Sunday, 8 August 2010

Not Safe for Work, or Sane Humans

I first encountered the work of Harry Stephen Keeler a couple of years ago, through the championing of Paul Collins of the Collins Library. To get the flavour of Keeler's mad world, visit this page. Here's a sample extract from the plot summaries there: "A man is found strangled to death in the middle of a lawn, yet there are no footprints other than his own. Police suspect the "Flying Strangler-Baby," a killer midget who disguises himself as a baby and stalks victims by helicopter. (X. Jones of Scotland Yard, 1936)"

In learning more about Keeler, I came across Ramble House, a (then, at least) one-man operation dedicated to bringing all of Keeler's works back into print. The owner, Fender Tucker, printed the books individually and then bound them in his kitchen with a hot glue gun and an iron. As Ramble House expanded to reprint the work of other forgotten, misguided writers, most of the printing and binding now seems to be done via Lulu. At first this might suggest that some of the magic is gone. But then you take a look at the cover designs of Australian artist Gavin L. O'Keefe, and you see that Ramble House is fulfiling a unique niche in publishing. Mere words cannot do these things justice (though I note that O'Keefe is as at home with photography and Photoshop as he is with more traditional artist's tools).

My brain, it is now broke.


Jess the Chipster said...

the title "ape rape" is the best.

i kind of like the "The Barking Clock" cover.

Anonymous said...

It's so bad it's good.

Renée T. Habashy said...

Wow. "Ape Rape." That is epic.

Óscar Palmer said...

I like the fact that it took two people to write Ape Rape. Too much of a concept for just one brain!

MrIndieDay said...

Ape Rape is fantastic, as everyone here I'm sure agrees, but I just adore the...summary of 'Sand's Game'.

"His name is SAND - a hard man in a hard game. He never gives an inch. ...Not when a bullet will do."

I don't know if this is supposed to induce arousal or vomit.

MrIndieDay said...

Forgot to mention this is my favorite post so far, but that's just because I'm such a cynic haha.

Matthew Adams said...

I just read the wikipedia entry on Gavin O'Keefe, which was a surreal exprience after seeing these images.

And the last sentence in his bio is "He is also an accomplished viola player"

Holy fucking shit

Matthew Adams said...

And did anyone else notice that the author of 'Sand's game' is Ennis Willie and giggle like a schoolgirl?

There was a young man named Ennis,
who had a hard one inch long penis.
When blasting the head
of a bad guy with lead,
misfired, blowing his willy to venus

Tulkinghorn said...

All very well, but representing a tragic lost opportunity. (Assuming "tragic" to mean "slightly irritating to a dozen people or so")

The original covers of Keeler's books are collected here:

This, for example, deserves revival:

Will said...

These will make suitable gifts for any number of my friends. Thank you.

Stuart Bache said...


They're ... er ... interesting.

Is there any point in me carrying on my career as a cover designer after seeing these 'gems'?

JRSM said...

Oscar: I hadn't noticed the dual authors. It is the sort of concept that requires the efforts of two dedicated minds.

MrIndie Day: "I don't know if this is supposed to induce arousal or vomit." I think a subtle combination of the two is the correct response.

Matthew: They should commission you to write cover blurbs for all of theuir books in the form of lewd limericks. And the thing is, I don't know that it would actually make them any weirder.

Tulkinghorn: It's surprising how stylish and normal some of those covers made Keeler's work look. Quite what his publishers made of him I do not know.

Stuart: Just iamgine what a classy job they would have made of a book with a title like 'The Nigger Factory'.

Bob Fingerman said...

If ever a publishing house embraced the serial killer outsider artist aesthetic, it's this one. Wow.

Gavin L. O'Keefe said...

Thanks to all for your comments and observations! In all fairness to what we're doing at Ramble House, I encourage you to check out our website to view a larger selection of our covers (most but not all executed by myself). (The selection included in this blog was small and not entirely indicative of the great variety issued to-date.)

JRSM said...

Geoff, thank you for stopping by, and for taking it all in good humour! All the best.