Friday, February 1, 2013

FFB: TEN TALES CALCULATED TO GIVE YOU SHUDDERS edited by Ross Olney (and its sfnal companion), Whitman 1972

Whitman, as an expression of Western Publishing, was certainly omnipresent in the mid-price and discount department stores, and the drugstores, of my youth, with their comics and even more notably with their usually brightly-colored, cheaply produced books, which, like Grosset and Dunlap's various series books for children (Nancy Drew, the Hardys) but slightly less well-bound, had no dust jackets, but full-color illustrated board covers. I owned copies of at least some of their classics for children (such as Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, a book which did defeat me as a youth in its dullness and dreariness in the early going), Big Little Books (the one I remember best was Woody Woodpecker and the Meteor Menace written by Don Christensen, which was my first encounter with the concept of a Grand Vizier, and of course an evil one), and some original items (usually media-driven...I had a hand-me-down copy of Doris Schroeder's Annette and the Mystery at Smuggler's Cove, part of that veteran screenwriter's Funicello book series commissioned by Disney and Western). Among the last were two rather good entries edited by Ross Olney.

Ross Olney has been mostly a writer of YA materials, and while I'm not sure I ever read any of his books, I'm particularly surprised I didn't come across (if I didn't) either of his two anthologies here, the horror item even moreso than the earlier sf volume...but not too many libraries carried Whitman books, seen as downmarket and disposable (and in severe need of rebinding if they were to survive at all in the circulating environment). I might've not taken too seriously any casual encounter with Shudders, since who expected a Whitman anthology to contain much of compelling interest, not Safe for the Kiddies? But, if so, I was mistaken, as a glance at the Weird Tales-heavy table of contents might suggest:

Ten Tales Calculated To Give You Shudders (Whitman 1972) (indices courtesy ISFDb:)
It's notable that relatively few Whitman books have introductions, much less long ones, and more notable yet the lack of watering-down this assembly presents to the young reader; the majority of these are chestnuts, though the other near-half weren't widely anthologized, and most of them had also been published in other YA anthologies over the previous decade, though not all (a lot of overlap with Robert Arthur's "Hitchcock" anthologies aimed at adults and for the YA market, for example). I'd forgotten I'd encounterd the FB Long story elsewhere, for example (in a "Hitchcock Presents:" volume, and in another Robert Arthur horror antho for young readers) (and it's always amusing to be reminded of Burrage's initial pseudonym, "Ex-Private X"). The Anderson was from a then fairly-recent Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine issue, and beginning and ending the book with Robert Bloch (and these Bloch stories, particularly "Sweets") wouldn't've hurt my feelings any as a young reader. Olney is particularly an aficionado of cars and auto racing, hence the choices of these particular Jacobi and Wakefield stories, at least. 

Whitman had taken a slightly less impressive, but still good and only slightly idiosyncratic, science fiction anthology from Olney previously, with two from William Campbell Gault in that book...Gault, of course, is best remembered today for his crime fiction, but was a fairly consistent if rarely exceptional contributor to sf magazines, and one of the great stars (if not the greatest) of the sports-fiction magazines (and made much of his money in the 1960s from his YA sports novels), and I suspect Olney was particularly fond of Gault's auto-racing fiction...

Tales of Time and Space (Whitman 1969)
I'm very certain I never encountered the sf anthology in my early reading, and still wonder if saw and simply never got around to the horror book (the first edition of which is proud to note that it's published on recycled paper, and that paper is of a better grade than that used on the Whitman books I recall above--I wonder if this was a shortlived upgrade in the production process generally of these books)...all told, either of these books wouldn't be the worst introduction to their fields for young readers still (if not quite up to the Robert Arthur "Hitchcock" anthologies, or some of the other landmarks I've reviewed previously).

This week's FFB list of links is being assembled by Evan Lewis at his Davy Crockett's Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and the Wild West (speaking as we have of personages caught up in the Disney machines), and will be hosted here again next Friday, with one more pass through Evan's and then my blogs before Patti Abbott returns to hosting them. 

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