Who Here is a "Captain Slaughterboard" Fan? (Mervyn Peake poll)

Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor, 1939.

The first book written by Mervyn Peake, author of the brilliant cult novels in the Gormenghast series.

Fully illustrated by the author, who was a successful book artist before taking up writing (who knew?).

A children’s picture book about pirates and monsters, but surely the god-damnedest children’s picture book about pirates and monsters before, maybe, Where the Wild Things Are. Grotesque and intricate and insanely beautiful, just like everything else Peake produced during his way-too-short creative life.

I found a copy in a used bookstore and cheerfully ponied up thirty bucks without even looking inside first. It was cheap at the price.

Haven’t heard of him before, but his illustrations I’ve seen since reading your OP are wonderful. I’ll have to hunt down copies of his book. Your post also reminded me to look for illustrations by John R. Neill, and I stumbled across a site his grandchildren set up. They’re now selling some of his originals; I’m tempted to raid our cookie jar here and grab one or two.

So, there’s that at least.

Lucky! I counted myself fortunate to find all the Gormenghast books at a used bookstore (esp. since most of the editions I found at a price I could afford were the all-in-one variety, which I loathe). My library doesn’t even have them…checks site but they have this book! places request

He was also an official war artist for the British during WWII, and was there with his pens when the concentration camps were liberated in 1945: it pretty much did his head in.

Maurice Sendak was a huge fan, and wrote an introduction to a recent edition of Captain Slaughterboard. There’s more on Peake here, with some nice links to some other lovely Peake artwork and illustrations.

Everyone with an interest in fantasy - or reading, for that matter - ought to read the Gormenghast novels. Beautifully written but deeply disturbing stuff, about mid-way between Dickens and Kafka {the castle of Gormenghast itself is somewhere between Bleak House and The Castle}, and with none of the twee English cosiness that mars Tolkien or Lewis: Peake was not a happy camper in his later years.

Just read the book to little Banjo (not so little any more, ten years old, pointed out that it was the first picture book we’d read together in a while). He LOVED it. Yo-ho!

Funny you should bring this up. Just a few months ago I was considering birthday presents for my nephew. I love Mervyn Peak (the Gormenghast novels are quite possibly my favorite books of all time) and while searching I ran across a reference to Capt. Slaughterboard. Picked up a copy and now I’m not sure if my nephew will get it or if I’ll just keep it myself.

Also recently read Peake’s Letters From a Lost Uncle, which is wonderfully illustrated.

Okay, I just got off of Amazon and ABEbooks, where I dumped varying piles of cash on Letters from a Lost Uncle, A Book of Nonsense, Peake’s Progress, Figures of Speech; the Peake-illustrated Alice books, Hunting of the Snark, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and, for the hell of it, the DVD of the 2001 BBC production of Gormenghast (which I thought I was videotaping off PBS five years ago, but it turned out I wasn’t).

Did I do the right thing? Or am I going to end up feeling just a bit…Peaked?