Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lee Brown Coye (1907-1981)-Part Three

Lee Brown Coye met Lamont Buchanan in 1944, probably in late spring or early summer, after Coye had received an assignment to illustrate Sleep No More, an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by August Derleth. Unlike so many books edited by Derleth and published after 1939, Sleep No More was issued not by Derleth's own Arkham House but by the New York firm of Farrar and Rinehart. In the summer of 1944, when Farrar and Rinehart was preparing Sleep No More for publication, Coye was unknown to Derleth. He had been selected instead by Farrar and Rinehart editor Philip Wylie, a former writer of pulp fiction, or by one of Wylie's associates, art editor Faith Ball or managing editor Adelaide Sherer. In any case, Sleep No More was to be Lee Brown Coye's first widely distributed illustrative work in the field of fantasy and the macabre, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Given only a month to complete his work, Coye dashed off twenty-five interior illustrations and the design for the dust jacket, including typography. Added to the difficulty of a short deadline was the fact that the book was already at the printer and unavailable for Coye's review. If he was going to read the stories included in the book, he would have to go to the source--to the New York offices of Weird Tales magazine. (1) There, Lamont Buchanan, who doubled as associate editor and art editor, noticed Coye at work, studying back issues and making sketches. Buchanan started a conversation; Coye left that day with his first assignment for Weird Tales. Other artists--Virgil Finlay, Margaret Brundage, Hannes Bok--had created wondrous and fantastic art for Weird Tales, but few could match the weird, macabre, outré work produced by Lee Brown Coye over the next seven years.

In the meantime, Sleep No More: Twenty Masterpieces of Horror for the Connoisseur was published on September 21, 1944, as the length of night overtook that of the day. The book was a success, selling out its initial print run of 6,000 copies. A printing of 2,500 copies soon followed, as did two more volumes in the series, Who Knocks? Twenty Masterpieces of the Spectral for the Connoisseur (1946) and Night Side: Masterpieces of the Strange & Terrible (1947). Both were edited by August Derleth, published by Farrar and Rinehart, and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye.

Coye kept busy with his fine art, commercial art, and illustration throughout the 1950s. Beginning in the early 1960s, he created illustrations for Derleth's own Arkham House. First came Who Fears the Devil by Manly Wade Wellman and The Dunwich Horror and Others by H.P. Lovecraft, both in 1963. Over the next seven years, Coye illustrated eight more books for Arkham House, including volumes by Lovecraft, Arthur J. Burks, E. Hoffman Price, and Clark Ashton Smith. Derleth was to have written a story based on Lee Brown Coye's experiences along Mann Brook in 1938. Death, however, intervened, claiming August Derleth on July 4, 1971. If Coye's story was going to be fictionalized, another writer would have to do it.

To be continued . . .

(1) Seven--perhaps eight--of the twenty stories in Sleep No More first appeared in Weird Tales.

A gallery of book jacket illustrations by Lee Brown Coye (and one by Frank Utpatel), beginning with Sleep No More: Twenty Masterpieces of Horror for the Connoisseur (1944) . . .

and the Armed Services Edition of the same book.

Who Knocks? Twenty Masterpieces of the Spectral for the Connoisseur (1946).

The Night Side: Masterpieces of the Strange & Terrible (1947).

Who Fears the Devil by Manly Wade Wellman (1963), Coye's first job for Arkham House.

The Dunwich Horror and Others by H.P. Lovecraft (1963).

At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft (1964), in green and orange.

Dagon & Other Macabre Tales by H.P. Lovecraft (1965).

Black Medicine by Arthur J. Burks (1966).

The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces by H.P. Lovecraft and Divers Hands (1966), with cover art by Frank Utpatel. Coye did interior illustrations for this volume.

Strange Gateways by E. Hoffman Price (1967).

3 Tales of Horror by H.P. Lovecraft (1967).

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and Others (1969).

Other Dimensions by Clark Ashton Smith (1970). Sticks.
Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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