Author Archives: Allied Authors

How to Survive a Fantasy Adventure: Teen Edition

Wizards and wannabes star in new novel geared toward gamers

Fans of fantasy roleplaying games (RPGs) can learn what not to do when exploring a new world, thanks to David Michael Williams’ latest novel.

The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot features a handful of would-be heroes who find themselves woefully unprepared for the adventure they always hoped for.

Front cover of The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot“It’s what’s called a portal fantasy,” Williams said. “Five Midwestern teens are pulled into another world by a sorceress who confuses them for actual champions. They have to complete her perilous quest in order to get back home.”

“In some ways, it’s every gamer’s dream come true and nightmare rolled into one,” he added.

The Wisconsin author describes his new novel as Galaxy Quest meets Dungeons & Dragons. The characters are all live-action roleplaying gamers—aka LARPers—and include Sir Larpsalot, the party leader; musical storyteller Elvish Presley; Brutus the Bullheaded, a surly minotaur; know-it-all Master Prospero; and Tom Foolery, the team’s not-so-stealthy sneak.

While the coming-of-age tale is classified as YA fiction, the book was written to appeal to fantasy aficionados both young and old as well as anyone who enjoys fun-filled, action-heavy adventures—such as teen gamers who aren’t typically drawn to reading.

Unlike Williams’ earlier sword-and-sorcery novels, which all took place in the magical world of Altaerra, The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot straddles the real world, the fictional setting that the LARPers invented for their game and a brand-new realm filled with creatures they have never encountered, not even in their imaginations.

“The teens have to decide which fantasy clichés can help them overcome obstacles and which could get them killed,” Williams said. “Every chapter starts with a snippet of gaming slang, which somehow fits into the next segment of their crazy quest.”

“This book is my tongue-in-cheek love letter to the fantasy RPGs I grew up playing and continue playing to this day,” he said.

One Million Words, Williams’ indie publishing company, published The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot on Oct. 1. The paperback and e-book are available at He plans to narrate and produce the audiobook edition in 2021.

Williams is also the author of four other fantasy novels, including Magic’s Daughter, which was released in paperback, e-book, and audiobook editions earlier this year, as well as The Soul Sleep Cycle, a dreampunk series that explores life, death and eternity. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2005.


Escape for a spell with new novel Magic’s Daughter

Coming-of-age fantasy conjures up family conflict, intrigue, romance

Readers can return to the magical, medieval realm of Altaerra in David Michael Williams’ recently released seventh novel.

Magic's Daughter coverMagic’s Daughter, currently available in paperback and Kindle editions, tells the story of Selena Nelesti, a young aristocrat torn between her family’s expectations and her own ambition to become something more—someone who shapes the very world.

“Selena wants nothing to do with her noble name,” Williams said. “She seeks out forbidden knowledge as a means of escape, but whether magic will be the key to her freedom or the path to another prison remains to be seen.”

Rounding out the cast of characters are members of Selena’s family, including her manipulative mother, increasingly distant father, and beloved but ailing grandmother as well as a stable boy who provides a perspective from outside the castle, a combative priest, and a wizard who will change Selena’s life in ways both seen and unseen.

Magic’s Daughter takes place in Williams’ proprietary world of Altaerra, which also served as the setting for The Renegade Chronicles, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy published in 2016.

“The Renegade Chronicles introduced readers to Altaerra, and Magic’s Daughter expands on that groundwork, exploring new geography and diving deeper into how the magic of that world works,” the Wisconsin author said.

“But you don’t have to have read The Renegade Chronicles to appreciate Magic’s Daughter. It is a separate, self-contained story,” he added.

Williams’ indie publishing company, One Million Words, published Magic’s Daughter on April 14. Both the paperback and e-book editions are available at He plans to release an audiobook version later in 2020.

In addition to Magic’s Daughter and The Renegade Chronicles, Williams is the author of The Soul Sleep Cycle, a dreampunk series that explores life, death and eternity. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2005.

A sequel is born: Children of the Saviour

Friday the 13th brought nothing but good luck for a certain member of Allied Authors.

Christopher Whitmore published his second novel, Children of The Saviour, on Sept. 13, 2019. The book is a sequel to 2017’s Saviour, a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure.

The back-cover blurb captures where Children of The Saviour picks up and hints at new territory ahead:

“A year after the events of SAVIOUR, Miracle Ashe returns home to find her sister and friends entangled in a perilous skein of intrigue: a glorious angel, wrapped in tendrils of living flame has unexpectedly arrived in the city. He proclaims that he is the son and heir of The Saviour himself.

“Miracle isn’t convinced.

“Her journey to discover the truth behind this angel of fire reunites her with old friends and ends up introducing her to astonishing, forgotten corners of the world. However, enemies familiar and new await her, both at home and across the sea.”

Whitmore’s published works combine complex religious themes, thrilling action, and a generous measure of comedy to keep readers turning pages and craving the next installment in the series. The Fond du Lac native joined Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2017, shortly after the release of his debut novel.

Both Saviour and Children of The Saviour are available in paperback and as e-books on

Soul Sleep Cycle comes to mind-bending conclusion

David Michael Williams’ psychological rollercoaster of a book series reached terminal velocity when If Dreams Can Die launched earlier this month.

If Dreams Can Die book coverThe 360-page paperback or e-book depicts the final confrontation between a death-defying cult and the CIA-sanctioned dream drifters determined to protect the collective unconscious. If Dreams Can Die reveals important information about Annette Young, a mysterious figure from the first two books and the alleged villain of the series.

“Annette has devoted her life as well as her afterlife to reconnecting with her departed family, even if it means destroying the dreamscape,” Williams said. “Although she has committed reprehensible crimes for her cause, she still sees herself as a hero.”

If Dreams Can Die ties together the intertwining storylines of If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep, both published in 2018.

“Characters who were enemies in the first two novels must join forces to stop Annette,” Williams said. “But how do you defeat someone who is already dead?”

As with its predecessors, If Dreams Can Die contains elements of several literary genres, including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and suspense. The Soul Sleep Cycle could also be categorized as dreampunk, a subgenre that raises the question “What is real?”

“I set out to write something I’d never read before, something unique and admittedly experimental,” the Wisconsin author said.

Williams’ indie publishing company, One Million Words, published If Dreams Can Die on May 21. Both the paperback and e-book will be available at

In addition to The Soul Sleep Cycle, Williams is the author of The Renegade Chronicles, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy comprised of Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters. He is a 1999 graduate of UW-Fond du Lac and a 2001 graduate of UW-Milwaukee, where he studied creative writing. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2005.

Learn more about the author and his fiction at

AAW members to present at UntitledTown

Three Allied Authors of Wisconsin spec-fic writers will share their experiences and expertise at an upcoming book festival.

Mark J. Engels, Christopher Whitmore and David Michael Williams will participate in panels and a workshop at UntitledTown, an annual literary event that promotes all aspects of book culture. The festival will be held April 25 to 28 throughout downtown Green Bay, Wis.

Most of the events, including readings, book signings and presentations, are free and open to the public. Here are the events featuring AAW members:

Fantasy & Sci-fi World-Building Workshop

Williams will lead a workshop that focuses on the essential elements for creating a fully realized world and offer tips for successfully integrating those details into one’s story.

  • 4 – 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, in Think Tank C of the Brown County Library (Central Branch), 515 Pine St.

Writing & Publishing Sci-fi / Paranormal / Fantasy Fiction

Engels, Whitmore and Williams — along with three other Wisconsin authors — will share their trials, passion for the craft, the horrors of publishing and more during this panel.

  • 12 – 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27, in the Waterford Room of St. Brendan’s Inn, 234 S. Washington St.

Writing Mysteries & Thrillers

At this panel, Engels and a handful of other Wisconsin writers will talk about the craft of writing in the mystery and thriller genres.

  • 4 – 5 p.m. Saturday, April 27, in Breakout Room 5A of the KI Convention Center, 333 Main St.

For more details about the festival, including the full schedule of events, visit


Who knows Solar Pons?

In 1953—with tongue firmly in cheek—editor Anthony Boucher provided readers of Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction the lowdown on August Derleth:

Mr. August Derleth is the literary agent in this country for such writers as Stephen Grendon, H. Russell Wakefield and Lyndon Parker, M. D. Dr. Parker is the Boswell of that modern master of the science of deduction, Mr. Solar Pons, the famed consulting detective of 7B Praed Street, London. Mr. Derleth has marketed three volumes of the Doctor’s accounts of his friend’s triumphs: In Re: Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Solar Pons and Three Problems for Solar Pons (all published by Mycroft & Moran)—a criminously delightful trio that any reader will, as Vincent Starrett say, “accept with enthusiasm.”

Boucher was himself a well-known critic and mystery writer. Starrett had become a leading authority on the world-famous literary detective, Sherlock Holmes. And Derleth was Wisconsin’s most prolific regional writer and publisher.

What resonated with readers, however, was the inference here—and in the new story “The Adventure of the Snitch in Time” (recalled with the help of science fiction writer Mack Reynolds)—that Solar Pons is Sherlock Holmes, just as Dr. Parker is Sherlock’s sidekick Dr. Watson . . .

Adding nuanced meaning to a question Derleth asked when publishing the Pons collections of stories under his own M&M imprint:

“Do You Know Solar Pons?”


Do You Know


If this doesn’t ring the bell, go back and read my earlier post on this site: The Mystery of the Milwaukee – Chicago – Sauk City Connection

Then you will know why Solar Pons—as does Sherlock Holmes—has his own legion of fans who seek out the Derleth detective’s earliest appearances in the American wood-pulp magazines of the 1920s and 30s . . .




And collect Derleth’s M&M books, known as the Pontine canon—collect even the publishing ephemera associated with those books.

Literary people know all about ephemera—in this case, almost anything related to a press, or imprint, items with a limited lifespan not offered for sale to the public. Advertising. Giveaways. Those that do the collecting are the diehard fans, and usually it is the paper items they collect.

As for Pontine ephemera, check out what my partner Don Herron posted only a few years ago:  Don concluded his blog by noticing, “Yeah, I guess the ephemera collecting game is once more afoot…”

And so it was.

In fact, it had been afoot for a long time.

Way back in 1985, Mycroft & Moran and Arkham House collector—the House being Derleth’s more famous publishing imprint specializing in supernatural fiction—Phillip T. Mays and bookseller-publisher Roy A. Squires issued a little chapbook bibliography, The Phil Mays Collection of Arkham House Ephemerae: A Descriptive Listing.

Combining the two imprints made sense, because Derleth usually included M&M within Arkham’s more famous Stock Lists and bulletins. Almost immediately the little items listed in Squires-Mays began to sky-rocket in price, a large contingent of Arkham or Derleth collectors wanting to find and add each and every one to their collections.

A difficult task to complete with so many of the pieces genuinely rare—with little or no knowledge of the quantities originally printed, or how many now survive.

Mays included two advertising pieces Derleth used to promote only M&M titles: the first a postcard that announced “— a new Mycroft & Moran book, coming December 12, 1952 . . . Three Problems for Solar Pons”; and then a brochure that blared, “Coming Late in 1955! The Return of Solar Pons.”

At this point you might ask why these ephemera pieces are important . . .

To which I would respond by asking, “How well do you know Solar Pons?

That’s because I’ve sampled the little treasures of interesting information one can find buried in the ephemera. For example, from—and only from—the Mays find could I deduce the true story behind the small and unusual Three Problems book—unusually small compared to earlier collections in that it contained only three of the detective’s adventures.


3 Problems


Yes, a little digging turns up the fact that Derleth published this book in the 50’s when small publishers were struggling for sales against changing tastes and the rising costs of doing business following World War II—who wouldn’t think Derleth wasn’t merely responding to these operational realities?

The ephemera pieces suggest otherwise—a motive perhaps historically significant . . .

The very moment Derleth decided he would mirror in pastiche the entire Sherlock Holmes canon produced by Arthur Conan Doyle, who had once brought the Holmes canon to a temporary end, interrupting it after chronicling twenty-six adventures.

Derleth introduces Three Problems sadly, proclaiming that “These are quite possibly the last Solar Pons pastiches I shall write,” for reasons he blamed on new activity within the Doyle estate…

Three brought the total of Pons adventures in print to exactly 26.

Coincidence? Perhaps there was a coded message in the utterance Derleth is known to have begun making: “I think Doyle had, and so Derleth must also have”. . .

A message of intent which explains how the meaningful title for the next volume of Pons chronicles series was decided; mimicking that of Doyle’s third Holmes collection, it would be The Return of Solar Pons.

None of this is to say that Derleth, a cagey publisher with excellent business sense, didn’t make at least one adjustment to cope with a softened market: he trimmed his initial order of Three Problems, estimated (if we believe the colophon) to have been 2,000 books, down to 990—probably the exact number of patrons who had routinely purchased the earlier collections.

We learn as well from the M&M ephemera Mays listed another tantalizing, behind-the-scenes, bit of data. How otherwise would we know that the collection Derleth planned to follow The Return had, for a short while, The Problems of Solar Pons as its working title? Only from the ephemera do we learn this, a “lost title” apparently undreamed of by Sheldon Jeffery–or else it would’ve been with the others he included under that heading in The Arkham House Companion (1989), a reference book covering every AH and M&M title published, or merely considered.

Perhaps so that it wouldn’t be confused with Three Problems, the already announced Problems of Solar Pons was retitled The Reminiscences of Solar Pons prior to publication.

The Mays listing of Derleth’s AH and M&M ephemera gave completists a great start for finding the game, but new finds made it evident almost immediately that his collection had not been complete.

Finally, about sixteen or seventeen years later, my friend Don Herron jumped in. He wanted to refine the Mays list—compile a new one that would be up-to-date, definitive, and otherwise as useful as it possibly could be.

On the sidelines, I agreed to help.

It would be Don’s list, but I supplied every new item I could reasonably, authoritatively, corroborate the existence of, even if not all of the needed information was at my disposal.

One of these was another strictly M&M piece, which the reputable New York bookseller Lloyd Currey listed in an old catalog—it was a variation of the Mays “Do You Know Solar Pons.”

All I had for the description was an excerpt from the actual piece, a quotation used in the piece that Currey used to promote it:

“If you liked Sherlock Holmes, you will not want to miss Solar Pons, The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. . . .” In Re: Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Solar Pons, The Memoirs of Solar Pons, The Return of Solar Pons, The Reminiscences of Solar Pons. Includes two pages devoted to offset reviews of the Pons saga from various sources – Starrett in his Books Alive column, Time, San Francisco Chronicle, etc. “Under the imprint of Mycroft & Moran. Order without delay from your bookseller or Arkham House: Publishers. . . .”

It was enough for us to include it in the new list. And today, validating our decision, I located one, and now own the actual piece.

“Arkham House Ephemera: The Classic Years” by Don Herron was published in 2002, in Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine.

Since then, however, Don & I both are aware there is game still afoot. But not even he knows about the two additional brochures I found, which raise the “Do You Know Solar Pons” series to a total of four.

For Derlethians and Sherlockians—especially for Arkham House completists—here is my updated list of the ephemera Derleth devoted exclusively to Mycroft & Moran:

Arkham House Announces.
“— a new Mycroft & Moran book, coming December 12, 1952. . . Three Problems for Solar Pons. . . .”

“The Memoirs of Solar Pons: A Unicorn Selection—Coming Next Month.” Unicorn Mystery News V3n12 (c. 1953): 10-11.

1954: LETTER w/M&M letterhead.
“Solar Pons joins me in wishing all friends of his as well as the Master, his best on the occasion of the Master’s Centenary!”
Signed by August Derleth, “Sebastian Moran” and “Mycroft Holmes.”

Do You Know Solar Pons?
“Coming Late in 1955! The Return of Solar Pons.”

1961-63: BROCHURE.
Do You Know Solar Pons?
“If you liked Sherlock Holmes, you will not want to miss … The Reminiscences of Solar Pons.”

1965: LETTER w/Deerstalker (M&M) letterhead.
Dear Reviewer:
The Casebook of Solar Pons brings to 56 the total number of Pontine tales in print — the precise number of the Sherlock Holmes stories in short length.”

Do You Know Solar Pons?
“If you liked Sherlock Holmes, you will not want to miss … The Casebook of Solar Pons.”

c. 1966: BROCHURE.
About Solar Pons.
A 57th story, The Adventure of the Orient Express, was published (1965) in chapbook form … The Candlelight Press also published in 1965 Praed Street Papers.”

1971: CABINET CARD w/Roy Hunt illustration of Solar Pons & Dr. Lyndon Parker.
“All thanks for your order … We expect to publish [Chronicles] in October.”

Is the foregoing all the game there is to find that is exclusively Mycroft & Moran ephemera?

Maybe, if we recall that announcements for the first two books in the Pons series—In Re: Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Solar Pons—were adequately covered in Arkham House pieces, and that those published after 1967—Mr. Fairlie’s Final Journey, The Adventure of the Unique Dickensians and A Praed Street Dossier—were announced in Derleth’s house-magazine, The Arkham Collector.

Maybe, but the likelihood is there’s more game afoot . . .

John D. Haefele submitted this article.

© John D. Haefele. All rights reserved.

Soul Sleep sequel takes dreamscape to new depths

Williams’ genre-bending book series returns this month

Paperback cover of If Sin Dwells DeepEven good girls have secrets…

If Sin Dwells Deep, the second installment in David Michael Williams’ speculative fiction series, tells the story of Allison, a straight-laced woman who transforms into a rebellious goddess when she dreams.

“Allison is living a double life,” the Fond du Lac author said. “She thinks having a fling in the dreamscape is harmless fun until a sadistic predator learns her true identity and she must deal with the real-world consequences.”

The 380-page paperback and e-book delves deeper into the hidden world of dream drifters, people who possess the power to invade the minds of others. If Sin Dwells Deep also sheds light on the war between gifted government agents and those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death and the afterlife—a conflict only hinted at in the first book.

As with its predecessor, If Souls Can Sleep, the new novel contains elements of science fiction, fantasy, suspense, metafiction and more.

“It’s a wonderfully weird mashup,” Williams said. “I took a risk by doing something different. Given the positive reception of the first book, I’m thrilled to report that readers apparently appreciate the strangeness.”

Although If Sin Dwells Deep is the second book in The Soul Sleep Cycle, it is not a typical sequel.

“Book Two is a parallel novel, which means the plot runs concurrently with that of Book One. It’s another side of the story. The two books are interconnected yet independent,” Williams said.

“Which means readers can enjoy If Sin Dwells Deep without having read If Souls Can Sleep,” he added.

Williams’ indie publishing company, One Million Words, will publish If Sin Dwells Deep in paperback on Oct. 2. The e-book is currently available through the Kindle Store.

To celebrate the release of If Sin Dwells Deep, Williams will sell and sign copies of the book from 5 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 2 at Gallery & Frame Shop, 94 S. Main St., Fond du Lac, as part of Fond du Lac Gallery Night.

The third installment in The Soul Sleep Cycle, If Dreams Can Die, is slated for publication in spring 2019.

In addition to The Soul Sleep Cycle, Williams is the author of The Renegade Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy comprised of Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2005 and the Wisconsin Writers Association in 2018.

Learn more about the author and his fiction at

Allied Authors say a sad farewell to Fern Ramirez

The Allied Authors of Wisconsin lost a longtime member and close friend on July 19, 2018, when Fern Ramirez passed away at age 91.

A onetime teacher, Fern married Tom Ramirez in 1947. The two joined AAW in 1956 after being invited to a meeting by the late Beverly Butler Olson, a childhood playmate. Fern valued being a part of AAW and counted it as a privilege to have known Larry Sternig, Ann Powers Schwartz and Harry Schwartz, Don Emerson, Aubrey Young and many others during her rich tenure.

An avid, attentive reader, Fern always provided constructive feedback on members’ manuscripts.

“In the group, Fern’s comments were eagerly sought, well thought out and highly beneficial. Fortunately, her discerning eye, attention to detail and sharp wit were always tempered by a kind, gentle heart,” Jack Byrne recalled.

“An extraordinary lady, Fern was loved, and she shall be missed.”

Fern also went above and beyond with her assistance, including proofing one AAW member’s trilogy.

“Dear friend, fellow Allied Author, proofreader — Fern was all of these things and more to me,” David Michael Williams reflected. “While she will be greatly missed, I know she is now in a place where there is no pain or suffering — indeed, only joy — and look forward to reuniting with her again when my time comes.”

Fern’s various teaching positions ranged from first grade through high school and also included leading classes at a women’s correction facility. Her writing consists of short news articles and op-ed pieces. She also wrote a series of Sunday school stories with lesson plans and tinkered with a children’s novel, Bay’s Story.

Book-themed bike rack memorializes Ramirez’s memoir

Photo provided by the Fond du Lac Public Library

A longtime member of the Allied Authors was recently honored with an engraving on an unconventional monument.

Thomas P. Ramirez is one of six Wisconsin writers whose name appears on a new bicycle rack outside of the Fond du Lac Public Library. He is featured for his memoir, That Wonderful Mexican Band, published in 2017.

The book-themed rack was introduced as part of recent improvements to the library. When two standard bike racks had to be removed to accommodate a driveway redesign, library staff elected to replace them with a unique option that celebrates Fond du Lac writers from across the years and from a variety of genres.

The following works are represented on the rack (with abbreviated titles to fit the space):

  • Foot of the Lake: An Early History of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin by Cindy Barden
  • Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
  • Fond du Lac: A Gift of the Glacier by Michael Mentzer
  • Book cover of "That Wonderful Mexican Band"That Wonderful Mexican Band: A Memoir of The Great Depression by Thomas P. Ramirez
  • Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome by Darold Treffert
  • Secrets of the Ledge: Pictorial Report of Archaeological Findings on the Niagara Escarpment in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin by Dwight Weiser

The inclusion of That Wonderful Band is appropriate not only because the memoir so vividly captures Fond du Lac during The Great Depression, but because Ramirez specifically cites the Fond du Lac Public Library as one of his favorite childhood destinations.

Ramirez, 92, is also the author of 150 paperbacks and dozens of published short stories—including three popular Phoenix Force novels in the 1980s—making him among the state’s most prolific authors. He joined the Allied Authors in 1955.

Related links

The Branding of Sac Prairie

1939 Cinderella Stamps

Mr. Derleth did it differently. This month he had 20,000 stamps, the same size as a postage stamp, printed each with his own picture on it. Above the picture it says: SAC PRAIRIE SAGA … and below it, it says, with simple eloquence: AUGUST DERLETH. These stamps Mr. Derleth is affixing to letters which he sends out and he has given sheets of them to Sauk City merchants with the request that they affix them to whatever mail they happen to be sending out during the holidays. Just like the Tuberculosis seals, you know. (Betty Case, Capital Times, November 28, 1939)

More than a decade ago, I wrote the short article “The Branding of Arkham House” to explain the reason behind the never-duplicated cachet surrounding Wisconsin author August Derleth’s publishing venture Arkham House: Publisher, which has lasted longer than three quarters of a century and is present yet today.

Primarily a marketing concept, branding is the continuous process of imbuing a specific company’s products or services with unique meaning in the minds of customers and reviewers. Derleth did exactly that remarkably well with Arkham House, as any aficionado of the imprint knows already, for which even the least among the company’s published ephemerae are sought and collected, commanding high prices.

Without this understanding about the dynamics of branding, Derleth’s unexplained subtleties—he was a personality known more for his lack of this quality, especially as a younger man—have come across as self-aggrandizing or self-promoting, rather than his sincere effort to make indelible and desirable the things he believed and was willing to stand up for.

In Derleth’s view, his entire world was connected—his writing (fictional, historical, political, pastiche, verse, nonfictional, reviews), his publishing (Arkham House, Mycroft & Moran, Stanton & Lee), his literary venues (Scribner’s, Prairie Press, Candlelight Press), even his milieu (Sauk City-Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin River, Place of Hawks)—which he represented and which represented him.

Perhaps instinctually, Derleth made even the most common elements in his life a part of this effort. I’ve already described, for example, the mystique of the Christmas cards he sent to neighbors and correspondents early in his career:

A Derleth Christmas card

Derleth conducted his business on papers featuring the imprints of his publishing ventures, but he adorned letters written to friends and other associates with carefully selected illustrations, usually made from woodcuts fashioned by J. J. Lankes, Frank Utpatel, and other artists: “I wonder whether you could do for me a spring woodcut … an evening scene, new moon, with perhaps a plowman coming from his field or in the field—something   that is the essence of the country of past time, rather than the mechanized country of today” (Derleth to Lankes: 8 Oct. 1958). Here’s a different example:



Derleth unfailingly represented the Wisconsin prairie landscape and lifestyle during the season in which he was writing, much to the amusement of his close epistolary friend H. P. Lovecraft—the now-famous writer of cosmic weird tales—whose personal thrift required that he use every inch of available space for written content only, despite having developed a microscopic script. Since then other Lovecraftian fans have guffawed at Derleth’s odd consistency in this regard.

The curious thing is how many of these letters are extant, perhaps a majority. They were treasured and saved, and today they are sought and collected. Indeed, there is an active market for all Derleth’s correspondence, with the letters having artistic headers trading for $50, $100, even more apiece—well above those without, despite having equivalent content.

Indeed, there was synergy that developed between all that was Derleth and everything that comprised Sauk City-Prairie du Sac. Together, August Derleth and his towns became greater and were something of a Wisconsin brand. Derleth strove hard to put both on the map.

Which brings me to Derleth’s infamous Cinderella stamp pictured above, about which Case concluded, “Anyway, other men have blasted their way to fame when other means failed, so why not August?”

Cinderellas are privately produced labels that are the standard size and shape of United States postage stamps. They range from Christmas and Easter Seals to exhibition labels, even the once ubiquitous S&H green stamps.

Cinderellas were common during the halcyon days of the U. S. Post Office. Book club stamps were not unusual. While many are common, those which were privately produced in limited numbers can be little-known and very rare.

Did Derleth purchase his Cinderella stamps? Perhaps they arrived as adjunct to his Guggenheim Fellowship of 1938, finalized sometime in 1939, awarded with the intent and purpose he should continue writing his Sac Prairie Saga.

Guggenheim envelope

Derleth’s Cinderella commemorates, unmistakably, his long-range “plan to tell the story of Sauk City and its twin village, Prairie du Sac, in a sequence of approximately fifty books, combining novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, journal extracts, and miscellaneous prose under the collective title of the Sac Prairie Saga” (Derleth).

Or perhaps he just felt the need to celebrate and so put to use a small amount of his Guggenheim funds, which he also used to stock his library and to bind newspaper comic strips. One description of the stamp reads:

The “stamp” is brown in color, printed on yellowish paper. The design is 24mm high by 18½mm wide. It is gummed, and to satisfy the curiosity of the philatelists among us, it is perforated 12½ . (“August Derleth Stamp”)

It is likely that other of the town residents who had grown up with Derleth, after they saw the stamp, responded much like Betty Case.

So much for mutually beneficial synergy…

I first became acquainted with the stamp many years later, as I searched for any Arkham ephemera. A fellow collector I knew well boasted he found a postcard with an unusual stamp and sent me a scan. The card read:

                        Dear Mr. ——–,

                        This note will acknowledge your payment for one
                        copy of H. P. Lovecraft’s THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS,
                        which we will ship to you within a week or ten


                                                                                     August Derleth

And here’s what it physically looks like:

1939 (enhanced)

Card with top (recipient) cropped off

Featured on the left, without the slightest explanation, was the first Derleth Cinderella stamp I had ever seen—but not the last.

The second Cinderella appeared to me only in an online image (but does prove that at least one Wisconsin business had circulated the stamps Derleth provided, if only wryly on communication addressed to Derleth himself).

1939 Cinderella Stamp (Dec. 16)

Not until this year, 2018, did I finally discover a great example I could procure—the best I could hope for—for which I paid dearly, though eagerly and without buyer’s remorse. My “Outsider postcard” is not only in crisp, perfect condition, but it is addressed to the famous artist Hannes Bok (both to be subjects of a later post).

These “Outsider postcards” should raise questions among Arkham House collectors. Should this item be on the official list of Arkham’s publishing ephemera, which is heartily collected? It commemorates the first issue of the publisher’s most famous book. There were no more than 300 of these created, probably fewer (but not much fewer) based on pre-publication sales, all worded similarly but addressed individually and essentially meeting the same criteria as the pre-publication announcements in the Mays or Herron lists.

Don Herron will know…

On a more basic level, are they desirable? That is the litmus test, and here is how I know they are:

After years of never sighting, or seeing for sale, a Derleth Cinderella stamp, an individual stamp finally popped up for bidding on eBay in 2004. I put in a healthy bid but lost.

Another turned up in 2007. I placed a large bid this time but lost again.

August Derleth died in 1971. His daughter April, who had been living in Place of Hawks and managing the publishing business, passed in 2011. Not surprisingly, some interesting items became available, including what appeared to be a full sheet of the stamps that turned up for auction on eBay in 2010. Guns blazing, I was outbid nonetheless.

1939 Cinderella Stamps ()full sheet)

In 2012, a block of four still in one piece went up. (I wondered if the previous winner was now selling his loot in lots.)

Yup, I lost yet again!

No doubt at all that Derleth’s stamp is a desired collectible. If you think I’m crazy, put in your own bid the next time, should you have the opportunity.

John D. Haefele contributed this article.

Works Cited

“The August Derleth Stamp.” Unattributed. August Derleth Society Newsletter Vol. 10, no. 4 (1981)

Case, Betty. “Day by Day.” [Madison] Capital Times (November 28, 1939)

Derleth, August. “August Derleth.” Book of Catholic Authors. Walter Romig, 1960.


%d bloggers like this: