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.
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.
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.
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.