Saturday 30 September 2023

Book review: Ramsey Campbell, Certainly edited by S. T. Joshi



Edited by S. T. Joshi

Published by Drugstore Indian Press, an imprint of PS Publishing Ltd 2021

Over the years Ramsey Campbell has written knowledgeably, often humorously, but always with sincerity on a range of subjects from other authors, artists, films, books and, quite honestly, about anything and everything to do with weird literature and beyond.

This book includes those written over a fifteen-year period from 2002 till 2017. I was pleased to see it included the article I commissioned for The Fantastical Art of Jim Pitts which I published in 2017 under my Parallel Universe Publications imprint.

Included in this collection of articles and essays are reminiscences of many important genre people. One is about the American literary agent Kirby McCauley who was partly responsible for creating and organising the first World Fantasy Convention and its awards. Though I never met him, he did provide me with my first American sale (to issue one of Whispers magazine). This had a double benefit for me as, when Whispers won a World Fantasy Award that year my story from issue four was included in the hardcover book produced to commemorate the event, edited by Gahan Wilson, who designed the famous award caricaturing Lovecraft’s head. Other reminiscences include such legendary figures as Fritz Leiber, Nigel Kneale, Manly Wade Wellman and Richard Matheson, as well as contemporary writers too, such as David Case, Gary Fry, Mark Samuels, Thana Niveau, Joe Hill and Joe R. Lansdale amongst quite a few others.

Campbell will always be associated with H. P. Lovecraft and there are five articles about the master himself: ‘Lovecraft Analysed’, ‘Lovecraft in Retrospect, in Retrospect’, ‘Influences’, ‘He Was Providence’, ‘Glimpses in the Dark’, and ‘Lovecraft’s Monster’, all of them brimming with insights. 

As anyone who follows Campbell on Facebook will know, over the years he often catches the attention of any number of cranks, trolls, and other miscreants that prowl the internet, though woe on those who mislead themselves into thinking they can get the better. Nor is he adverse to taking on those he believes have taken a step too far in attacking writers whose work he admires. Here we have two articles, ‘Plagued by Plagiarism parts 1 and 2’, in which he takes to task his old adversary Chris Barker over accusations against M. R. James in a booklet titled ‘Plagiarism and Pederasty: Skeletons in the Jamesian Closet’. Campbell is succinctly impressive in the way in which he playfully yet factually debunks Barker’s ill-informed contentions, which give the impression he fired them off in a scattergun attempt to at least hit the target once. Thanks to Ramsey’s critique he fails completely. Both articles are not only critically observant but a joy to read.

There is, in fact, a great deal to enjoy in this book, which covers an entertainingly wide number of subjects. The good news, of course, is there’s a six year gap since the last article published in this book and now, so there must already be quite a few new ones for another book.




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