17 December 2012

Grumbles About Gumble & Praise for Stark House

Looking back, I see this as a year of reading riches bookended by two great disappointments. In January it was Douglas Durkin's Mr. Gumble Sits Up, the story of an indebted, tired man whose rest in peace is interrupted when he returns to life at his funeral. December brought Tan Ming, a self-published, pseudonymous fantasy penned by electronic organ pioneer Morse Robb. It's the tale of an Eaton's window dresser who falls in love with a mannequin, uses magic to make her come alive, and then flees into a post-apocalyptic future.

Oh, but don't both sound fun?

Mr. Gumble Sits Up and Tan Ming ended up being the two hardest slogs of the year; at 471 deathly dull and dense pages of text, the latter was particularly trying. My now eleven-month-old post on Mr. Gumble Sits Up can be found through this link. Anyone interested in hearing more about Tan Ming will have to wait for a future Dusty Bookcase column in Canadian Notes & Queries.

Of the thirty-two titles reviewed here and in CNQ, I count three novels that should be reissued forthwith. All are by Margaret Millar, the pride of Kitchener, Ontario:

     Wall of Eyes
     Beast in View
     An Air that Kills

Not one is available in Canada, which isn't to say that they can't be purchased abroad. Orion reissued Beast in View under its Phoenix imprint just last year, while An Air that Kills is available in the United States courtesy of California publisher Stark House.

This year's tip of the hat and pat on the back goes to Stark House for having returned An Air that Kills to print, along with five other Canadian novels:

An Air that Kills/Do Evil in Return – Margaret Millar

I won't pretend to have read all twenty-five Margaret Millar novels, but I have An Air that Kills. The best thus far, my take can be found here:

Margaret Millar and the Air Up North

The Deadly Dames/A Dum-Dum for the President – Douglas Sanderson

Originally published in 1956 and 1961 respectively, these Montreal noir mysteries are the last novels Sanderson set in Canada. I've written about The Deadly Dames here:

A Dick's Deadly Dames

Pure Sweet Hell/Catch a Fallen Starlet – Douglas Sanderson

I can't speak to Pure Sweet Hell, but Catch a Fallen Starlet is one of my favourite Sanderson titles. My thoughts on the novel:

Drunken Writer Exposes Hollywood Hush-Up

Sadly, Stark House has no Canadian distributor. All titles are available through the Stark House website and, ahem, amazon.com (not amazon.ca).

Canadian distributors take note.

The Vancouver Sun, 7 December 1962


  1. Posting a review by a forgotten Canadian novelist unleashes a stampede of traffic at my site. Amazed when that happens. It's a different cultural climate up there...

    My bookends this year will be Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton's THE SQUATTER AND THE DON (1885) and Zane Grey's NEVADA (1928), both of them slogs.

    1. My sympathies, Ron. To make matters worse, both seem pretty long. On the other hand, we all got to read your very interesting post on The Squatter and the Don.

      The sacrifices one makes in the name of literature.