In Praise of Pretty Books

Michael Dirda at The Washington Post:

Devotees of the darker forms of fantastika know that much of the best work originates with small publishers, often in print runs of just a few hundred copies. So don’t delay in checking out Sarob Press’s Their Dark & Secret Alchemy: Stories by Richard Gavin, Colin Insole & Damian Murphy , with a cover illustration by the genre’s master artist Paul Lowe. In feel and elegance, the book closely resembles titles issued by Swan River Press, whose most recent offering is John Howard’s unsettling story collection, A Flowering Wound. More of Howard’s fiction, coupled with equally polished work by his friend Mark Valentine, appears in Inner Europe, a companion to Secret Europe. Both these handsome volumes — from Tartarus Press — are suffused with that air of mystery, transgression and foreboding one associates with continental literature and film during the 1920s and ’30s.

more here.