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Charnel House Editions

An exclusive article on the beautiful Charnel House limited edition Tim Powers books by the publisher, Joe Stefko.


For over a decade now Charnel House have been producing "state of the art limited edition books". This has included works by Dean Koontz, Ray Garton and Richard Bachman (a pseudonym of Stephen King). However it all started with a novel by Tim Powers. The man behind Charnel House, Joe Stefko explains how.

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"I met Tim Powers at a convention in Providence, Rhode Island in 1987. It was a perfunctory–how do you do-nice to meet you-I like your books-I like your band–kind of thing. Later in the year my band, The Turtles, was booked in southern California so I gave Tim a call and invited him and Serena down. We met in my hotel room, he had Blaylock in tow, and we exchanged books for records (his books, my records). I brought them to our sound check, a tedious process that they seemed to find interesting, and then went for dinner before the show. While eating Tim told me about the new book he was writing.

I found myself at home after the tour wandering around my library thinking about Tim's book, it sounded great and had all the elements that I loved. I wondered if there would be a limited edition of the book and who would do it. What it be another rebind? So I called Tim who told me that there wasn't a deal for a limited yet. I asked him if he would trust me with the duties – the only experience I had with books up to that point was buying them. He said yes and pointed me in the direction of the rights department and agreed to illustrate the edition. Without blowing everything out of proportion let's just say that I did my homework and The Stress Of Her Regard was published in a limited edition in 1989.

The book was a bit unconventional, I will agree, but Tim and I liked it. It was bound in denim that I had hand-streaked and was housed in a matching slipcase. I liked the look so much that I decided not to stamp the cover or spine, which I got a lot of grief for. And then there was the lettered edition which was issued in different color skins and came with an original drawing. I persuaded Tim to not only do twelve pieces for the book but another twelve so that each deluxe book would contain a piece. He hated me somewhere in the middle of the whole thing I'm sure but he still takes my calls.

Then came Last Call. I get a lot of praise for that book, especially the lettered edition, but I must say that I take my ideas from the story I am dealing with and Tim gave me a lot of great material to draw from. If he was a boring writer the binding would have had nothing to do with the story. But let's face it, if Powers was a boring writer I wouldn't have published him and this site would be dedicated to Monster Truck Rallies or Anne Rice Cookbooks. Or both!

Where They Are Hid was something Tim had written while these other books were in production. He didn't make a big deal out of it, as a matter of fact he was quite blasé about it. It's a great story. It takes a couple of readings to really see what he did and how he did it, it's brilliant. The title on the front board of the numbered edition has a mirror image of the last two words–it's very strange, but it goes with the story. You have to read the book to understand the joke. Like the stamping on the spine of the lettered "Stress", you don't know what that is until you've read the book, then it all makes sense. It's the binding that just keeps on giving.

I'm glad that my books are enjoyed and collected, I love designing and producing them. They can be seen if you visit www.charnelhouse.com. Tim is a wonderful writer and you are very intelligent, discerning readers.

Also, thanks to John Berlyne for having the foresight and taste to dedicate his time and heart to such a great author and for building a great site."

– Joe Stefko

All images and the Charnel House logo © Charnel House and are reproduced with their kind permission.