Centipede & Pelan Bungle Frank Belknap Long Collection

Frank Belknap Long and H.P. Lovecraft in Brooklyn (1931)

The Black Bird’s tirade on Masters of the Weird Tale –  Frank Belknap Long  (2010)

I was looking forward to this massive collection of  fave author, Frank Belknap Long’s work for a number of reasons.  Instead, I was enormously disappointed for innumerable other reasons.

I’m going to venture outside the bounds of the normal book review. Gonna get up close ‘n’ personal with folks on this puppy! By the end of this sucker you might think I’m being a bit of a curmudgeon. But let’s get one thing straight out of the starting gate, people. I will always be a crusader for truths and ideals, especially where art (in this case literature) is concerned.

Masters f the Weird Tale - FBL
Bungled book - 100% unproofed

Shall we start at the beginning? In 1996-98 I was in talks with  Fedogan & Bremer  publisher Phil Rahman to  edit a Frank Belknap Long collection. I sent  Phil a proposal, and he agreed he’d pay me for my editorial work. I’d already been working on the texts of On the Threshold of Dimensions (Long’s title, mind you!) for a while, but hadn’t found a suitable  home for the collection. I’d previously shown a bunch of my book proposals to Long’s former agent, Kirby McCauley, in New York, in 1994. I was already stoked on plenty of the books  F&B had  published by Donald and Howard Wandrei and Karl Edward Wagner.  I’d hung out  with him and his F&B cohorts Dwayne Olson and Scott Wyatt. Yeah, I was keen to proceed. I never got the chance. Unfortunately, Phil got embroiled in a messy divorce and subsequent poor health. My life was consumed with music, and by the time I was in a position to return to work on On the Threshold of Dimensions, Phil had  ceased publishing  and just about shuffled off this mortal coil. Poor guy. But not to worry… I still knew I could publish the book myself by print on demand methods when I manage to  resurrect Tsathoggua Press from its untimely hiatus.

We now arrive at the events of 2008. Against my best judgment,  I contacted one John Pelan in response to his newsgroup post asking for assistance.  Pelan  direly needed  a number of Frank Belknap Long’s pulp stories to finish a collection he was  editing for Centipede Press.    (I use the term “editing”  loosely because of the amount of errors in most of Pelan’s books).  At the recommendation of my old pal Rob Preston–and again, not considering the possibility of being taken advantage of–I scanned five extremely rare Long stories directly from pulp mags I’d collected over the years. For the uninitiated,  that means I nearly cracked the fragile spines on several valuable magazines from the 1930s. Their flaky pages also further disintegrated.  I did this out of the goodness of my heart, not seeking personal gain. No, let’s clarify that further! I sent these rarities because I was dying to see a new collection by Frank Belknap Long in print, so that new readers might discover  ole Belknapius’ knack for the written word. The yellowed pulps were fresh out of shipping container. They’d sailed from La La Land to Oz, and I savored  the fragrant aroma of 1930s pulp dust like it was some addictive narcotic powder.  The several items were rush emailed to Pelan, who in turn promised to send me one of his Midnight House/Darkside Press books per story scan, plus the eventual finished Long tome. Four years passed.  I didn’t receive a single book I was promised. Gentle readers, I never asked for a  cent for the service I rendered for  Pelan. Still, I endured four years of Pelan’s excuses. Repeatedly sending him my address after  doing copious internet searches to track the elusive character down.

Fast forward to January 2012, and I finally received a box containing three of the five books Pelan promised me. I hadn’t heard from him in over a year, so it was a surprise. There was no massive Centipede Long omnibus in the package, however, and I was forced to take matters into my own hands. I CCed publisher Jerad Walters on my last email to Pelan about why I still hadn’t been sent the Long book two years after its initial release. That did the trick. Walters replied to me,  and  arranged to send  the FBL book post-haste. Wonderful! For that I’m thankful. It was all I truly  wanted for the several days work I put into helping out with Frank Belknap Long: Master of the Weird Tale. I’m thanked in the end matter, along with old weirdist friends Marc Michaud (of  Necronomicon Press)  and editor extraordinaire Stefan Dziemianowicz, who likewise provided Long ephemerae.

Now, to what I’m not in the least thankful for. Quite the contrary. What I’m extremely disappointed in, truth be told! I lugged the gargantuan book home and lay down after dinner to devour the introduction as dessert. Gaudy, gilt-binding and slipcase created a deceptive exterior. The color gallery  of FBL  book covers in the intro  had all the effect  of sickly sweet icing.  This led to the stomach turning cake laced with  rancid cream. Right there in Pelan’s introduction was a large paragraph repeated twice in two separate sections, not to mention several other typos. Unimpressed! I own and have previously read  all of the tales in the Centipede book, so I only stopped to read one at random. What did I find? Black and white place-holder pages for illustration color plate inserts. A major layout and printing defect. Now, I don’t know about you, folks, but I strongly feel  a book with a $295 price tag had surely better be properly proofed and laid out, or I’m going to feel  grievously gypped.  Granted I didn’t pay for it, but  others may. I strongly  suggest you don’t.  The previous banter  doesn’t even take into account the fact that an uber limited edition of 200 copies isn’t going to  piddle a  piss in the ocean towards furthering the literary legacy of the late, great Mr. Long. Save your bread, readers. It’s better spent on  securing secondhand copies of Long’s paperback collections The Early Long (also known as The Hounds of Tindalos), Odd Science Fiction and Night Fear.

To read Frank Belknap Long’s short story “Johnny on the Spot” and a brief bio, click here!

The Black Bird
-The Black Bird (alias Perry M. Grayson)

Author: The Black Bird

As guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, The Black Bird pioneered the early U.S. heavy rock movement in 1968, spearheading the unsung power trio The Hounds of Tindalos. He was a regular contributor to The Magazine of Horror from 1963-71. His novels include the sexy new-wave science fiction outing Spawning Season (Chariot Books for Men, 1966), Smut City (the first in a series of hardboiled mysteries featuring half-Japanese hippie-era private dick Donald Dong - Essex House, 1969), the anti-hero fantasy The Axe of Aleric (Powell Books, 1971) and Cauldron of Abhorrence (a pseudonymous gothic—marketed to blue-haired septugenarians—published under his then-girlfriend’s name, Raven Chimesleep Flagstone—Beagle Books, 1972). As a non-fiction writer, he compiled a 600+ page bio-bibliography of pulpster Ray Cummings (Atoms and Areolae, Ronald N. Fund Publishers, 1979) and the true crime magnum opus Daemon in Drag about post-op transsexual serial killer Roberta Morris (Ganja Publications, 1994). Wait a minute!? We’re gettin’ carried away here! This just ain’t right!? The Black Bird’s alter-ego is chronically underpaid writer, editor, musician and all around wacky creative creature Perry Grayson. A lifelong devotee of all things weird, fantastic and mysterious! By day, Perry pretends to “slave for ‘the man.’” By night he creeps! Perry’s articles, interviews, reviews, stories and poems have bled onto the pages of zines, mags and sites such as Metal Maniacs, Crypt of Cthulhu, Fungi, The Scream Factory, Slow Ride, Snap Pop, Snakepit, Al-Azif, Necrofile, Other Dimensions, emptywords.org and hellridemusic.com. As editor, he oversaw three collections of his fave author, Frank Belknap Long's work: Escape from Tomorrow, The Darkling Tide and The Eye Above the Mantel (more are planned). He runs the small press publishing operation Tsathoggua Press (currently on hiatus), and prides himself on being an incorrigible heavy rock and metal/book geek and beer snob (no panther piss, please!). For a decade he was a staff writer for the major newsstand mag Metal Maniacs (1999-2009), and now often contributes liner notes to hard rock and metal albums. From 1997-2000, along with his pal Dr. Monstrosity (a/k/a Dan DeLucie), he played guitar in the metal band Destiny's End on two albums and both U.S. and European tours. Tackling both vocal and axe-slinging duties, he formed vintage heavy rock power trio Falcon in 2002. Falcon has released two full-length and has a third in the pipeline. He also took part in multinational metal project Isen Torr on the EP Mighty and Superior (2004) and played bass for Pale Divine on a European tour. Once upon a time, he was a jack of all trades copywriter, production coordinator and light graphic designer in the advertising/graphics biz in “El Lay.” Now he resides Down Unda with his music biz veteran wife and three fur-babies (kitties). When he isn’t playing guitar or bass, singing or writing, he is probably reading a book, listening to tunes or watching a sleazy exploitation or noir flick. He is addicted to vintage books, mags, vinyl, guitars and amps. And… among other things, one of his fave pastimes is investigating old unsolved cases such as the Black Dahlia murder, a pursuit some might find comparable to chasing his own tail.

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