Johnny Mains has edited the acclaimed anthology Back from the Dead: the Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories (2010) and is project editor for the October re-issue of the 1959 edition of The Pan Book of Horror Stories

Johnny has had short stories published in the Black Books series, has written for SFX and The Paperback Fanatic and his debut collection With Deepest Sympathy is being published by Obverse Books.

Here, Johnny talks about the genesis of the project to bring The Pan Book of Horror Stories to a new generation of horror-story lovers.


Around the time of trying to get the Pan Horrors back into the public consciousness I was knee-deep with my Pan Horror tribute anthology, Back From The Dead. I had received all of the stories and interview excerpts from the authors concerned and was trying to make sense of Herbert van Thal, the editor of the original series and whose biography I was writing.

After not getting very far with Pan Macmillan the first time I phoned up, I think I got through to someone who just didn’t know what I was talking about – I tried again and got through to the wonderful Julie Crisp who put me in touch with Jeremy Trevathan, Fiction Editor at Pan Books. I talked to him and he sounded very enthusiastic about the Pan Horrors and that it was something he had been thinking about doing for a while. I told him about Back from the Dead and he asked for a wee presentation. I sent him a couple of stories, some of the interview excerpts and some testimonials I had found on the web from authors such as Philip Pullman, Sara Waters and Muriel Gray all talking about their experiences with the Pan Horrors. In the course of our phone calls Jeremy asked if he could publish Back From The Dead in late 2010 or early 2011. I politely declined, saying that I wanted the book to come out in time for the World Horror Con in March 2010. Jeremy then brought up the subject of reprinting the very first Pan Horror book and could I help track down the copyright holders to the stories? I said I would try my damndest and after a lot of research and some blind luck – I started phoning (as the newly appointed project editor on behalf of Pan Macmillan) the majority of the estates/copyright holders to see if we could reprint them).

I then asked Jeremy if I could write an introduction to the book, as it being a re-issue, wouldn’t people want to know why it was being published again? He agreed and I spent a few weeks writing it – and once it was done, sent it to Richard Dalby and Hugh Lamb to get them to pick up on any factual errors I may have made. Thankfully there were none, and the essay, A Brief History of the Horrors, gives a solid look at the series and the many writers who wrote for it.
So there you have it – I have the finished manuscript next to me as I type and in a few days the first copies will be coming from the printers for me to salivate over.

One of the many questions I’ve been asked is why Pan are only bringing out the original book and not re-booting the series? I think a major part of it is the uncertainty of the market, the only mainstream publisher doing anthologies with any real success at the moment is Robinson, with PS, the independent publishers, pushing at the outer fringes of the mainstream. I feel that Pan have been brilliant in dipping their toe in the market, and it has a certain sense of ‘coming home’ for them – and I’m extremely humbled that they chose me to spearhead the project.

I believe that if the Pan Horrors are fully re-booted, the series will be met with considerable success. There is a wealth of incredibly talented male and female authors out there who write predominantly within the small presses – and if you were to open up ‘slush piles’, I’m sure that there may be one or two new discoveries to be made. Also, looking at current mainstream authors, and people who used to write for the Pan Horrors in the past, I’m sure that many of these people would love to give a stab at writing for the series.

I can’t wait to hold the new edition in my hands, and I’ll sit down and delight myself with Oscar Cooks’ His Beautiful Hands, George Fielding Eliot’s The Copper Bowl, and many other stories which have been ingrained in me for years, but which have taken on a deeper meaning over this past year.

My dreams have definitely become more twisted…


Many thanks to Johnny for providing this brief insight into a very worthwhile project. It certainly deserves to be wildly successful and, if it pans out that way (see what I did there?), then I sincerely hope that a relaunch of the series will be forthcoming very soon. So, go grab yourself a copy when it’s released!

4 Responses to “Guest-blog: JOHNNY MAINS on the PAN BOOK OF HORROR STORIES reissue”

  1. Thana Niveau Says:

    Johnny’s the right man for the job and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. I’ve had a privileged peek at WITH DEEPEST SYMPATHY and have to echo Nicholas Royle in saying that, if Johnny had been born a few years earlier, his own stories would have found a home in the original Pan Horrors.

    Well done, Johnny and I’m really looking forward to Number One! And Number Two, Three, Four….

  2. I actually proofread and edited (slightly) WITH DEEPEST SYMPATHY…. and I think his stories do indeed hark back to a much simpler approach to storytelling… good stuff… 🙂

  3. Great work. Johnny. A cracking idea!I hope all goes well!
    goon one Simon.

  4. What a great idea. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

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