Always Something

New out of India

 

The Tales of Richard B. Gamon

 

 

Youíre holding in your hands a copy of what might just be the scarcest volume ever reprinted by Ramble House or any of its imprints. The Strange Thirteen was originally published by Henry Drane in 1925. Drane was an author-subsidized house that published a wide range of material. One common practice of the time was for authors to assemble collections of their previously published short stories and either pay for the print run or work out a split of costs/profits. While in the modern era, such an arrangement is called ďvanity pressĒ and is generally the refuge of ghastly volumes of poetry by blue-haired old ladies, dreary autobiographies, accounts of alien abductions authored by charming gentlemen fresh out of the psych ward and similar dross . . . However, in the early part of the twentieth century this practice was considered respectable enough and a number of fine authors had collections of previously published stories released through Drane. Among the authors that went on to sell professionally were Clive Pemberton, Garnett Radcliffe, and of course, Richard B. Gamon.

The usual practice was that an author would gather up a collection of their previously published tales and then either pay for the printing and binding and receive all the copies of the book, or, as was the case with Drane, split the production costs and profits with the publisher. As Drane wished to minimize their risk, books often had various different materials used for binding (as in the case of the red and green variants of Pembertonís The Weird Oí It), the always-thrifty publisher using whatever materials happened to be on hand.

Needless to say, the publications issued in this manner were generally very small printings, with five hundred copies being a large printing. Thus we find books such as this one exceedingly rare today. Of the authors mentioned, we know that Garnett Radcliffe went on to author several weird mystery novels such as In the Grip of the Brute and The Great Orme Terror as well as a number of stories for Weird Tales, Argosy and other markets in the 1940s and early 1950s. Clive Pemberton (the much-younger brother of adventure author Max Pemberton) went on to author a couple of mystery novels before vanishing from the scene in the 1930s. Now as to Richard B. Gamon, thereís considerably less information available.

As we can see from the detailed background in these stories, Gamon obviously spent time in India, most likely in the military. Looking at his only other known work, Warren of Oudh, furthers this supposition. This book recounts the exploits of a British officer stationed in Oudh, with Gamon playing Boswell to Warrenís Johnson. Again, so strong is the sense of place that the idea that the book might be fiction never occurs. However, when one delves into the situation a bit deeper, it seems very likely that this book that has been shelved in the biography section for over eighty years is a work of fiction and that Warren never existed anywhere save in the fertile imagination of Richard B. Gamon!

The turn of the century found both Africa and India to be excellent settings for imaginative fiction, following in the footsteps of H. Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling, dozens of authors turned to the exotic locales as fresh and wondrous settings for everything from lost races to strange hauntings. Some, like Alice Perrin spent years living in India and her work is strengthened by the details that she was able to include regarding day-to-day life in India. Richard B. Gamon

 What do we really know about Richard B. Gamon? Precious little, Iím afraid. Other than the stories gathered herein and Warren of Oudh, Iíve been unable to locate any fugitive tales; though my friend George Locke reports seeing several fantasies published in The Weekly Tale Teller in the WWI years.  Itís quite likely that the stories in this collection saw prior publication, if not in the pages of The Weekly Tale Teller, than certainly in a similar venue.

Itís also likely that since a decade had passed between the appearances that George mentions and the publication of this volume that the stories in The Strange Thirteen may well represent what Richard B. Gamon considered his finest work. Still, the idea that there may be enough fugitive tales for another volume of his work is a very intriguing one as Richard B. Gamon was certainly an interesting talent and at least equal if not superior to the majority of authors using the India of the Raj as the backdrop for their own work. Until I should be fortunate enough to turn up a run of The Weekly Tale Teller from 1915-1917, the stories collected here will have to suffice. I think that most readers will agree upon completion of this book that even if this volume represented Richard B. Gamonís total output of weird fiction the quality is such that his place in the annals of the weird tale is secure!

 

John Pelan

Midnight House

Gallup, NM

 2012