Little Shoppe of Horrors these tomes were going to focus on all the movies Hammer had at one stage planned but then for various reasons abandoned. Yes, this was screaming niche niche market but I was ready to explore the murkey alleys of all the What Ifs that Hammer had once promised further. And LSoH always promises high quality research and excellent bang for your bucks. Some of the recent issues – such as the Amicus Special from a while back – were effectively standalone books in their own right for half the price of what it would have cost to have them properly published in either hardcover or paperback.
The moment LAST BUS was out I started getting emails from readers telling me that I may possibly need to lower my ridiculously high expectations and complaints were raised about anything from the general layout to the selection of photos as well as an abundance of typos and a general subpar experience.
So what is my stance now that I have read it?
LAST BUS is quite obviously a labour of love. Glen Davies has researched this subject extensively since the 1980s and it shows from the amount of info displayed here. The first volume deals with “The Glory Years” from 1950-1970, the second one with the “Decline, Fall and Rebirth” from 1970-2010. Some of the entries are short, others quite extensive. Whenever possible we get to read not just about the project itself but also what may have happened, whether it may have been filmed before or after it was dropped by Hammer. If it was based on a novel, then you can rely on additional info about the book, cover scans, short reviews etc. The author even highlights films that appear to have been announced by Hammer but were in actual fact spoofs concocted by fans such as DRACULA WALKS BY NIGHT, a “story which tied the legend of Vlad the Impaler and Sherlock Holmes into a vampire yarn set in London in 1895”. Or projects such as ROSEMARY'S BABY and DOCTORS WEAR BLACK (later to be filmed as INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED) that were suggested to Hammer by Terence Fisher but never adopted by the company.
So if you're in any way interested in that area of Hammer research, then on that level you won't be disappointed.
The trouble is that a publication such as this one cannot be judged on the general contents alone regardless of how fascinating they may be.
And one of the first things anyone is going to notice is indeed the abundance of typos and and other kinds of editing errors. Though richly illustrated there is a general feel of a slapdash approach to the layout. Now I have been raised on cheaply produced fanzines from the 1980s and overall this alone doesn't bother me too much if only the contents are worthwhile.
Those 80s fanzines, however, only cost a few pesetas. The retail price for LAST BUS, on the other hand is $32.95 for both editions combined plus postage. So when I ordered this I ended up paying a bit more than £30 (p&p included). That is a staggering amount for a small press publication and I could have easily have got an entire McFarland book for that deal.
So with that in mind I do feel that the publication would have been better off a) proofread and b) in the regular format (either as a regular LSoH or Special Issue) at the normal rate of around $8.95 (plus postage). Had it been published that way, I am sure I would have praised it to the hills. As it is I do, however, feel that it fails with its price-value ratio.
Now I absolutely adore the ground that Dick Klemensen is walking on. He has done more than ANYONE over the years to help carry Hammer's candle on and in his publication has always provided groundbreaking Hammer (and general Brit Horror) related research. And LAST BUS TO BRAY is indeed a typical example for the kind of publication that noone else but Dick would touch. It will be well thumped by me over the years (no doubt about that) but given all the numerous layout issues and the price it retails at readers may indeed think twice about forking out their hard earned cash for this LSoH Special.