Skulls in the Stars

John Blackburn’s A Book of the Dead


If you’ve read my blog enough, you know that I occasionally write introductions for volumes released by the excellent Valancourt Books, in particular a lot of introductions to the work of the late John Blackburn (1923-1993), master of horror and thrillers.  Well, I’m happy to say that one of Blackburn’s rarest books, A Book of the Dead, was recently released by Valancourt, with an introduction again by me!

A Book of the Dead (1984) is Blackburn’s second-to-last novel, and it is a murder mystery set in the world of used book sellers.  When a longtime book trader turns up dead after paying a ridiculous amount of money for an obscure and unimportant nonfiction adventure book called Men of Courage, his friend Tom Payne suspects foul play.  With the help of the lovely heiress Janet Vale and the obnoxious and egotistical adventurer J. Moldon-Mott, he begins an investigation not only into the circumstances of the death but into history of the seemingly uninteresting book.  The trio quickly finds themselves in a race to unmask the murderer not only before he strikes again, but before he strikes out at them!

A Book of the Dead is a great Blackburn book with some very odd quirks to it.  In my introduction, I talk about why it may be considered Blackburn’s most rare and most famous book, at the same time!  Folks who enjoy clever, fast-paced mystery novels will find it quite enjoyable.