If, like me, you are A Reader Of A Certain Age, then you probably discovered James Branch Cabell’s work through the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, a beau geste sponsored in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Ian and Betty Ballantine.
Their Ballantine Books imprint was making a fortune off its paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings and they were anxious to find lucrative successors to J.R.R. Tolkien. The series was edited by Lin Carter, whose novels were little more than slavish fanboy imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, but whose leadership of the Adult Fantasy series had a huge impact on a generation of budding fantasy readers.
Carter combined an antiquarian bent with a shrewd eye for forgotten pulp masters, and the Adult Fantasy titles ranged from Gothic curios like William Beckford’s Vathek and such Tolken precursors as William Morris to seminal fantasists like Lord Dunsany and neglected American originals like Clark Ashton Smith. He also rescued Evangeline Walton from obscurity and sponsored the completion of her quartet of novels based on the Welsh Mabinogion, at least one of which, The Children of Llyr, stands among the greatest and least appreciated works of the twentieth century.
In addition to bringing valuable work to light, the Adult Fantasy books were remarkably attractive to the eye, as this gorgeous site will show. These books were an early milestone in my reading life, and I’m happy to pay tribute to them here.