Ash-Tree Press
P.O. Box 1360, Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada V0K 1A0
Tel: (250) 453-2045; Fax: (250) 453-2075
e-mail: ashtree@ash-tree.bc.ca

 

ABOUT ASH-TREE PRESS

WHAT WE DO
Since 1994, Ash-Tree Press has published a wide range of quality supernatural fiction in hardcover limited editions, generally of 5–600 copies. All of our hardcovers are bound in a luxury cloth, smyth sewn, and printed on ph neutral paper, all of which means that they are designed to last, and to remain a pleasure to hold, read, and enjoy for the whole of their lifetime. Since December 2000, when we published Shadows and Silence, our second anthology of all new fiction, the majority of our dust-jackets have appeared in a four-colour, laminated format; though we still retain the original two-colour style on occasion, particularly where titles are part of an on-going series.

Our books are not inexpensive, and there are a number of reasons why that is so: chiefly the cost of producing high quality in low print-runs. Additionally, however, the climate for doing business with the Canadian printing industry is generally less favourable than in the US and the UK, and, as many constituent parts of our books are purchased from the US, we also have a volatile dollar exchange rate to deal with. We believe, however, that Ash-Tree Press's pricing is more than competitive with that of other small presses operating in the genre; and we endeavour to ensure that our quality is unsurpassed.

In December 2002, Ash-Tree Press introduced a range of paperback titles, to enable us to bring lower-priced books to the market-place. At the time of writing (November 2003), there are three separate imprints: Classic Macabre (which handles material pre-2000); Vampire Classics (which is exactly what it says it is!); and New Century Macabre, our imprint for contemporary novellas, and shorter fiction which we are unable to fit into our hardback schedule for a variety of reasons.

Our paperbacks are also produced to a high quality. Signatures are sewn, rather than glued or notch-bound, and the books are finished with full four-colour, laminated jackets with fold-around flaps. All of this ensures a quality product, and durability which trade paperbacks simply cannot offer. Paper stock used in our paperbacks is exactly the same as for our hardbacks, and whenever possible, volumes have specially commissioned introductory material.

It is our aim that Ash-Tree Press products will remain at the forefront of Small Press supernatural genre publishing for many years to come; and we are always interested in hearing relevant comment from our customers.

STANDING ORDER SERVICE

Ash-Tree Press is pleased to offer a standing order service, which offers savings for regular purchasers of our product. Please contact us at ashtree@ash-tree.bc.ca for further details.

 

ASH-TREE PRESS BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
With hindsight, Ash-Tree Press seems to have been born almost by accident. In the autumn of 1994 we were considering publishing a small booklet of five supernatural stories, and needed a suitable name for the imprint under which it would appear. Ideally, that name would have ghostly connotations, but could also have personal connections. Our house in the small village of Penyffordd, on the Welsh border just outside Chester, was named Ashcroft (after the town in the interior of British Columbia of which we were both fond, and to which we moved the whole of our operation in 1997). The 'Ash' from Ashcroft tied in nicely with M. R. James's ghost story 'The Ash-tree'; and thus was Ash-Tree Press born. The 'Ash' element of the name was subsequently carried through to our Sherlockian imprint, Calabash Press, but, although we had originally intended the runic equivalent 'ansuz' to form the name of our paperback imprint, this proved unworkable, and was dropped.

That first publication became something of a rarity. Lady Stanhope's Manuscript and Other Supernatural Tales appeared in a print run of just 150 copies—we never envisaged that there would be a greater demand than that for it, and doubted if it would have much of a circulation outside of the members of The Ghost Story Society. And we hadn't, at that stage, considered expanding operations into what Ash-Tree Press has become since 1994. In fact, just before we moved to Canada in 1997, we still had copies on hand, and were glad to offload them to a friendly dealer! Lady Stanhope's Manuscript  therefore became, somewhat by default, the first Ash-Tree Press title; and such was its rarity that copies have changed hands at what (to us, at least) are ridiculously high prices. Because so many people wanted a copy, a new edition was published in March 2002.

David Tibet of Ghost Story Press was really responsible for sparking Ash-Tree Press into action. Having published a small number of 'true' ghost story titles, David's own interest in publishing seemed to be slowly moving away from the 'traditional ghost story', and he was continually being asked when Ghost Story Press would publish more of the traditional collections. His response, basically, was that if someone else wanted to do it, he'd be more than happy to see them do it (this was to a mailing of The Everlasting Club APA way back when)—and you can't get a better invitation than that! Ash-Tree Press is pleased to have had a good relationship with Ghost Story Press for a number of years, and it was David who encouraged Ash-Tree to publish Amyas Northcote's In Ghostly Company, early in 1997, when he could not see the space for it in GSP's plans. The Ash-Tree Press edition of Northcote's collection was, in fact, originated from disks prepared by GSP—all of which goes to show that co-operation, rather than rivalry, exists in the supernatural small press.

A. N. L. Munby was a name which kept being mentioned to us. His The Alabaster Hand, whilst not being particularly scarce, had become quite difficult to find, except in a cheap paperback edition. But the likelihood was that Munby's collection would be costly to produce (or so rumour had it!)—we had always heard that Tim Munby's widow demanded high fees for reprints of any of the stories. Which proves that it doesn't always pay to listen to rumours! Sheila Munby could not have been more generous and accommodating: our proposal to reprint The Alabaster Hand received her enthusiastic approval, and we were also to receive a generous bonus: as we were leaving our meeting with her, she gave us a copy of Touchstone, the prisoner-of-war-camp magazine in which Munby's story 'The Four-Poster' first appeared.

As things transpired, The Alabaster Hand was to be the second Ash-Tree Press hardback title. We decided to launch Ash-Tree Press proper with M. R. James's The Five Jars. There were two reasons for this: no self-respecting publisher of supernatural fiction could afford NOT to have M. R. James on his list; but it also seemed likely that changes in European copyright law—an ill-conceived and badly managed brainwave of Brussels' bureaucracy, brought on by the success of pop-musician Phil Collins in the US—might mean that James's copyrights would be revived in Europe in the near future. (As it happens, copyright revivial would have made little difference expense-wise, since Nicholas Rhodes James was an enthusiastic collaborator when we subsequently published the complete M. R. James supernatural oeuvre in A Pleasing Terror  in 2001.)

The fine artwork which adorned the jacket of The Five Jars was provided by Anthony Maitland, and we came to hear about his drawings for the story almost by accident. We were lunching with Carnegie Medal-winning author Philippa Pearce (author of the classic supernatural novel for children, Tom's Midnight Garden), and happened to mention our plans to commence work on a reprint of The Five Jars. Philippa happened to know that Maitland had done a series of drawings for the book, and effected an introduction. The jacket for The Five Jars is the only jacket artwork for an Ash-Tree Press book, with the exception of Unholy Relics and Hauntings, which has not been the result of an original commission.

Negotiations were soon begun for other collections; and one of the first people we turned to was Jack Adrian. We told Jack that we were interested in a series of A. M. Burrage's supernatural fiction and, of course, knew that he had gathered together a number of previously uncollected stories for the Equation paperback Warning Whispers some years earlier. Did he have any more uncollected stories? we asked. Well, of course, he did. Fortunately, Burrage was an exceptionally prolific writer, and Jack felt that there was more than enough for THREE volumes. The result was that a four-book series was projected, beginning with Intruders. (Further Burrage discoveries have resulted in this series being extended to five volumes: though quite when Jack will call it a day and turn in the manuscript for the fifth, remains to be seen!)

H. R. Wakefield's supernatural fiction was also on our list, and we quickly concluded agreement to reprint all of his known supernatural stories. Wakefield was something of a mystery man, but investigations led us to a niece, who was able to provide various photographs which had never before been published. Even as late as 1999, when the first volume was in preparation, we suspected that unknown Wakefield stories existed somewhere, possibly at Arkham House. Our suspicions were proved correct when, shortly after publication of Strayers from Sheol, we received word that a new story had come to light. By early January of 2000, the one story had grown to seventeen—all of them hidden away for well over a quarter of a century in August Derleth's files at Arkham House. The result of this find was Reunion at Dawn (published April 2000), and it gave us great pleasure to link Ash-Tree Press with Arkham House in the form of its current editor, Peter Ruber, who discovered the stories and who edited and introduced this final volume of Wakefield stories. Ash-Tree's relationship with Arkham House is set to grow further in the near future when August Derleth's ghostly fiction receives Ash-Tree publication.

One of the joys of doing the kind of work we do is that we have been able to make contact with people for whom we have had great admiration. One of those was Hugh Lamb, whose ground-breaking anthologies of the '70s and '80s were responsible for reviving the popularity of such authors as Eleanor Scott, Frederick Cowles, Bernard Capes, R. Murray Gilchrist (we were finally able to acknowledge Hugh's contribution in reviving Gilchrist's reputation by dedicating The Basilisk to him), and many others. Hugh had a number of projects which had been sidelined because no publisher was interested: amongst them a book of stories by the Benson brothers (A. C. & R. H.). We persuaded him to work on this, and Ghosts in the House was born. Hugh's work also formed the basis for Forgotten Ghosts, the first of our Occasional Booklets, which was prepared primarily as a gift for those attending the Ghost Story (Society) Convention in Chester in 1996. When we took what we considered a brave step—reprinting Frederick Cowles's complete supernatural stories, which had been published only a few years earlier by Ghost Story Press, we naturally turned to Hugh to provide an Introduction. Hugh was able to draw on correspondence with Cowles's widow, Doris, conducted over a number of years, to provide much background information, and a more rounded view of Cowles than had previously been available.

Besides reprinting classic collections of supernatural fiction, it has always been one of Ash-Tree Press's goals to publish the work of outstanding contemporary authors. Our first step in this direction was with Terry Lamsley's Conference With The Dead (1996), and we were delighted to follow this with a reprint of Terry's previously self-published Under the Crust (1997). Ash-Tree's third Lamsley collection was Dark Matters (2000). Steve Duffy is an outstanding talent, and his first collection, The Night Comes On, was published in March 1998; this was followed by The Five Quarters, co-authored with Ian Rodwell, in 2001. The late Sheila Hodgson's wonderful Jamesian collection, The Fellow Travellers, and John Whitbourn's Binscombe Tales and More Binscombe Tales, were extremely well received by readers. There will be a new Whitbourn collection in 2004. And we were delighted to add Jonathan Aycliffe to our list of contemporary authors when we published The Talisman in November 1999. Since then we have added John Burke, Hugh B. Cave, A. F. Kidd, Paul Finch, Rick Kennett, Chet Williamson, and Arthur Porges to our list; and these will soon be joined by Mike Chislett, Don Tumasonis, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and others.

Contemporary authors are our only consideration when it comes to Ash-Tree Press original anthologies. The first of these, Midnight Never Comes, included seventeen new stories, and attracted extremely complimentary reviews. The second, Shadows and Silence, was published in 2000 and was just as successful.

There are many enjoyable stories we could tell: like the telephone call to a nephew of Eleanor Scott, who had no idea that his aunt had written a collection of ghost stories, let alone one of the most sought after in the genre—Randalls Round. These can wait for another time.

Meanwhile, we hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to Ash-Tree Press; and we hope that you will take the time to peruse our list of titles in print. While you're here, check out some of our other pages, too!

Barbara Roden
Christopher Roden

May 2004

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