Vintage Treasures: The Ballantine Paperbacks of Vincent King
The sixties and early seventies were a very fertile era for science fiction in America. Writers like Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delaney, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and many others were busy launching decades-long careers. Their books are still read and enjoyed today.
And then there are those writers who weren’t so lucky. Who never really connected with a wide audience, and whose entire catalog has been out of print for three decades or more. Folks like the British writer Vincent King, who published three paperbacks through Ballantine in 1969-1971, all with eye-catching covers by Robert Foster and Dean Ellis. None of them was ever reprinted in the US, and they quickly vanished.
There are no digital editions. King is the kind of writer who can only be enjoyed the old-fashioned way: by hunting down his books.
The titles were:
Light a Last Candle (217 pages, $0.75, July 1969, cover by Robert Foster)
Another End (185 pages, $0.95, January 1971, cover by Dean Ellis)
Candy Man (250 pages, $0.95, July 1971, cover by Dean Ellis)
Here’s the back covers [click for bigger versions]:
I particularly enjoyed the back-cover text for his first novel, which warmly welcomed King to American shores.
“Vincent King” was the pseudonym of Rex Thomas Vinson, who got his start selling short stories to John Carnell’s New Writings in SF anthology series. He published one more book in the UK, Time Snake and Superclown, in 1976. It was never reprinted in the US.
That was his final novel. He died in 2000.
See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.
Great post! I just ordered LIGHT A LAST CANDLE after seeing the cover and reading the back text. Rarely do old books live up to their packaging, I’ve found, but sometimes you find an undiscovered jewel. I enjoy novels that are tour de force of imagination, and that sounds like what this one is. Kind of like Silverberg’s psychedelic and visionary SON OF MAN novel. Chock full o’ cosmic weirdness…
Looking forward to reading King’s work.
Glad to hear it, John. Exploring SF literature is a constant adventure. I’m always discovering new writers — and I’ve been reading SF for four decades.
Let us know what you think of LIGHT A LAST CANDLE! If you’re impressed enough to do a quick review, you know we’d love to hear what you have to say here at Black Gate.
We have essentially the “New Wave” in action here;
The movement was to evolve scifi and fantasy beyond the cliches it had become entrenched in. The classic space operas, sword and planet, barbarians, eldritch horror, etc. of the Pulps.
At the start it succeeded, giants standing on the shoulders of past giants. Stuff like Michael Moorcock’s “Elric” to both play homage to and transcend classic “Sword and Sorcery”.
There’s a neat graph “Organic history of science fiction” that puts this era into “New Wave – Sociology Dominant” and it focused more indeed on the human condition in the stories, effects on society, etc. This is where we had Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes.
Lots of experimental works like this were published, also greats from the past dusted off and put in print again – Night Lands, Star Maker, Voyage to Arcturus, etc.
Unfortunately the “New Wave” mutated later (late 70s into the 80s and then 90s where it dominated) into the Politically Correct/bland tedium monster we have now. The past is desecrated when mentioned at all with the fervor of ISIS soldiers smashing the city of Nimrud. Focus on mass appeal over story. One man’s opinion at least.