For those of us who are rooted in and sustained by an unforgivable passion for horror, terror, and black magic, the name Peter Alexander Haining carries a lot of weight. This versatile dude (writer, journalist, and anthologist) delivered one after another knockout stuff — The Necromancers, The Black Magic Omnibus, Weird Tales anthologies, The Fantastic Pulps and lots more. If someone ever conducted a poll on the best editor of fantasy and occult books, Mr. Haining would simply whitewash his pals.
As a kid, our favorite editor was deeply influenced by pulp magazines of his day, magazines that were replete with illustrations of brutal action and mesmerizing dames. His feverish imagination threw him into an intriguing maze of fantasy and horror, which affected him profoundly.
Haining began his career as a journalist in Essex and subsequently joined New English Library. At NEL he worked with Ian Fleming on a biography of James Bond. Perhaps, Fleming inspired him to come up with crime driven anthologies that he published for NEL. Haining went on to become the Editorial Director of the publishing house, but left NEL to pursue the career of a full-time writer and editor.
The editor launched NEL young writer of the year award, which was a big hit. Do you know it was Haining who spotted Philip Pullman and gave him a break? The Haunted Storm, Pullman’s first venture, was issued by Pete.
Why did Haining move into editing horror anthologies? Well, he thought that horror collections of his time were all blood and gore; the stories missed the ingredients of a good adventure novel. So he started with the idea of adding a new dimension to the concept of horror anthology. Also, he started the trend of adding a short author bio with all the stories he selected for his books.
Haining used some particular stories over and over in his books — this is one common allegation against the editor. He never denied it but pointed out that he re-used the stories years apart, which made sense because he was talking to an entirely new generation. I would like to add here that I’ve found plenty of rare and new treasures in Haining’s books. So he might be forgiven for being a bit repetitive.
People who knew Haining unanimously agree that he was an agreeable and friendly fella. He was the owner of a massive library of mystery fiction, and his knowledge of the genre was encyclopaedic. Haining admired Charles Dickens, whose contribution to crime fiction, he thought, is highly underrated.
The editor won The British Fantasy Award in 2001.
Peter Haining passed away on November 19 2007. He was a firm believer in ghosts. Let him be the Tsar of all pulp spirits.