Monday, 20 June 2011

Open House Day 21 - Tartarus Press

Tartarus Press is essentially myself and my partner, Rosalie Parker. We work from home in the Yorkshire Dales, occasionally venturing to conventions and literary gatherings, and it might seem, from the outside, to be a quiet, even a lonely existence. The truth is somewhat different.

I was inspired to publish the first Tartarus Press booklet (The Anatomy of Taverns) having met, at a literary weekend in South Wales, Mark Valentine and Roger Dobson (who were publishing as Caermaen Books). At the same event a year later Arthur Machen’s daughter, Janet, encouraged me to issue my first hardback books (Chapters Five and Six of ‘The Secret Glory’ and Ritual). This was something of a challenge, but I have fond memories of working with two chaps running the New Venture Press in Chailey, Sussex, who had never printed a book before. With large sheets of paper we worked out how to lay-up the artwork for the sections and, once printed, the results were turned into finished books by a very patient binder in Lewes, Rachel Ward-Sale.

From the start Tartarus has been a collaborative process, and if it wasn’t for the fun of working with some great, talented, artistic people I’m not sure the Press would have continued for over two decades. My partner, Rosalie, has worked full-time for Tartarus for more than ten years, but even before that she had an input into many of the titles I was publishing. We’ve recently blogged about the impact that Mark Valentine has had on the press, but so many other people have worked with us and this is what has kept us interested and enthusiastic over the years. Researchers such as Richard Dalby, S.T. Joshi, Doug Anderson and Brian Stableford have either provided us with great collections of short stories to publish, or have sent us hunting for the work of authors we hadn’t previously considered.

Janet Machen was always very generous to us, as was Joss Leighton, Sarban’s daughter. They became good friends, and the passing of these two wonderful women is a sad loss to many people.

In the last few years we’ve published more and more living authors (!), and the process of turning a submitted manuscript into a finished book is an enjoyable and collaborative process. The procedure varies from author to author, and while we put a differing amount of editorial work into each book, the authors, too, often have influence over the design and presentation. We’ve recently had the good fortune to discover the artwork of Stephen J. Clark, and have been able to use his wonderful illustrations for our Robert Aickman reprints.

We’ve jointly published books with Caermaen Books, Durtro, the Arthur Machen Society/Friends of Arthur Machen, PS, Ferret Fantasy, the Stoke Newington Literary Festival and the Halifax Ghost Story Festival.

The small press world will always include some odd and awkward characters, and has its share of petty politics, but most people we’ve come across are enthusiastic and generous with their time and talents. If it wasn’t for Tartarus we wouldn’t have met such a wide range of great people, including our customers, many of whom have become personal friends.


  1. Nice post! Always fun to read more about the small presses that feed our hungry fanship.

  2. It's nice to know more about quality people (and writers!) that write and publish high quality books! Thank you. The only quibble I have is that this piece is too short. Really enjoying Sourdough by the way.