Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two from Black Coat Press

I have recently finished two books from Black Coat Press. BCP is a small publishing company that "is primarily devoted to publishing English-language translations of classics of French popular literature, as well as comics and stage plays." These classics are primarily pulp and science-fiction, both of which I am a fan. As soon as I saw the title Edgar Allan Poe on Mars I knew I would have to check out their offerings.

One down side of a small publishing company like BCP is price. They cannot publish in the quantity that the large companies can, so their prices tend to be high, $20+ for most offerings (in a large paperback format, not truly trade paperbacks.)

Tales of the Shadowmen
I began with Tales of the Shadowmen 1: The Modern Babylon. This book is a collection of short stories, pastiches of French pulp characters by modern authors. I thought that this book would give me a quick feel for characters I was not familiar with, alongside some I was familiar with already (Maigret, Lord Dunsany, Frankenstein's monster).

I expected mixed results from an anthology like this, but the results were more mixed than I could be happy with. There were some good stories, but about half seemed more like exercises in name dropping, with little story or characterization. What frustrated me the most about the book was the story The Werewolf of Rutherford Grange. This is one of the best stories, and the longest, in the book. The problem is, the story is continued in the second volume of this series. I understand a serial in a magazine, but when I pay $20 for book, I don't expect to find "to be continued".

The Hollow Needle
As a long-time Sherlockian, and a recent discoverer of Arsene Lupin, Arsene Lupin Vs. Sherlock Holmes: The Hollow Needle was a natural for me. I had read some Arsene Lupin from Project Gutenberg and listened to the very good public domain audiobook. Buying this books was a tough decision, as most of the material is available at Gutenberg.

I was very happy that I did buy the book, in the end. The early translations are not always good reads. They are fairly perfunctory translations. The translations by the Lofficiers show that these are done by good writers in their own right. The book also includes a good forward and afterword, a short story, a novel, and a closing story written by the Lofficiers. The only down side of these books, for a Holmes fan, is that Holmes barely appears. He is a foil in the first story, and appears late in the novel. This fact does not take away from the stories themselves.

Take the time to taste LeBlanc at Gutenberg, but if you like him there, you will LOVE him here!

Now, if we could just get BCP to give us good translations of Jules Verne. Unfortunately, there are bad public domain editions of Verne available that publishers can print for little cost, so that is what the stores are flooded with.

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