Thursday, May 4, 2017

RIP Richard Dalby (1949-2017)


We are very sorry to learn that the veteran ghost story editor, scholar and bookseller Richard Dalby has died aged 68 at his home in Scarborough. Richard was one of the most learned authorities on supernatural fiction of his time.

He edited a succession of well-chosen and pioneering anthologies, including the Virago volumes of women’s ghost stories, the Mammoth Books of ghost stories, the Jamesian collection Ghosts & Scholars (with Rosemary Pardoe) and several popular books of Christmas ghost stories and thrillers. Other noted volumes include The Sorceress in Stained-Glass (1971), Dracula’s Brood (1989) and Tales of Witchcraft (1991), all highly respected and now much sought-after.

He also introduced many editions of rare ghost story collections by little-known authors, taking a leading role in The Ghost Story Press (with David Tibet) and later working with Sarob Press, Tartarus Press and others. His most recent book was characteristic: an edition of previously uncollected antiquarian ghost stories, The Haunted Haven by A Erskine Ellis (Phantasm Press).

Richard’s work was not, however, simply retrospective: he also championed contemporary writers, often bringing them to a wider audience through his books. I can vouch for this personally: Richard was the first to publish one of my own stories professionally. In a manner typical of his wide reading, he had noticed the story in a small press booklet and I still remember the joy his unexpected and courteous request to reprint it brought me.

Nor was Richard’s work limited to the ghost story, though this was his abiding interest. He also acted as an unofficial deputy editor to the journal Book & Magazine Collector, checking the bibliographies and price guides, and contributing many articles throughout its history from 1984-2010. Again, Richard kindly introduced me to the journal, suggesting I write about Michael Arlen in his centenary year, and often putting forward ideas for other subjects. I know I was far from alone in receiving Richard's encouragement and advice.

Richard’s career began in bookshops in London, including Foyles, but he later became a bookseller in his own right, issuing catalogues from his home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. His Christmas ghost story catalogues were a delight for many readers. He had lived with diabetes since early childhood but undaunted pursued his determination to make a career in literature. He was unflagging in his scholarly zeal and did not let his condition hold him back.

There can have been few people with such a wide and deep knowledge of ghost stories and allied fiction as Richard. He was dedicated in his research into even the obscurest authors and books, often uncovering information that had eluded others. But he was also generous with his work, always willing to share what he had found, to help others, and to discuss ideas. His many friends will remember a shrewd, warm, enthusiastic gentleman, formidable in his learning but companionable and kindly in person.

Mark Valentine

Photo courtesy Tartarus Press

18 comments:

  1. I am shocked and saddened at the news of Richard's death. Over the years I learned an immense amount from his anthologies and from his pieces in the occasional issues of the Book and Magazine Collector that I ran across here in the U.S. Perhaps Tartarus, or some other publisher, could make a collection of the best of these? I will always treasure Richard's kind comments about an essay of mine about the book-collecting madness ("Snow Day" in Browse, edited by Henry Hitchings). Even more personally, I had hoped to meet him during an upcoming October visit to England. --md

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  2. One of the people I'd always hoped to meet. He's been a presence on my shelves so long that I'd kind of presumed he was utterly ancient, not a mere handful of years older than myself. Terribly sad to hear this.

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  3. This is very sad news; so unexpected. We will miss Richard's contributions to the Everlasting Club very much.

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  4. This has come out of the blue - but I was quite literally thinking about him as the email arrived - and also about you, Sandy, because of your letter concerning Montague Summers in a recent Fortean Times.Richard did such admirably valuable work in making available out of print tales and sharing his immense knowledge - only the fact that he never quite accommodated the computer age had diminished his influence in more recent years. I met him on several occasions in York, among like-minded friends, and through the pages of The Everlasting Club (which, alas, couldn't last forever for me because of pressure of work and issues of health.) He was always full of the good stuff and I doubt we shall look upon his like again.

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    1. Yes, I always wanted to email him and everyone told me he doesn't do that. Well, I do not tweet or Facebook so good for him. I see Ken Faig comment - the contributors to the Summers gravestone are here. I still have Richard's Summers piece in Book & Magazine Collector from the 80s.

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  5. Richard & I traded books for many years. The last one he sent me was Rebecca Tope's new biography of Sabine Baring-Gould; the last I sent him, Stefan Dziemianowicz's anthology Great Ghost Stories. Richard's vast scholarship in the field of supernatural fiction will be sorely missed. While we never met in person, he was a very dear friend and correspondent for thirty years or more. --Ken Faig, Jr.

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  6. PS sorry, his Summers article was 1991.

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  7. This is Thomas Kent Miller. Most of my adult life I preferred novels over short stories—Machen being the standout exception, also Hodgson—up to about a dozen years ago, at which time I was bed-ridden for a couple of weeks and did not have the stamina to tolerate longer works. I happened to have a British paperback Carnacki within my reach and reread all the stories with gusto. Not satisfied, I then read right through Joshi's Complete John Silence and the Complete M.R. James. Well, you can guess where this story is going: It wasn't long before I was devouring Richard Dalby's Virago volumes of women’s ghost stories, the Mammoth Books of ghost stories, and all of his Christmas ghost story anthologies. Thus, when I read Mark's notice of Richard's death, I was devastated. It felt like my guide through so much joy suddenly was no more. There is a tangible emptiness now. I'm so glad that when I finally discovered the ghost story, he was right there to show me the way. He is the ONE anthologist who has NEVER let me down. I can list perhaps ten others, all notable in the field, who I am unhappy with, as I often find their selections unreadable. Richard certainly spoiled me! Naturally, the bottom line here is that, with his help, I discovered the Victorian-Edwardian ghost story as a genre and I've never been quite right since. I read some 600 stories right in a row, keeping 3x5 cards so I could keep track. I am sorry to say, though, that I've never been able to locate an affordable The Sorceress in Stained-Glass or his Ghosts & Scholars (with Rosemary Pardoe), though I have their TOC's and have been trying to locate the stories that I don't already have. Yes, indeed, Richard Dalby RIP. However, I can’t help but smile when I think that he is now in the perfect position to prove or disprove any manner of ghostly ponderings.

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  8. Dear all,

    It's very sad news about Richard who was very dear to us. Richard was also kind enough to entrust us with his beloved books. I'd like to let you all know that we will try to keep his memory alive and continue to run his book business.

    If you would like any information or to correspond about books you can contact me on:

    Mob: 07528 524168 (available on WhatsApp)

    Email: bookways1949@gmail.com

    Please pass this message onto anyone else you know that worked with Richard.

    Kindest regards

    Mark

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  9. Very sorry to hear this. I've enjoyed being in touch with Richard again since re-joining the Everlasting Club and have always admired his immense contribution to the field of supetnatural and weird fiction.

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  10. Very sad to hear this; the late Mr. Dalby was the one to turn on the subject of ghost stories, and I can still smell the musty odour of second-hand ghost story collections. May he rest in peace.

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  11. Greatly saddened by news of Richard's death. I was fortunate enough to correspond and meet with him from 1986. Somehow, the world just doesn't seem the same - which, of course, it isn't.

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  12. Cynthia GreenwayMay 10, 2017 at 4:09 AM

    I am Richard's cousin, Cindy Greenway. After experiencing the trauma of Richard's tragic sudden death it has been heartwarming to read all your personal accounts of his life and work.
    We were both only children and although Richard led a more sheltered life we always had great fun particularly making up stories and acting them out.
    It was obvious to the family that Richard was very bright he started making cartoon strips from the age of 5 and not long after that he designed crossword.
    I thought that you would like to know that I received a letter from him a few days before he passed away. The letter showed how some of you remember him enthusiastic, happy and positive - looking forward to his birthday and attending events.
    He is now reunited with Nancy & Tom, his parents who gave him their continual love and support.

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  13. Dear Cynthia,

    Thank you for kindly sharing your memories of Richard, and particularly for telling us of the letter he sent you, which is exactly the Richard we shall all remember.

    Our very best wishes to you,

    Mark Valentine

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    1. Richard's​ name first came to my attention as the superb anthologist of the Virago ghost stories, and of the Mammoth series, so notable for their thoughtful blending of old writers, forgotten and famous, and new authors. These were creative volumes in their own right, as Richard knew that anthologies weren't just random bundles of stories but carefully balanced selections. His Virago work was reflected still more widely in the numerous female authors, many forgotten, that he brought back into print, in anthologies, or as volumes for the small presses, like Sarob's Mistress of the Macabre. The erudition and sheer literary detective work going into these, with learned introductions, is astonishing. Especially when one remembers he did all this by assiduous research and much legwork, before the internet. His contribution to women's fiction is immense and should be more widely recognised. I'm very grateful for the enthusiastic support he gave to my own writing. Also, he readily gave of his unparalleled knowledge for articles I have written. Every so often a letter would arrive, on hand or on his old typewriter, with some nugget of information he recalled I was interested in, or perhaps a photocopy of an obscure article. Or we would meet in York and he brought something along. And so much interesting conversation! Above all, I shall miss his warmth, generosity and quiet enthusiasm. A shy retiring facade disguised an immensely friendly and gregarious soul. He was a lovely chap. Greatly missed. Peter Bell

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  14. Cynthia GreenwayJune 1, 2017 at 8:37 AM

    I had hoped to have given you all more notice but have only just heard that Richard's Obituary is in the Times today.
    Also since last writing we have been told by the Coroner's office that Richard died of Diabetic Ketoacidosis which is difficult to understand as by all accounts he seemed in good health. We do not think that he would have suffered for very long. Cindy Greenway (cousin)

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    1. Thank you, Cynthia, for letting us know about the obituary in The Times. It is only right that Richard should be remembered in this distinguished way.

      Sincerely,

      Mark V

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  15. I have been a great admirer of Mr. Dalby's work since I first encountered it over a quarter century ago. I love anthologies in general, and classic ghost stories in particular. No one else ever came close to Mr. Dalby's inspired selections, fastidiously researched notes, and wonderfully concise writing style. I was also hoping to meet him in person one day, and visit his bookshop. Mr. Richard Dalby's work has entertained and enlightened more than that of any other single editor or author. He was in a class by himself, and will be sorely missed. -- TCM

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