If one wanted to start on Derleth ‘as an entertaining fiction writer’, where would one start? Here’s what the landscape looks like to me, after a short survey:
August Derleth’s science-fiction collection is all in a book called Harrigan’s File, and below are Archive.org links to the tales, in the order of appearance in the book. The tales are said to be akin to Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Heart, and all feature newspaperman Tex Harrigan running up against strange inventions and curiously weird-science occurrences. If you want the book it’s a late Arkham House title, and as such it seems to be fairly easy to get hold of in used print at around $35 inc. shipping.
The Other Side of the Wall.
An Eye for History.
The Detective and the Senator.
By Rocket to the Moon.
The Man Who Rode the Saucer.
So that’s basically all the science-fiction he wrote, and they sound rather fun in a 1950s way.
The Cthulhu Mythos tales:
What of his Cthulhu Mythos tales? The Nocturnal Revelries blog recently ploughed through all of August Derleth’s Cthulhu Mythos Fiction and gave a flavour of just how repetitive and ‘haunted house’ it all gets. Regrettably he refers vaguely to the repetitions, rather than saying which ones are not repetitive and/or are actually the best of the bunch. But that job appears to have already been done by others. A well-edited ‘best of’ the relevant Derleth is apparently to be found in the book In Lovecraft’s Shadow: The Cthulhu Mythos Stories of August Derleth (1998). (TOC). Or it could be found… if it was affordable, as it’s now become collectable and thus ridiculously expensive. Time for a budget ebook edition of this collection, I’d suggest, if the copyrights and estates permit it. Although at least the book’s long Introduction is online for free in HTML. I can’t do the same Web linkage for this book as I do above for Harrigan’s File, since many of the contents are not on Archive.org.
The other big and alluring strand is of course his detective-mystery tales of the Sherlock Holmes-alike Solar Pons, said to be among the best of the Holmes pastiches and also rather good mystery stories in their own right. Both hefty volumes of the Solar Pons Omnibus are on Archive.org, but only as “Books to Borrow” and these are said to collect all the Derleth Pons stories. Just as well, as they list at forbidding prices in print. The problem here is that apparently this Solar Pons Omnibus managed to badly corrupt the text. These problems were corrected by the revised The Original Text Solar Pons Omnibus, but this is also now ridiculously expensive. Regrettably there appears to be no handy eight-story “The Best of Solar Pons” as an £6 ebook, with the text in good form, to serve as a brisk sampler for those who might be interested in starting in on the full set of tales. The other problem is that others have also done ‘pastiches of pastiches’ for Pons, and these now obscure Derleth’s own Pons in the listings.