Almost five years have passed since we last heard anything from that monarch of dim visions and recondite Mysteries, The Connoisseur. There were whispers of a long planed retreat in the sun stricken Mithraic caves of Cappadocia. Or was it to a mysterious and unnamed Coptic monastery in Alexandria? Others sustained The Connoisseur was captured by a group of Armenian ether drinkers, somewhere in an unknown village in Prussia. Something about a terrible “black ikon” was mentioned. A year ago, the author himself claimed that The Connoisseur was dying. Confronted with such contradictory, ambiguous and indeed – uneasy information, we decided to find out the truth on our own. We are pleased to say we have good news. The Connoisseur is alive and sends his august regards. For proof, we have three new long tales to infirm all rumors.
Enter through one carved door, and you are in a lost domain, an English enclave with its own rights and privileges, the sanctuary of an ancient and holy lineage, at the start of a strange quest that leads to the Black Sea and beyond. The fissure in another wall reveals a garden cinema, built in the New Egyptian style for a curious purpose, where visions of the future are not only seen on film. A third entrance leads to the hidden manufactory of an esoteric incense-maker, who deals in lichen and mummy dust, yew-berries and rare resins: has he the craft to undo the oldest, gravest curse of them all? And what is the significance of the red elephant and the ruined abbey?
Mark Valentine & John Howard offer here three new excellent
episodes from the casebook of the aesthetical occult detective, The
Connoisseur, whose adventures have been described as “curious and
wonderful” and “shot through with authentically fin-de-siècle gleams of
decadence”. Four further stories complete the collection. What is the
significance of the shining coin found by a churchyard wall, and how
does it involve two adepts of the Imperial Exploration Service? Here, a
simple talisman opens up remarkable possibilities. What is the secret of
Prince Zaleski and what exactly was the role of the Herb Committees
during the War? And what if a great Edwardian artist of the macabre
really had illustrated the keynote book of verses by the young and
fervent poet of Samarkand? In this final tale, as with the other six, we
are led to see singular visions that do not quite stay on the page.
Mark Valentine is an English author, biographer and editor.
Valentine’s short stories have been published by a number of small presses and in anthologies since the 1980s, and the exploits of his series character, "The Connoisseur", an occult detective, were published as The Collected Connoisseur in 2010.
As a biographer, Valentine has published a life of Arthur Machen in 1985 (Seren Press), and a study of Sarban, Time, A Falconer (Tartarus Press), is published in 2010. He has also written numerous articles for the Book and Magazine Collector magazine, and introductions for various books, including editions of work by Walter de la Mare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Saki, J. Meade Falkner and ... (more)