing hallucinations. For another, his partner, Pinero, is behaving strangely and there’s the suggestion that the floater may not be a harmless opthamological incident but an emblem that signals a peculiar form of vengeance and the imminence of a voodoo god. As he tries to determine what is happening, Dempsey’s investigation leads him from rave culture to santeria ceremonies in storefront temples and, ultimately, to a circumstance that may have cosmic implications and a truth that lies hidden in the deepest sub-basements of his own mind.

Happy reading!