Looking back, I'm not sure why Gerald Kersh's books weren't all over the paperback racks here in the US during the sixties. But I can remember seeing only Men Without Bones, and later Nightshade & Damnations. Another collection, On an Odd Note, had appeared in the late fifties. All three were collections of Kersh's fantastic tales. Of his many novels, I can recall seeing only Night and the City and The Secret Masters in paperback on the shelves of second-hand dealers. It's strange that Kersh's own books weren't all over the racks because his short stories were featured so often in books that were widely available. Kersh's stories were regularly found in Judith Merril's Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy anthologies, in the numerous anthologies that appeared under Alfred Hitchcock's byline, and in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
The first time I noticed Kersh was in a 1966 science fiction paperback called Star of Stars edited by Frederik Pohl; the book was a selection of the best stories from Pohl's Star Science Fiction anthologies and Kersh was represented there with one of his finest, "Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo?," the story of a soldier made immortal centuries ago and what his immortality did to him. By the time that book appeared, Men Without Bones and On an Odd Note had vanished from the mass market racks; what Kersh I found was in the Merril and Hitchcock anthologies. In 1968, Fawcett brought out Nightshade & Damnations, a collection of eleven of Kersh's best stories, selected and with an introduction by Harlan Ellison. Within a few years after that Kersh went out of print in the US and stayed that way for a long time. Finding Kersh titles here meant a lot of digging in used book shops or ordering them from overseas. Later, the internet and Amazon made them easier to find; a number of his titles are fairly pricey these days, but at least you can find them. Two of his novels and a short story collection (Prelude to a Certain Midnight, The Secret Masters, and Men Without Bones) are available in paperback here from Black Mask and Men Without Bones is also available for the Kindle. Small presses such as Crippen & Landru and Ash-Tree Press have issued short story collections, and most recently Centipede Press published London Stories and a new edition of Night and the City, but it's been quite some time since there was a large reissue of Kersh's work.
That may change this fall. According to the listing pulled up in Amazon's advanced search function, Faber Finds will reissue several of Kersh's books in trade paperback starting in September -- no word yet on ebook editions, but many Faber Finds titles have appeared both in print and ebook formats. Listed for release are Sgt Nelson of the Guard, The Horrible Dummy and Other Stories, and The Best of Gerald Kersh; Amazon UK also shows The Song of the Flea, and The Thousand Deaths of Mr Small. Another novel, The Implacable Hunter, may also be scheduled. If we're lucky, Faber will reprint even more of Kersh's backlist -- there's a lot of wonderful material there that's been unjustly neglected for too many years.
Kersh was a terrific writer, inventive and engaging, equally at home with fantastic stories and with tales of soldiers or street hustlers and his rediscovery by a wider audience is long overdue. Don't take my word for it -- take it from Harlan Ellison's introduction to Nightshade & Damnations, "Kersh, The Demon Prince":
"By the excellence of what he has done, Gerald Kersh infuriates and spurs other writers to try and beat him at his own game.
"Perhaps one day, one of us will realize that it is impossible to beat a Demon Prince. The sonofabitch uses magic. No mortal can write this well."