Valancourt 20th Century Classics: Books That Stand The Test Of Time

December 9, 2015

If you sometimes feel like modern fiction lacks the heft of past classics, that there’s a little too much marketing and not enough quality on book publishers’ minds these days, the Valancourt 20th Century Classics line is for you.

Valancourt Books created this line by resurrecting out-of-print classics and offering them in ebook format. The series includes thrillers, sci-fi, literary and gothic fiction titles, and many are novella-length by today’s standards. All were chosen not just on account of their previous popularity among readers, but for their acknowledged quality among authors and critics as well. As an added bonus no ebook in the series is priced higher than $7.99, and many are priced lower. The collection includes such titles as:

Nightmares and Geezenstacks (5/5 stars, currently priced at $6.99)

One of the great pulp writers, Fredric Brown (1906-1972) combined a flair for the horrific, a quirky sense of humor, and a wild imagination, and published many classic novels in the mystery and science fiction genres. But he was also a master of the “short-short story,” tales only a page or two in length, but hard-hitting and with a wicked twist at the end. Nightmares and Geezenstacks (1961) collects 47 short gems by Brown, ranging from science fiction to noir crime to horror, including the chilling and unforgettable “The Geezenstacks”. Long unobtainable, Brown’s classic collection returns to print for the first time in almost 40 years and is sure to please both longtime fans and those who are discovering this brilliant writer for the first time.

One Amazon reviewer says:
“The majority of these are 1 to 3 pages and nearly all have surprise endings. What amazes you most is how Brown can manage to top the story you just read, but a couple of stories later, it happens. Thought provoking to the max, his imagination seems to be completely unbound as you venture from one unbelievably profound situation to the next. How Brown manages to seize your total attention in 3 pages or less is a tribute to his craft…”


The Devil’s Own Work (4.5/5 stars, novella-length, currently priced at $4.99)

After Edward, a rising young author, pens a savage review of the new novel by the world-famous O.M. Tyrrel, he is surprised to receive an invitation to visit the old man at his villa in the south of France. The night of their meeting, Tyrell dies, and soon after, Edward’s career mysteriously starts to soar as he earns fame, fortune and critical acclaim. But despite his achievements, Edward seems haunted, even tormented. His friend, the narrator, begins to put together the pieces of the story: an ancient, inscrutable manuscript, a beautiful, ageless woman who attaches herself to whatever writer possesses it, and a bargain to achieve success at a terrible price . . .

Winner of Britain’s prestigious Guardian Fiction Prize, Alan Judd’s modern classic The Devil’s Own Work (1991) is, as Owen King writes in the new introduction to this edition, “a perfect novel about the demonic possession that is literary ambition.” This edition also features a new afterword by the author, in which he reveals the inspirations for this haunting tale.

“More chills in its little length than in a whole shelf of bestsellers.” – Stephen King

“At once moral fable, cautionary ghost story and inspired attack on the whole hellbent drift of modern letters, this is a splendid tale, splendidly told, which Ford or Henry James would have been glad to have written.” – Robert Nye, Guardian

“Wry and insightful . . . toys with the notion of demonic possession but becomes a thoroughly realistic and highly original story of revenge; a chilling cautionary tale.” – Elaine Kendall, Los Angeles Times


October the First Is Too Late (4/5 stars, novella-length, currently priced at $4.99)

Renowned scientist John Sinclair and his old school friend Richard, a celebrated composer, are enjoying a climbing expedition in the Scottish Highlands when Sinclair disappears without a trace for thirteen hours. When he resurfaces with no explanation for his disappearance, he has undergone an uncanny alteration: a birthmark on his back has vanished. But stranger events are yet to come: things are normal enough in Britain, but in France it’s 1917 and World War I is raging, Greece is in the Golden Age of Pericles, America seems to have reverted to the 18th century, and Russia and China are thousands of years in the future.

Against this macabre backdrop of coexisting time spheres, the two young men risk their lives to unravel the truth. But truth is in the mind of the beholder, and who is to say which of these timelines is the ‘real’ one? In October the First Is Too Late (1966), world-famous astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) explores fascinating concepts of time and consciousness in the form of a thrilling science fiction adventure that ranks among his very best.

‘Fred Hoyle is the John Buchan of science fiction. His fantasies are not only rooted in scientific possibility but are told at a galloping pace.’ – Julian Jebb, Sunday Times


A Kestrel For A Knave (4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $7.49)

Billy Casper is a fifteen-year-old with no future, growing up in poverty and seemingly destined to follow his older brother into a life of toil in the coal mines. Life at home is hard: his father has left, his mother’s main interest is in picking up men at the pub, and his brother bullies him mercilessly. Nor are things better at school, where Billy is tormented by the other kids and treated as a troublemaker by the teachers. But a spark of hope enters Billy’s lonely existence when he discovers a young kestrel hawk, Kes, and learns to train it. Billy gives to Kes all the love and devotion he has been denied, and in the hawk’s silent strength and fierce independence he finds inspiration and the courage to survive.

An enduring work of English fiction, Barry Hines’s bestseller A Kestrel for a Knave (1968) has never been out of print in Great Britain, where both the book and Ken Loach’s film adaptation Kes (1969) have long been regarded as classics. This edition, the first ever published in the United States, will allow American readers to discover this timeless and moving novel.

‘A masterpiece … Billy Casper is as memorable a young character as any post-war writer has created.’ – Glasgow Herald


Gilded Needles (5/5 stars, currently priced at $7.99)

Welcome to the Black Triangle, New York’s decadent district of opium dens, gambling casinos, drunken sailors, gaudy hookers, and back room abortions. The queen of this unsavory neighborhood is Black Lena Shanks, whose family leads a ring of female criminals-women skilled in the art of cruelty.

Only a few blocks away, amidst the elegant mansions and lily-white reputations of Gramercy Park and Washington Square, lives Judge James Stallworth. On a crusade to crush Lena’s evil empire, the judge has sentenced three of her family members to death. And now she wants revenge.

One Sunday, all the Stallworths receive invitations-to their own funerals. Can even the wealth and power of the Stallworth family protect them from Lena’s diabolical lust for vengeance?

This first-ever republication of Michael McDowell’s chilling classic of revenge features a new introduction by Christopher Fowler and cover art by Mike Mignola.

“Riveting, terrifying, and just absolutely great … Michael McDowell must now be regarded as the finest writer of paperback originals in America.” – Stephen King

“A big and impressive book, darkly Dickensian in its scope and complexity … a novel of entirely human horror.” – Michael E. Stamm


Click here to browse the full Valancourt 20th Century Classics catalog, which includes 49 titles in all.

Click here to read the Valancourt Books Blog entry about its 20th Century Classics line.


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