Small Press Spotlight: Centipede Press

As you have no doubt gathered from previous posts, when I am not teaching or suffering from strange medical problems, I read.  A lot.  I try to read a book a week, or fifty-two books a year.  I don’t always manage that many, but I usually come close.  I also tend to read obscure books.  This is not to say that I deliberately set out to read out-of-print books or little known authors in order to impress credulous bohemians and annoy my bookseller.  It just tends to work out that way.

Centipede’s luxury edition of Frankenstein

Centipede’s luxury edition of Frankenstein

Over the years, I’ve become dependant on a number of small press publishers to supply me with both old and new books by some of my favorite authors.  Today, and in occasional future posts, I’d like to tell you about a few of these publishers, all of which deserve a wider audience.

For many collectors, Centipede Press is the Rolls Royce of horror publishing.  Centipede’s luxury editions of classic horror novels are justifiably famous in certain circles.  Personally, I’ve been drooling covetously over their edition of Frankenstein—oversized, lavishly bound and illustrated—for years.  But with a price tag of $225, such things will remain forever beyond my reach.  So I was very pleased to learn that Centipede had decided, under its newly created Millipede imprint, to begin publishing affordable trade paperbacks.

I have enjoyed all of Millipede’s horror reprints that I have read so far, including Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon (a Matheson-like account of a psychiatrist’s struggle to evaluate an insubordinate soldier), Fallen Angel by William Hjortsberg (the basis for Alan Parker’s infamous film Angel Heart), The Other by Thomas Tryon, and The Face That Must Die, a masterpiece of psychedelic horror by Ramsey Campbell.  Though these books explore different themes, they share one common characteristic.  They all deal with characters that are dangerously insane.  They also share very high production values:  great cover art and endpapers, elegant interior design, bonus stories and critical content, plus recycled acid-free paper bound in individual signatures.  Better still, prices range between $12 and $17.

Jim Thompson’s Child of Rage

Jim Thompson’s Child of Rage

Unfortunately, I’ve had less success with Millipede’s crime books.  I made it through John Franklin Bardin’s The Deadly Percheron without sustaining permanent brain damage, but it was close call.  I quit a couple of chapters into both of their David Goodis reprints, as well as Fredric Brown’s Here Comes a Candle.  Noir devotees might love these titles, but they just didn’t do it for me.  In fact, the only Millipede crime book I still own is Jim Thompson’s Child of Rage.

Which leads me to another issue.  Go to the Centipede website and check out the price tag on Child of Rage.  That’s right.  Sixty bucks.  I only paid it because I know that I like Thompson and this particular title has been unavailable for many years.  That, and I’ve always wanted to own one of Centipede’s deluxe hardcovers.  While this is not the most I have ever paid for a single book, it comes awfully close.  Had there been a trade edition of this title, I would have bought that instead.  Alas, there wasn’t.

And that’s a problem.  Recently, Centipede seems to have abandoned their affordable trades in favor of increasingly expensive hardbacks.  While I was willing to plunk down $17 to replace a ratty mass market favorite or try an obscure reprint, I’m not willing or able to pay for Centipede’s deluxe books.  And the prices just keep getting higher.  For instance, I would love to own Centipede’s recent edition of Ramsey Campbell’s The Influence, but $150 is far too rich for my under-oxygenated blood.

The $150 print of Ramsey Campbell’s The Influence

The $150 print of Ramsey Campbell’s The Influence

All whining aside, the point here is that Centipede Press has already made and continues to produce some truly beautiful books.  Not all of them will be affordable to every horror fan, but many will.  I strongly recommend them.  I would also suggest that you order directly from Centipede, as finding their titles on the shelves, or even ordering them through your local bookstore, can prove difficult.  One more thing.  Though Centipede’s current website is a great improvement over previous incarnations, it does not always accurately reflect what titles are available in what binding.  (For example, the trade edition of The Other is not listed on the site.)  If you want to know if a particular title is available in a trade edition, it’s best contact Centipede and ask.

Small Press Spotlight will return with more recommendations.  In the mean time, happy reading.

Dave Hurwitz

6 Responses to “Small Press Spotlight: Centipede Press”

  1. I’d be afraid to plunk down that much cash for a book I hadn’t even read.

  2. Scott D. Briggs Says:

    Just found your review today June 4th. I’ve been a serious writer, collector and amateur press fanzine guy in the Lovecraft/weird fiction, horror and fantasy fields for many years now and though I know folks who are publishing and/or contributing to Centipede Press, I’ve decided to boycott them (not that I have a million dollars to blow on these outrageously prices and apparently mainly shoddily produced books) since I feel the prices are absurdly high in most cases and it’s engendering snobbery of the worst possible kind in our beloved Horror/Fantasy/SF/mystery fields. I won’t support this kind of snobbery/highway robbery and especially won’t pay $500 for a book if the quality is not there. that’s an even worse insult than the outrageous prices! I’m sorry to feel this way but I can’t seem to come to any other conclusion. I’ll save my money for Arkham House books and things that I actually need, like…food! It might
    be nice to show off your $2000 signed Stephen King ltd. edition to friends but when you realize what a scam this press is, you will probably regret it. Especially if the book is full of typos etc. A total utter scam as far as I’m concerned. Instead I would recommend patronage of Derrick Hussey’s Hippocampus Press, doing major important releases in this field and for substantially more affordable prices. not as lavish, maybe, but better and more valuable in my humble opinion. I’ve also been seeing unscrupulous book dealers lately at shows asking absurdly inflated prices for books that you can buy elsewhere for a fraction of their nonsensical and fictional asking price. I say, beware!! you can get fleeced very easily if you don’t educate yourself in the field and book prices, etc. Use ABE books online for comparison before you BUY ANYTHING. A word of advice from a bookman who has been in the game since the early 1980s at least.
    from the poison pen of Scott David Briggs, L.I. NY I’m back in black and I do not suffer fools glady.

  3. Scott D. Briggs Says:

    p.s. sorry for two typos in my comment I was all fired up
    and typing too fast as usual! Scott D. Briggs

    • davehurwitz Says:

      Obviously, I have some of the same misgivings about Centipede. However, I think I phrased them a bit more politely.

  4. I like Centipede Press. I can’t afford a lot of what they sell, but the books I own from them were worth the asking price because no one else is producing anything like them. Often they are sold on Centipede’s website at reduced prices. They are more limited (200-300 copies) than most limited edition books. They are often signed by all contributors, where a lot of limited edition books are signed only by the author. Recently I’ve been getting the collected short fiction of R.A. Lafferty from them. I got the signed limited version of book 2, with Ellison the introducer, Pelan the editor and MacMurray the book designer all contributing signatures. The book was beautifully produced from materials to graphic design. Sticker price was $100, I paid $45 on the website. Lafferty, like many of their authors, is greatly ignored. So, I’m looking forward to each volume and will sell stuff on Ebay to buy them, if I have to.

    But let’s face it, if all you’re looking for is a reading copy, this press is not for you. There are lots of books where that’s all I want too. Sometimes I’ll see something pricey on their site I want and I’ll find the original hardcover or a paperback much cheaper on Abebooks and buy it.

    • It’s funny you should mention Abebooks as being a cheaper alternative. When I buy elderly, out of print paperbacks online, I tend to shop around. Abebooks always seems to be the most expensive of the available options. There’s another option for the truly frugal. If you have the patience, and some books you want to get rid of, I recommend swap sites like Paperbackswap.

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