Sandy Ferber

SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

The Shadow on the House: Strange days

The Shadow on the House by Mark Hansom

For the past 35 years or so, I have been so busy trying to experience all the 200 books described in Stephen Jones’ and Kim Newman’s two excellent overview volumes – Horror: 100 Best Books and Horror: Another 100 Best Books – that I was completely unaware, until recently, that there is yet another trusted resource that horror buffs in the know have been using for recommended reading; namely, the Wagner 39 List. It seems that back in 1983, in the June and August issues of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, editor/author Karl Edward Wagner provided a list of the 39 books in the horror arena that he felt were of the highest calibre, or most in need of being discovered by a new audience. The 39 books were broken down into three categories: The 13 Best Supernatural Horror Novels, The 13 Best Sci-Fi Horror Novels, and The 13 Be... Read More

Dark Sanctuary: Thanks, Karl!

Dark Sanctuary by H.B. Gregory

A very happy day it was for me – but a very unfortunate day for my bank account – when I first discovered the website for Ramble House books. Specializing in impossibly obscure sci-fi, horror, mystery and “weird menace” titles from the first half of the 20th century, the publisher has an overwhelming catalog of reasonably priced volumes that will surely make any fan of those genres salivate; books, for the most part, that are available nowhere else. I have already written here of Greye La Spina’s wonderful horror novel Invaders From the Dark (1925), only available from Ramble House, and now would like to tell you of a book that I recently read from the company’s Dancing Tuatara Press imprint that is even more of a rarity. The b... Read More

The Centaur: Another masterwork from Algernon Blackwood

The Centaur by Algernon Blackwood

English author Algernon Blackwood was always one to make good use of his wide-ranging travels in the 14 novels and over 180 short stories and novellas that he would ultimately give to the world. For example, his early 1890s sojourn in Canada, where he worked as a dairy farmer and hotel operator, would, upon his return to England, provide the inspirational setting for one of his greatest novellas, “The Wendigo” (1910). Canoeing trips down the Danube during the summers of 1900 and 1901 would compel him to pen one of his most famous tales, “The Willows,” in 1907. After Blackwood settled in Switzerland after 1908, the beautiful Alpine scenery there became the backdrop for many of the stories in his remarkable collection Pan’s Garden... Read More

Turnabout: The ol’ switcheroo

Turnabout by Thorne Smith 

It has been a good number of years since I last read Thorne Smith’s ribald fantasy classic entitled The Night Life of the Gods (1931), but I can still recall how thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious the book was for me. In this wonderful romp, a NYC-based scientist, Hunter Hawk, invents a device that can turn people to stone. He soon meets Megaera, one of the Little People, who has the converse ability to turn statues into living people, and the two later manage to bring all the stone effigies of the ancient Roman gods at the Metropolitan Museum to life, with increasingly madcap results. The book was chosen for inclusion in Cawthorn & Moorcock’s excellent overview volume Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, and deserve...

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The Green Rust: Proto-Bond

The Green Rust by Edgar Wallace

In Ian Fleming’s 10th James Bond novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), 007 foils a plot by the Germanic supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld to use biological agents to destroy a goodly part of the world’s farm crops. But as it turns out, this was not the first time that an English author had given his readers a story featuring a Prussian madman employing bacterial warfare to cut off part of the globe’s food supply! A full 44 years earlier, we find Edgar Wallace, the so-called “King of Thrillers,” coming up with a similar dastardly scheme, in his 1919 offering entitled Green Rust. Wallace’s novel was initially released by the British publisher Ward, Lock & Co. and has seen a modest number of other editions since, sometimes under its original title The Green Rust, and other times as just Read More

Ralph 124C 41+: The Kramdens, they’re not!

Ralph 124C 41+ by Hugo Gernsback

During the course of any number of my book musings here at FanLit, I have made reference to editor Hugo Gernsback, in whose magazine Amazing Stories – the very first magazine devoted to the type of writing that would one day be called “science fiction,” and which rolled out its first issue in April 1926 – so many wonderful tales and serialized novels first appeared. Gernsback, in truth, was a pretty remarkable figure. He’d been born in Luxembourg City in 1884, and by the time of his passing in 1967, at age 83, had edited or published at least 50 other magazines, written three novels and a dozen or so short stories (plus countless essays), taken out 80 or so patents, and coined the term “science fiction.” The Hugo Awards today, of course, are named in his honor. However, it recently struck this reader that although I have experienced any number of works that originally appeared in Read More

Gladiator: Of Hugo, Doc and Supes

Gladiator by Philip Wylie

In a recent review here on FanLit, for J.D. Beresford’s seminal 1911 classic The Wonder, I mentioned that the novel was an early example of one of Radium Age sci-fi’s favorite themes, that of the “superman” or “wunderkind.” In that book, we had encountered a young British lad, Victor Stott, who was born with superhuman mental abilities that had made him an object of both fear and hatred among most of his fellows. Well, now I am here to share some thoughts on still another Radium Age wonder that tells the tale of a superman, but in this case our lead character’s marvelous abilities are physical ones rather than mental, and brought about by artificial means rather than being a mere freak of nature. And it seems that this man of remarkable physic... Read More

The Wonder: Too cool for school

The Wonder by J.D. Beresford

As I believe I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the pet themes of both Radium Age and Golden Age sci-fi was that of the ubermensch (superman) or the wunderkind (child prodigy), as the case may be; individuals who, as a result of a mutation or genetic engineering, and whether deliberately or accidentally created, came to possess mental and/or physical abilities that separate them from the ruck of humanity. I have already written here of such ubermensch novels as Seeds of Life (1931) by John Taine, in which Neils Bork, a lab worker, is changed after being exposed to a massive dose of X rays and electricity; Read More

The Girl in the Golden Atom: “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small…”

The Girl in the Golden Atom by Ray Cummings

In Irish author Fitz James O’Brien’s classic novella of 1858, entitled “The Diamond Lens,” a scientist, employing his newly invented supermicroscope, is able to observe a beautiful young woman who lives in the impossibly small world of a droplet of water. Flash forward 77 years, and we find British author Festus Pragnell, in the novel The Green Man of Graypec (1935), giving us the tale of a man who is accidentally sucked, via his scientist brother’s new supermicroscope, into the subatomic world of Kilsona, where he is forced to abide for some time. Sandwiched between these two works, however, is a book that has, over the decades, managed to achieve for itself pride of place in these kind of microverse affairs, in... Read More

Out of Time’s Abyss: Quite the action-heavy affair

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Out of Time’s Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs

In Out of Time’s Abyss, the last volume of Edgar Rice Burrough’s CASPAK trilogy, we learn what happened to Bradley, one of the adventurers we met in the first novel, The Land that Time Forgot. As we expected, Bradley has frightening adventures on Caspak, is nearly killed by lions, bears, tigers, dinosaurs, etc, and he saves and falls in love with a beautiful young damsel in distress.

In this installment, we meet the Wieroo, the most highly evolved species on Caspak. Their form and society isn’t at all what the American and European adventurers would have expected. We also learn the rest of the mystery of the strange evolution that has happened on Caspak. Since this is Earth instead of a fantasy world, it’s all too... Read More

The People that Time Forgot: Adventure and romance

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The People that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The People that Time Forgot (1918) is the second novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ CASPAK trilogy. In the first installment, The Land that Time Forgot, Bowen Tyler gets stranded on Caspak, a lost world where prehistoric animals and subhuman people exist. The story picks up in The People that Time Forgot as Bowen’s friend Tom Billings decides to go looking for him. When Tom lands on Caspak, he doesn’t have much time to search for his friend because it takes all his effort just to survive.

The People that Time Forgot offers all of the pulpy masculine adventure found in The Land that Time Forgot. There’s a constant stream of bears, dinosaurs, sabertooth tigers, barbarian warriors, and other creatures to fight, so Tom gets to prove his manliness as he... Read More

The Land that Time Forgot: Fun pulpy adventure

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Land that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

You gotta love Edgar Rice Burroughs. He underperformed in life until, as a pencil sharpener salesman who spent his free time reading pulp magazines, he figured he could be paid to write “rot” at least as good as the “rot” he read in the pulps. And thus started the illustrious career of the man who brought us Tarzan, John Carter, and David Innes... And who inspired a generation of fantasy and science fiction writers.

The Land that Time Forgot, a lost world story set during World War I, is the first in Burroughs’ CASPAK trilogy. It was originally serialized in Blue Book Magazine in the fall of 1918 and then published as a novel in 1924.

Bowen Tyler is on a boat that’s torpedoed and sunk by the Germans. He saves a beautiful drowning young wom... Read More

The Cave of a Thousand Columns: The land down UNDER

The Cave of a Thousand Columns by T.E. Grattan-Smith

I have never been to the continent of Australia before, and after watching a number of videos, both online and on television, concerning the fauna and flora there, I am really in no great rush to go. Perhaps you’re familiar with some of the videos I mean? Australia, it would seem, is home to the inland taipan snake (the world’s most venomous snake), kamikaze magpies, the freshwater bull shark, the Australian honeybee (one of the world’s most poisonous insects), raining spiders, the flying fox (the largest bat in the world), paralysis ticks, and the toxic gympie gympie tree. Still planning a visit? The country is also home to the predatory saltwater crocodile, giant centipedes, red-backed spiders (poisonous, natch), swarming soldier beetles, the Sydney funnel-web spider (the world’s most venomous spider), the coastal taipan snake (almost as bad as the inland one!), strychnine t... Read More

The Light in the Sky: Aztec Two-Step

The Light in the Sky by Herbert Clock & Eric Boetzel

In H. Rider Haggard’s 16th novel, the epic blockbuster Montezuma’s Daughter (1893), the reader is introduced to a young man named Thomas Wingfield, a European (half English, half Spanish) who is captured by the ancient Aztecs in the New World of the 16th century. Wingfield eventually becomes something of a living god among them, marries the titular Otomie, and witnesses the arrival and eventual conquest of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. It is a truly wonderful piece of historical fiction, with minimal fantastic content. But 36 years later, another book would be released with many of the same plot points mentioned above, but updated to a modern setting, and with the fantasy elements very much in the fore... Read More

The Sea Girl: The original water-gate break-in

The Sea Girl by Ray Cummings

A little while back, I had some words to say concerning Garrett P. Serviss’ truly excellent apocalyptic novel The Second Deluge, which was originally released in 1911. In that book, the Earth passes through a so-called “watery nebula,” and the resultant downpours cause the world’s oceans to rise over 30,000 feet, effectively inundating the entire planet! Well, now I am here to tell you about another Radium Age wonder, with precisely the opposite scenario. In Ray CummingsThe Sea Girl, all the oceans on Earth mysteriously start to drop ever lower, until the point is reached where barely a drop remains, thus changing practically everything on our fair planet!

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Vampires of the Andes: Almost too much for me

Vampires of the Andes by Henry Carew

Just as it’s patently obvious that “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” it seems to me that one might justifiably add the statement “You can’t judge a book by its title, either.” Case in point: the novel that I recently experienced, Vampires of the Andes. Now, with a title like that, one might automatically be led to assume that this would be a rather pulpy, empty-headed affair; a simply written story, perhaps concerning a gaggle of caped and transplanted Carpathian neck noshers, now residing in South America and sucking on the maidenly necks of the local senoritas. And as it turns out, you would be incorrect pretty much all the way down the line, as the book is anything but simply written, and the vampires of its title are rather … well, more on them in a moment.

Vampires of the Andes was originally release... Read More

The Valley of Eyes Unseen: A very fine novel in a sloppy presentation

The Valley of Eyes Unseen by Gilbert Collins

In 1933, English author James Hilton, at age 33, released his 13th novel, entitled Lost Horizon, in which a British diplomat named Conway, along with a few others, crash-lands in Tibet and discovers the lost people of Shangri-La. In the lamasery there, the process of aging had slowed down considerably, and indeed, the High Lama was ultimately revealed to be well over 200 years old! Hilton’s book was a tremendous success, was famously brought to the screen in 1937 with Ronald Colman starring as Conway, and has rarely – if ever – been out of print since its initial publication. But this famous best seller was hardly the first time that an English author had given the public a tale of a lost people being discovered in the trackless wastes of Tibet! Just 10 years earlier, Gilbert Collins, also 33 at the time, had released his second novel, The V... Read More

The City of Wonder: Location, location, location?

The City of Wonder by E. Charles Vivian

Just recently, this reader had some words to say about a lost-race novel written by an Englishman; no, not H. Rider Haggard, the Norfolk-born writer who would go on to become “The Father of the Lost-Race Novel,” but rather Victor Rousseau, who had impressed me with his 1916 offering The Sea Demons. Well, now I am here to tell you of another lost-race affair, written some six years later by still another Englishman. The book in question this time is called The City of Wonder and was written by one E. Charles Vivian. A more impressively penned novel than Rousseau’s, the book combines the standard lost-world/... Read More

The Strange Story of William Hyde: Hyde and seek

The Strange Story of William Hyde by Patrick & Terence Casey

In 1886, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson came out with one of his most enduring creations, the novella entitled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”; a work that has rarely – if ever – gone out of print since its initial release. But this would hardly be the last “strange” story featuring a character by the name of Hyde! Thus, 30 years later, on the other side of the pond, the world was given a book bearing the title The Strange Story of William Hyde; a book that turned out to be anything but a publishing perennial, despite its manifold fine qualities, as will be seen.

The Strange Story of William Hyde first ... Read More

The Sea Demons: When Ira Met Ida

The Sea Demons by Victor Rousseau

In his 1896 short story entitled “The Sea Raiders,” British author H. G. Wells wrote of a newly discovered race of giant cephalopods, Haploteuthis ferox, that suddenly takes to terrorizing and devouring some unfortunate residents on the Devonshire coast. It is a wonderful tale, really, expertly written by the legendary author in an almost documentary manner. But this, of course, was hardly the first time that an English writer would give us a tale of oceanic monstrosities rising up from the deep. Just 20 years later, thus, the world was given another such story, one that was not nearly as well written as the Wells piece, but, to its credit, posited a menace on a much broader geographic scale. The book in question, The Sea Demons, was written by an author named Victor Rousseau and has, like i... Read More

The House on Stilts: Of Hazard and Haggard

The House on Stilts by R.H. Hazard

Good news for all fans of Haggardian-type fiction is the recent release of 12 more obscure titles, resurrected from oblivion by those fine folks at Armchair Fiction for their ongoing Lost World/Lost Race series, which now stands at 42 volumes. Spanning the period 1898 - 1951, these dozen books should surely be of interest to all enthusiasts of this wonderful genre, especially since most of them have been out of print for many decades. First up for this reader was the curiously titled affair The House on Stilts, by an author named R.H. Hazard. And if you have not yet run across the name of either this novel or its author, that is to be well understood and even expected, as will be seen.

The House on Stilts was originally released as a five-part serial in the April - August 1910 issues of People’s Ideal Fiction Magazine... Read More

Invaders From the Dark: Wolf’s Bane

Invaders From the Dark by Greye La Spina

In my review of the splendid collection entitled The Women of Weird Tales, which was released by Valancourt Books in 2020, I mentioned that I’d been very impressed with the five stories by Greye La Spina to be found therein, and was now interested in checking out the author’s classic novel of modern-day lycanthropy, Invaders From the Dark. Well, it took a little searching until I found a copy of said book for what I considered a decent price, but I am here now to tell you … mission accomplished, and to share some thoughts on what has turned out to be a fun and surprisingly grisly novel, indeed.

La Spina, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this unjustly neglected writer, was born Fanny Greye Bragg, in Wakefield, Massach... Read More

The Human Chord: “What’s in a name?”

The Human Chord by Algernon Blackwood

In his masterful collection of 1912 entitled Pan’s Garden, British author Algernon Blackwood clearly displayed his belief in the sentience and awareness of such facets of Nature as trees, snow, gardens, the wind, subterranean fires, the seas and the deserts, and of their transformative powers for those with the ability to discern them. One facet of Nature not dealt with in Pan’s Garden, however, was sound itself, and now that I have finally experienced Blackwood’s novel of two years earlier, The Human Chord, I believe I know why. The subject of sound, you see, and of its ability to transfigure and create, lies at the very heart of this novel, and is dealt with in a very ... Read More

Pan’s Garden: A stunning collection from “The Ghost Man”

Pan’s Garden by Algernon Blackwood

By the time the renowned British writer Algernon Blackwood released his first collection of short stories, The Empty House, in 1906, he was already 37 years old and had led a life as full of adventure and incident as anyone you might possibly name. He had already worked as a dairy farmer and hotel operator in Canada, gone prospecting for gold in Alaska, been a bartender, and worked as a NYC reporter for The Evening Sun, among other things; occupations that would go to make good material for his 1923 autobiography Episodes Before Thirty. As the new century got under way, Blackwood, long interested in Buddhism, philosophy and the supernatural, joined several occult societies, including The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. His love of nature compelled him to... Read More

Black Magic: Sandy’s Favorite Read of 2021

Black Magic by Marjorie Bowen

The British publishing firm Sphere Books had a really wonderful thing going for itself back in the 1970s: a series of 45 books, both fiction and nonfiction, curated by the hugely popular English supernatural novelist Dennis Wheatley, and titled Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult. This reader had already experienced seven of these novels in the natural order of things, in other editions – titles such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Read More

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