James Whale’s 1932 film The Old Dark House is one of my favorite movies of all time, full stop. It’s definitely my favorite of the great Universal films of the 30s, where it’s nestled amongst some very stiff competition. I can’t remember under what circumstances I first saw it, but I fell in love immediately. I bought the Kino DVD of the film, which at the time cost more than I was accustomed to paying for DVDs, but it was worth it. The minute someone puts it out on Blu-ray, I’ll be buying it again. I’ve talked about the movie before, in other places, but if you’e never seen it then I seriously urge you to do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s my favorite movie from one of my favorite subgenres, and I seriously doubt there are many people reading this who won’t love it.
Sometime early on, after I’d seen the movie a time or two, I learned that it was adapted from a 1927 novel by J.B. Priestley called Benighted. I was passingly familiar with Priestley’s name, and had run across one or two weird stories by him in anthologies over the years, and of course I wanted to read the book. Unfortunately, it was out of print, and had been since before I was born, which made it a little bit difficult to come by. I wasn’t able to scare up a copy of the book until just last year, when I finally got to read it for the first time. Happily, I loved it every bit as much as I loved the movie. Sadly, snagging a copy to read via interlibrary loan proved to be a lot easier than acquiring a nice copy for my collection.
So, when the folks at Valancourt Books, purveyors of fine reissues of Gothic and other hard-to-find volumes, said that they were looking for suggestions for 20th Century writers to add to their growing catalogue, I was quick to recommend that they take a look at Benighted. To make a long story slightly less long, they not only managed to pick it up, but also a collection of Priestley’s macabre short stories The Other Place (forthcoming). What’s more, they asked me to write the introduction to Benighted.
The point of all this is to say that the Valancourt Books edition of Benighted is now available, both in paperback and on Kindle. I just received my contributor’s copies in the mail yesterday, and the book looks fantastic. I have been really lucky so far in how great the books that I’ve been in have looked, and I can say without hyperbole that this one is one of the best. Take a look for yourself:
The folks at Valancourt were able to get the original jacket art of the first edition, which remains one of my favorite covers of all time. The book itself is a quick, charming read that also manages to pack in a surprising thematic density. I talk a lot more about that in my introduction, which I believe you can still read in full on Amazon’s “click to look inside” feature. It was the first time I’d ever been asked to write an introduction, and I can’t think of a more perfect book for it. Hopefully I acquitted myself well, and if not you’ll still have a fantastic novel to read once you get through my blathering.
While this book has very little of me in it by comparison, I’m every bit as proud of my involvement in it as I am in Never Bet the Devil or Fungi, so if it sounds intriguing, I’d urge you to pick it up, and browse the rest of Valancourt’s catalogue while you’re there, because they do great stuff.