Out of the Dark
Volume One: Origins
Robert W. Chambers
Edited by Hugh Lamb
Ashcroft, British Columbia
You better move quickly, they only printed 500 of them and there has been a renewed interest in the works of Chambers in the last few years. It is great to have a new Chambers' short story collection published. The stories are from three of RWC's collections of short stories:
The King in Yellow 1895This book was originally planned as one large volume, but because of reasons best known to publishers it has been split in to two volumes. This first volume deals with Chambers' weird short fiction from before 1900. The second deals with his weird works after 1900. Luckily Chambers did not publish any short weird fiction in the year 1900 or then it would be hard to figure which volume it should go into.
The Maker of Moons 1896
The Mystery of Choice 1897
All of the works in this book are from the cream of some of Chambers' most productive years. If you don't have the books from which these stories come from then this book is for you.
The problem is that these works are the easiest to find. All these books have been reprinted in modern times. Any of them can be found by the determined student. You are very likely to find that the stories that Mr. Lamb have chosen are the very stories for which you will love the books. If you just want to read his good stuff then at $38.50 U.S. you will probable do better with this book then trying to buy the three books from which these stories come.
I may not be the best person to judge the Preface and Introduction information since there is very little new here for me. This in not surprising since I am a serious student of Chambers and was even one of the sources for some of the information in the introduction. I will try to look at this material as if I knew very little about the life and work of Robert W. Chambers.
There is new information here, at least new to the public, and the old information is dealt with in a thorough manner. I have to agree with Hugh, as much as I love some of Chambers' work, he is a flawed author of sometimes genius who all too often disappoints.
The biographical information is very good but I do have to call Mr. Lamb on one point. He talks about Chambers and Charles Dana Gibson going to Paris together. As far as I know this is not the case. Chamber and Gibson were fellow students at the Art Student's League in New York but I do not believe that Gibson studied outside of America. Mr. Gibson did illustrate a book by Richard Harding Davis titled "About Paris" published by Harper in 1895. But this date is well past Gibson's student days.
I am more qualified to judge the cover art; since I am a professional illustrator, artist, and art teacher. The artwork is primitive and may work because of this not in spite of it. The figure does stand nicely on the ground and is solid. Two of the biggest faults of primitive illustration is that it is often flat and the figures seem to float in the air. Richard Lamb has avoided these faults.
Richard also gets high marks for his inking. The cross-hatching is very good and covers a number of faults with the figure, but it is not good enough to cover the foreshortening on the right arm. It just does not work. It damages an otherwise attractive design. I am not sure if it is a good idea for an editor to use dust jacket art created by his child. Any mistake in the art is likely to reflect back on the family tie and raise questions that should not be asked.
The figure seems to be a likeness of the Yellow King and as that is as good as anyone else's vision. I have my own vision. It will be on the cover of my edition of "The King in Yellow". If it wasn't for the bad right arm I would not complain at all about the dust jacket even if it does take work away from artist who have more training. Richard, get yourself some good life drawing classes. Your instincts are good, that arm does need to be raised to the reader. You are brave to try it. Now all you need is the skill to pull it off and that takes work.
The volume itself is bound in a very rich, very dark blue cloth. All in all a very handsome book. I am proud to have had the very small part I had in bringing it to the public and I am looking forward to the second volume which promises to have a lot more of the rare material. If you already have all three source books for the first volume then maybe you will want to save your money for the next volume. But if you have all three, chances are you will really want this one too, If you are missing any of them then you need this book.