I’ve long been intrigued by Christine Campbell Thomson’s Not at Night series, a set of horror anthologies that ran for eleven volumes from 1925 to 1936. More serious-minded horror writers from M. R. James to Ramsey Campbell have criticised Thomson’s taste in the genre – she made no bones about favouring the lurid over the literate – but even so, the series played a prominent role in a large slice of British horror history. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to dive in and see for myself what stories Thomson had dished up for interwar audiences.
One problem with this plan: actually getting my hands on the things.
Original editions of the Not at Night books are prohibitively expensive, and none of them were ever republished since the 1930s – Arrow did issue three paperbacks in the 60s which re-used titles from the original series, but these were “greatest hits” compilations rather than proper reissues.
This left me with the alternative option of trying to scrape together various other anthologies which, between them, contained the stories featured in the Not at Night series. But this is easier said than done: according to the ISFDB, some of the stories collected by Thomson have never been included in any other anthology. This problem gets bigger with the later volumes, as Thomson grew to rely less on Weird Tales reprints and included more original work.
Still, reconstructing the first volume of Not at Night is at least doable. I’ve already made a good stab at it…
This was the most valuable book for my purposes: it’s a reprint of Not at Night! (note the exclamation mark), a 1928 “greatest hits” compilation edited by Gangs of New York author Herbert Asbury for the US market. Buying this book got me “Monsters of the Pit” by Paul S. Powers, “Four Wooden Stakes” by Victor Rowan, “The Devil Bed” by Gerald Dean, “Death-Waters” by Frank Belknap Long, “The Plant-Thing” by R. G. Macready, “A Hand from the Deep” byRomeo Poole, “The Tortoise-Shell Cat” by Greye La Spina, and “The Purple Cincture” by H. Thompson Rich.
Next, I bagged Christine Campbell Thomson’s very own Not at Night Omnibus from 1937. This collection contains just two of the stories that I needed – “Lips of the Dead” by W. J. Stamper and “Black Curtains” by G. Frederick Montefiore – but it also has a selection of rarities from the later volumes. I was lucky to get my hands on it; this was about the last affordable copy I could find online.
At that point, alas, my budget ran out.
Here we have More Not at Night from 1961, one of the Arrow compilations; it was later republished as Never at Night. Amongst other things, it includes “The Third Thumb-Print” by Mortimer Levitan and “The Last Trip” by Archie Binns.
That just leaves me with “His Family” by C. Franklin Miller, “The Case of the Russian Stevedore” by Henry W. Whitehall and “Leopard’s Trail” by W. Chiswell Collins. These were originally published across the December 1934 and February 1925 editions of Weird Tales – and it appears that the original Not at Night was the only book to reprint them. However, I notice that facsimile editions of the two issues in question are available online, which will doubtless be the cheapest option…
Anyone out there ever tried to do a Not at Night reconstruction of their own? How did you get on?