The Hardboiled Brit

James Hadley Chase is an interesting guy. His real name is René Brabazon Raymond, born in Ealing, London, back in 1906. Served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, though apparently not as a pilot. He did, however, edit the RAF journal and wrote several stories for it. Back in civilian life, he sold children’s encyclopedias and worked in a bookshop. I’m guessing that’s where he first encountered American authors like James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett and Jonathan Latimer.

Chase certainly was a canny fellow. He turned his love of American hardboiled fiction into a lifetime career. His first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish—which we’re reprinting in March—is filled with gangster slang (“gumshoeing” as a verb is my favorite) and lots of violent action. Sure, there are a few “shan’ts” in there. That happens when you’re just starting out. You’ve got your American city maps and your dictionary of American slang handy, but you’re still English born and bred. Those occasional British phrases will slip through.

But for the most part, Chase wrote hardboiled American thrillers.

Interestingly enough, Chase is said to have visited the U.S. only twice in his life, once to visit Florida, and another time, New Orleans. You’d never know it. He started imitating that clipped, wisecracking American speech pattern right from the start, and only got better at it as he went along. I can imagine him watching American gangster films, and reading Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice or Latimer’s The Dead Don’t Care, or even Paul Cain’s Fast One, and saying to himself, I bet I could do that.

Chase wrote fast. In his writing lifetime—spanning 46 years—he published over 90 novels, and at least one original play; that is, a play not based on No Orchids for Miss Blandish. No Orchids always remained his steady bestseller over the years. It was not only turned into a British stage production, but was made into two films as well. Probably the best known version here in the States is Robert Aldrich’s The Grissom Gang with Kim Darby and Tony Musante. A lot of Chase books were made into films.

But No Orchids, the story of the brutal gangland kidnapping of a rich heiress, is the book also got him into trouble. For starters, Chase borrowed the basic plot of the kidnapping from William Faulkner’s Sanctuary. Some critics held that against him. Then the British authorities sued him and his publisher, Jarrolds, for excessive sadistic violence in this book and Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief, and forced him to tame the books down. Which, given the times, makes sense. There’s a knifing scene in No Orchids that is still hard to take.

So here we are in 2016, and I thought it was time to reprint No Orchids for Miss Blandish in its original, unexpurgated version, from that first British edition back in 1939 that so distressed the squeamish and caused all the stir—while still selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

And, naturally, if I was going to reprint No Orchids for Miss Blandish, I figured I might as well pair it with the also-edited Twelve Chinamen and a Woman, since both books feature the same hero detective, Dave Fenner. They both needed to be restored. At least, that was my thinking. But, really, any early books by James Hadley Chase are worth reprinting. They’re all brisk, inventive, filled with plot twists and interesting characters, and great fun to curl up with. Time goes by quickly when you’re reading a Chase thriller. And if you can read just one without wanting to pick up another one right after, you’re a better man than I.

—Greg Shepard
Stark House Press

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Playing Favorites

I don’t have one favorite author. And at any given moment, I might give a different answer if pushed to pick one. In the world of film and popular music, I have no problem playing favorites. Casablanca has been my favorite film since I first saw it 55+ or so years ago. I never get tired of watching anything with Humphrey Bogart in it. Same with music. Brian Wilson has been #1 for me since I first heard the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.” come blasting out of my radio back in 1963. The Beatles come a close second, right up there with Frank Zappa. They all took music in a different direction, and I was happy to follow.

But writers, now, they’re a slippery breed. You can have a favorite author at one point, and then a few years later, you realize you’ve lost all interest in them. You’ve got all their books, but can’t imagine reading one of them. Fond memories prompt you to mention them when someone asks, but you are plucking the strings of auld lang syne more than being honest about your feelings when you call them a favorite.

I feel that way about a lot of my teenage favorites: Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard both come to mind. I love those guys….but when did I last read one of their books? Way too long ago. I also read a lot of Jules Verne when I was a kid, too. And I’m sure I’d find joy in all three of these authors if I read them now. But favorites? Maybe not so much anymore….

You might think that my favorite writers would all be Stark House books. But, in fact, my three favorites are Ernest Hemingway, Philip K. Dick and Jonathan Carroll. Hemingway for the precision of his writing, the way he could create an emotion with dialogue alone, the leanness of his prose. I love Phil Dick for his crazy-ass ideas. His books always take me somewhere new, and get me to look at the world in a different way. And Carroll, well, I love his books just for the pure magic of them.

Throughout my life, I’ve latched on to a lot of favorite authors whom I’ve read and collected with a fervor like that of a junkie searching for his fix. Authors like Robert Silverberg, Barry N. Malzberg, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Margaret Millar, Emile Zola, F. Scott Fitzgerald, W. Somerset Maugham, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Burgess, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Michael Moorcock, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, Dashiell Hammett, H. Rider Haggard, Sax Rohmer, Sinclair Lewis, Algernon Blackwood, Kim Stanley Robinson, Graham Joyce, H. G. Wells, Storm Constantine, L. Frank Baum….

The list could go on and on. How do you pick a favorite among such heady company? And this is the short list. It’s rather slanted toward male authors, most of them American or European. I admit it, I need to branch out more. I read a lot of Russian literature in college—Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy come to mind—but that was years ago. I have yet to read many of the Indian, Japanese, Caribbean or Latin authors. There aren’t a lot of modern authors on the list either.

And, really, I don’t know what any of this has to do with Stark House except to give you an idea of where I’m coming from as a publisher. Nobody asked me who my favorite authors are. But, hell, nobody asked me to start a publishing company either, and I didn’t let that stop me….

—Greg Shepard
Stark House Press

Fell the Angels

Chicago, Illinois. Present day.

The man grinned as he ran. He skipped lightly over a patch of ice, overbalanced, and turned his stumble into a theatrical flip that landed him squarely on the steel fire escape. He was a selkie and his name, when he bothered to answer to one, was Luka.
Abby Marquise hitched her purse higher onto her shoulder as she dodged around the ice Luka had jumped. Sweat trickled down her forehead and clung to loose strands of dark-blonde hair. Shapeshifters were never easy to handle, but this one had more energy than most. The shoulder holster under her parka was rubbing her side raw.
“Get back here!” she panted, but the selkie just thumbed his nose at Abby and galloped down the fire escape. She reached the top just as he reached bottom. As she clung to the metal railing, trying to find steady footing for the descent, he smiled up at her and tapped one foot.
Abby tried not to swear, but it was a near thing. She clambered awkwardly down the fire escape as Luka took off again.
At least he was doing her the courtesy of letting her keep up. Most fairies could easily outdistance a human, but Luka had already killed two women in his personal quest for fun, so perhaps he was enjoying this variation on his usual game. He might have a plan, or he might not. Whatever happened in the next few minutes, Abby would have to catch him.
She didn’t want to. There were other agents better-equipped to handle a takedown, but unless her luck changed they wouldn’t be there in time. Of course this had to happen today of all days.
Luka cut left and bolted across the street, ignoring the honking car horns and shouts of passersby. Another patch of ice sent him skidding, giving Abby a few precious seconds to close the gap, but her hand barely brushed his sleeve before he twisted neatly out of the way and bolted. “No touching!” he sang out.
They streaked past the adobe-colored structure of the local clinic, following the straight line of Western Avenue. Abby’s lungs burned with the cold air and her heart felt ready to burst. Luka just laughed and somehow accelerated.
There was a definite course to his run now. He veered off the central course of Western Avenue and streaked across the snow of an empty lot, heading towards the park across the street. He was about a hundred feet ahead, but Abby could see him stoop low and snatch something out of a snowdrift. Then he was off, but more slowly this time, struggling to unwrap heavy PVC sheeting from a small package as he ran.
Abby slowed a little as well and fumbled her cell phone out of her pocket. “He’s got something,” she panted. “Think it’s his skin. Off Addison, heading down to the river.”
“Hang on,” said the voice of Adam Starczynski. “John and Dummy are three blocks behind you. If you grab the skin you can control him, but if he hits the water—”
“I know,” she said and ended the call. Sucking in as deep a breath as she could manage, she swiped sweat out of her eyes and pushed forward.
The park sloped gently for the length of a soccer field before making an abrupt plunge into the gravel-edged shallows of the Chicago River. It was one of the best places for foot access to the river: the banks for miles around were steep and lined with trees, condos, concrete barriers and private docks. A small service offered canoe and kayak rentals for an hourly fee, but it was closed for the season.
The selkie plunged into the shallows and pulled his white sealskin over his head. A moment later, a snowy seal with golden eyes was thrashing its way into deeper water. It raised its flipper in a jaunty salute as Abby stumbled to a halt on the bank.
She had to do something. She should draw her pistol, shoot him dead in the water, but her hands were trembling with exhaustion and she could hardly see through the haze blurring her vision. She could only bend over, panting for air.
But something seemed to be wrong with Luka’s getaway plan. The seal flopped backwards in the water and wrinkled its nose. It sneezed. Spluttered. Its eyes instinctively squeezed shut, and its whole body convulsed as it tried to clap its flippers over its face. Its alarmed bark turned into bubbles in the greasy water and startled a seagull perched on a nearby chunk of ice.
With a wounded yelp, the seal thrashed its tail and sped towards the shore as fast as it could. When it crawled up onto the bank, some twenty yards downstream from where it had started, the water ran in oily gray rivulets from its fur.
Gasping, the selkie ripped off his enchanted skin and began to cough in a deep phlegmy rattle. “Is that supposed to be a river?” he demanded as Abby came stumbling through the trees. “How can you do that to me?”
Abby shucked off her parka and drew the Beretta Tomcat from its holster. “Luka,” she began as steadily as she could, “you are hereby charged with the murders of Alicia Gonzalez and Rebecca Cartwright. If you have any information that would be of use to the human authorities, please disclose it now and I might be able to help you. Hand over the skin and—”
Fairies preferred magic, but they knew what guns were. Luka grabbed his skin and bolted for the water’s edge.
Abby fired twice. The first bullet zinged over the selkie’s head, but the second hit home between his shoulder blades. He gasped and hit the surface face-first, his sealskin still in his arms. Blood bubbled out into the icy water.
Taking a shallow breath, Abby shook her head and holstered the weapon. The body was already sinking. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed Adam again.
“He’s dead,” she said. “But he’s in the water, and there’s no way I can fish him out myself.”
“Roger,” Adam responded. “Any witnesses? Dummy’s right behind you, and he’s got the jar …”
“Nobody saw the last part, but there might be some people who were curious about the chase.” The slow current of the river was spreading the blood around, creating a reddish-brown patch in the water. “We should probably listen to the police band for a while, just in case.”
“I figured. You gonna write up the case report?”
“I… no, I don’t think so.” It would be completely dark soon, and she had an appointment to keep. “Tomorrow okay?”
Adam’s voice wasn’t exactly sympathetic, but it had softened. “No prob. Go home and get cleaned up.”
Heavy footsteps were coming up behind her. Abby turned. A seven-foot-tall man, pale as chalk, was making his way down the riverbank with a green glass jar under one arm. When he saw her, he waved one hand and smiled. The hand hopped down from his wrist and scuttled across the snow towards Abby, where it made itself comfortable on her shoe.
“Hi, Dummy,” she said. “I hope you brought rope.”

…And that is the first couple of pages from Catherine Butzen’s new book, Fell the Angels, which Stark House just published in October. I mailed out lots of review copies, talked the book up, tried to encourage Crime Club members into taking a copy. Got no reviews, a few conservative orders. Which is a shame, because it’s a great read. It moves fast, has a host of interesting characters—including a group of rogue selkies—and reminded me of the early urban fantasies of Charles DeLint. It’s got a mystery for the mystery fans, but it deals with the peripheral world of faerie for fantasy aficionados. I was charmed by Butzen’s first book, Thief of Midnight, and equally charmed by Fell the Angels.

So why am I making a blog out of the first chapter of Butzen’s book? Because I refuse to give up. There are readers out there for this book, and I’m determined to flush them out!

—Greg Shepard

Mixing it Up

This week has been real interesting. I’ve been jumping back and forth between the mystic realms of Algernon Blackwood, editing down the scan of The Human Chord for next Spring; and working with Rick Ollerman on his introduction to Malcolm Braly’s prison biography, False Starts, for February. Oh, yeah, and for fun, I’m reading William Patrick Maynard’s The Terror of Fu Manchu, following Dr. Petrie on his mad chase over London. My head’s all over the place.

I’m also shaking my head wondering why our two October books aren’t flying out the door. Stark House just released The Babysitter by Andrew Coburn and Fell the Angels by Catherine Butzen, but since they didn’t get any major reviews, none of the bookstore and library buyers know they’re here. Some months, you just can’t win.

Granted, the Coburn book isn’t new. It was Coburn’s second published novel. But it’s such a clever mystery, snaking around all over the place as first the police, and then the parents, try to find out who killed the babysitter and kidnapped their small child. I’ve read it a couple times, and I get caught up in the story and characters each time. Everything hinges on finding out the real identity of the babysitter. I thought it was a very clever book, as Coburn’s books generally are, puzzle pieces of interlocking stories that slowly come together to form one large pattern of character and place. If you haven’t read a book by Andrew Coburn, do. You’re in for a treat.

And the Catherine Butzen book is a real page turner, too, though in a completely different way. With Fell the Angels, she goes back to the characters in her first book, Thief of Midnight, as they continue to battle the forces of magical maliciousness in the world. Abby Marquis is part of the Society for the Security of Reality, fighting the good fight against the forces of darkness—the bogeymen, the ancient myths, the werewolves, ghouls and faeries—but she also has a neglected and rebellious teenage son to raise. This torturous balancing act on the part of Abby is what gives the book its tension because soon enough, her son becomes involved in her pursuit of a group of rogue selkies, too—to his detriment.

There’s a mystery here as Abby tries to find out who the selkies are and who is controlling them. But there’s also a lot of gritty urban dark fantasy here as well. Personally, I love Butzen’s series, and I’m hoping it finds its readers. I waited five years for Butzen to finish this second book, and she has promised a much shorter wait for the third. You should check it out, trust me. Like the Fu Manchu book I’m reading, it’s also a lot of fun.

And isn’t that the reason we spend so much time reading. If it isn’t fun, we just put it down, and find another book. Of course, there are times when what you really want to do is finally read James Joyce’s Ulysses or Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, just so you can say you did it. But most of the time, we read for pleasure. I wish a few reviewers had found our October books, but hopefully the authors themselves will stir up a little activity. I took a break from our usual 1950s hardboiled action this month, because sometimes you just have to mix things up a bit to keep it interesting.

Now, back to that Fu Manchu book. As I recall, Dr. Petrie had just met Gaston Max in Paris, and they were about to take on the most sinister villain the world has ever known….

—Greg Shepard

Gil Brewer guns the dame down

We’ve been doing so much traveling this September, I only just finished the latest newsletter, which will post on Saturday, Sept 26th, just squeaking by before the end of the month. I talk a little about more the new Gil Brewer book, The Erotics/Gun the Dame Down/Angry Arnold, plus the upcoming October titles. It’s easy to get excited about the Brewer book.

Working on Gun the Dame Down was the real labor of love. The original typewritten manuscript was too faint and had too many corrections to scan. So I started from scratch, and retyped it page by page. Nothing quite gives you a feel for an author’s style like typing out an entire novel. I could see Brewer trying out some of the tropes of the wise-cracking detective novel, inserting quirky little character traits to make his characters come alive while creating the steamy feel of a hot summer night in Florida. I’m not such a great typist that I would want to do this with every previously-unpublished manuscript, but it was a lot of fun transcribing Brewer.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the first book where he introduces the dynamic of the older man and the seductive under-age nymphet that he used in some of his later books. You really can’t get much less politically correct than writing about that combination these days. I’m not going to take a moral stand on the issue myself, but the fact that the original editor had crossed these sections out doesn’t surprise me, even without the context of early 1950s censorship. The fact that I put them back in makes sense to me, because they help define the characters.

The main character, Bill Death, encounters just about every form of temptation and abuse a down-at-heels detective should have to take in a 24 hour period when he takes a case and walks into the household from hell. An over-sexed teen is only one of them. And let’s face it, part of the charm of Brewer is his sexual tension. His characters are usually after two things: sex and money. In Gun the Dame Down, it’s mostly sex. It took Brewer a couple more books before he got the balance right. But that doesn’t make Gun the Dame Down any the less obsessional, and certainly no less readable. For me, it’s the highlight of the collection.

Which brings me to George Tuttle, who first introduced me to these unpublished gems of Brewer’s. As far as I know, George was the first one to create a web page for Gil Brewer, which offers a very thorough look at all of Brewer’s works. His favorite is Angry Arnold, the serial killer book, and the last unpublished work in the collection. And a sick little serial killer Arnold is. He’s been in a car accident, and something has shaken loose in his moral makeup. He gets urges. Of course he does—he’s a typical over-sexed young man—but he himself has the sex appeal of a wet noodle. He resents all the beautiful women that won’t give him the time of day. So he kidnaps them, and….

Well, you get the picture. Were there a lot of serial killer books in the 1970s? I don’t think so. But by then, Brewer was trying all sorts of approaches to get back into print. At one point, he wrote an Executioner novel for Don Pendleton called Firebase Seattle. Everyone loved it except for Pendleton himself. And so it sits in storage. Brewer also wrote a spy thriller called The Paper Coffin which reads like a real period piece, when Euro-spy fiction was all the rage. Unusual for Brewer, the sex and money angle is toned down in this one.

Probably the most unusual book from Brewer’s slush pile is House of the Potato, a curiously static novel about a poor family in the Erskine Caldwell tradition. It feels very autobiographical, and reads like a first novel. Before Brewer developed the frantic style he started to develop in Gun the Dame Down, he didn’t seem to know what to do with his characters. In House of the Potato, they mainly seem to move from room to room, this character pining for that character, each one pissing the other off and interiorizing the pain. When someone gets around to writing Gil Brewer’s biography, I’m sure this book will get much discussion. In the meantime, it stands as the only book by Brewer that I’ve read that I most emphatically have not wanted to publish. And I’ve got pretty broad tastes.

Still, I think we put together a pretty good selection from these previously-published manuscripts of Gil Brewer’s, and since the book is out this week, I can now say, I hope you enjoy them.

—Greg Shepard

Everyone Needs to Read Andrew Coburn

It was Ed Gorman who turned me on to the writings of Andrew Coburn. I forget which book he suggested. Must have been at least six years ago. It’s easier to remember what I did when I was thirteen than six years ago. But whatever the book—I’m guessing it was Voices in the Dark–I read it, loved it, and tracked down a few more.

Ed put me in touch with the Coburns, and I helped broker a deal to get some of the Coburn books available as ebooks through Prologue Books. Coburn had a collection of stories he had put together, and he was trying to find a home for that as well. Prologue was interested, but they pulled the plug on issuing any more new titles before they got around to publishing it. So I jumped in and offered Stark House. The folks at Prologue graciously agreed to cancel their contract, and so began Stark House’s new publishing arrangement with Andrew Coburn.

We published Spouses & Other Crimes in September 2014, and one year later (October 2015), we will be reprinting Coburn’s second novel, The Babysitter. This is a brilliant novel about the killing of a babysitter and the kidnapping of a young child, and the series of events this crime creates. Nothing is obvious in Coburn’s novels, and the initial crime leads the reader on quite a trail. We start with the grief-stricken parents, holding on to the hope that their daughter is somehow still alive. Then we move to the investigating sheriff, an older man who is so caught up in their plight that he takes the case on as a personal mission. Two arrogant FBI agents become involved, and they start following a professor at the university where the father of the child works, who may or may not have been involved with the babysitter.

The parents of the child conduct their own search and follow the trail to a Boston coffee shop run by a retired Mobster. Meanwhile, a man and wife who have lost touch with reality enter the picture, with a connection to the past. All these strands weave around and intersect in short scenes that offer new, intriguing pieces of the puzzle.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot of The Babysitter. I hate reviews where the writer reveals half the story. That should be the reader’s pleasure. Let’s just say, this is a great page-turner, and a welcome return to print of one of Coburn’s wonderful early novels. Before he wrote “The Sweetheart Trilogy”—Sweetheart, Love Nest and Goldilocks, which he is best known for—Coburn wrote five stand-alone novels. I would have been proud to reprint any one of them, but for some reason, I really connected to The Babysitter.

But, honestly, I’ve loved them all. Coburn writes like a master chef, gradually peeling back the layers, mixing subtle spices of dialogue, occasionally bringing to a slow boil, all the while revealing textures and tastes of the human experience that sometimes startle with their unexpected juxtapositions. He builds his characters slowly, letting them speak for themselves in those subtly self-destructive ways we can all relate to.

If you’ve never read Andrew Coburn’s crime novels, you owe it to yourself. Ed Gorman has been championing him for years. Coburn’s books are like special treasures that you want to share with the world. I’m just glad we could make one of these treasures available again.

–Greg Shepard

Without Whom This Wouldn’t Have Been Possible

There are some very helpful folks out there who work behind the lines, making suggestions, putting me in touch with authors and/or their family members, making it just a little bit easier to keep Stark House going. Probably the biggest help has been Rick Ollerman, who wrote to me about seven years ago and ended up becoming Associate Editor for a number of years. I think it started when he complained that one of our books had a lot of typos—back when I was doing all the proofing myself. (Note to self: never be the last person to sign off on proofreading…never.)

So Rick joined as a proofreader, then he started to make few suggestions here and there, worked on getting Peter Rabe’s The Silent Wall ready for publication; finally taking the step up to writing introductions. By the beginning of 2015, he had gotten the ball rolling on Black Gat Books. And now he’s a free agent again, and working on his third novel, Truth Always Kills, which we plan to publish this October.

Rick was invaluable, and I only found out just how invaluable when I found myself taking on all his tasks (except for proofreading, of course). So a big thanks to Rick for all his help these past few years.

Probably the second biggest assist has come from Ed Gorman, who has not only generously shared his wealth of knowledge and contacts, but in the process has become a good friend. It was Ed who put me in touch with Peter Rabe’s agent, and shared with me those two previously-unpublished novels, The Silent Wall and The Return of Marvin Palaver, which Peter had given to Ed to publish. After all this time, I’m so glad I could return the favor and bring a few of Ed’s novels back into print. This month, Graves’ Retreat and Night of Shadows, two of Ed’s historical mysteries set in Cedar Rapids, make their return.

Another fellow who has been very helpful is Craig Tenney of Harold Ober Associates Literary Agency. Craig not only makes working with the author estates he represents a pleasure, but he has also put me in touch with some estates he doesn’t represent. Definitely above and beyond the call of duty.

Once I start thinking about it, there are so many who have so helpful with their time and energy. Barry Malzberg comes to mind, a very generous man and a helluva writer. Frank Loose, a fan of Stark House who recommended we reprint Jada M. Davis’ One for Hell and Elliott Chaze’s Black Wings Has My Angel. The man knows his noir. And David Wilson, who contributed so much of his time to bringing Harry Whittington back into print, as well as writing the definitive article on Harry’s Lost Pornos. And Ted and Dorrie Lee, the Gil Brewer heirs, who are such a pleasure to work with. The upcoming trio of Gil Brewer previously-unpublished novels wouldn’t have happened without them.

And then, of course, there is Daniel Morrison, who approached me with the idea of bringing some of E. Phillips Oppenheim’s uncollected stories back to print. Another labor of love, for both of us. He’s hard at work on another Victorian author right now. And this brings to mind Mike Ashley, another incredibly generous fellow who has contributed so much of his time and energy to our Algernon Blackwood reprints, including all those new introductions, as well as editing the recent Blackwood collection, The Face of the Earth.

I could also mention JT Lindroos, the creator of those evocative Ed Gorman covers. And Gary Lovisi, who tirelessly promotes Stark House in his magazine Paperback Parade (required reading for any self-respecting collector of vintage paperbacks). And Marijane Meaker, just because I enjoy our emailings so much. And the late Kevin McCarthy, who was such a joy to work with on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers book. And Lynne Maguire, who let us use one of her dad’s original cover ideas for our upcoming edition of The Bleeding Scissors by Bruno Fischer. There’s nothing like a Robert Maguire cover to class up a publisher’s act.

So many great folks out there to be grateful for. This shout out just scratches the surface. In fact, I should probably mention just about everyone who has written an introduction for us because most of them were written for love rather than money. And I appreciate each and every one of them. It takes a mess o’ help to make a small press work, that’s for sure.

–Greg Shepard

P.S. Reading this over, it begins to sound like an Oscar award acceptance speech. But, really, none of this would be possible without my brother, Mark, who keeps coming up with new cover ideas no matter how much I throw at him; and my wife, Cindy, who listens to me talk about Stark House morning, noon and night, and still comes up smiling. (Okay, I’m getting off the stage now….but wait, I forgot to thank my parents!…my sixth grade teacher!…my…)