by Mark Valentine & John Howard
Cover art: Jason Van Hollander
Publication Date: October 2008
ISBN: 9-78973776414-0
Sewn hardcover, limited to 400 copies, 110pp with endpapers


Almost five years have passed since we last heard anything from that monarch of dim visions and recondite Mysteries, The Connoisseur. There were whispers of a long planed retreat in the sun stricken Mithraic caves of Cappadocia. Or was it to a mysterious and unnamed Coptic monastery in Alexandria? Others sustained The Connoisseur was captured by a group of Armenian ether drinkers, somewhere in an unknown village in Prussia. Something about a terrible “black ikon” was mentioned. A year ago, the author himself claimed that The Connoisseur was dying. Confronted with such contradictory, ambiguous and indeed - uneasy information, we decided to find out the truth on our own. We are pleased to say we have good news. The Connoisseur is alive and sends his august regards. For proof, we have three new long tales to infirm all rumors.

Enter through one carved door, and you are in a lost domain, an English enclave with its own rights and privileges, the sanctuary of an ancient and holy lineage, at the start of a strange quest that leads to the Black Sea and beyond. The fissure in another wall reveals a garden cinema, built in the New Egyptian style for a curious purpose, where visions of the future are not only seen on film. A third entrance leads to the hidden manufactory of an esoteric incense-maker, who deals in lichen and mummy dust, yew-berries and rare resins: has he the craft to undo the oldest, gravest curse of them all? And what is the significance of the red elephant and the ruined abbey?

Mark Valentine & John Howard offer here three new excellent episodes from the casebook of the aesthetical occult detective, The Connoisseur, whose adventures have been described as “curious and wonderful” and “shot through with authentically fin-de-siècle gleams of decadence”. Four further stories complete the collection. What is the significance of the shining coin found by a churchyard wall, and how does it involve two adepts of the Imperial Exploration Service? Here, a simple talisman opens up remarkable possibilities. What is the secret of Prince Zaleski and what exactly was the role of the Herb Committees during the War? And what if a great Edwardian artist of the macabre really had illustrated the keynote book of verses by the young and fervent poet of Samarkand? In this final tale, as with the other six, we are led to see singular visions that do not quite stay on the page.

"The Rite of Trebizond" by Mark Valentine & John Howard
"The Serpent, Unfallen" by Mark Valentine & John Howard
"The Temple of Time" by Mark Valentine & John Howard
"Mrs. Wintergreen" by Mark Valentine
"Out of the Obelisk" by Mark Valentine & John Howard
"Prince Zaleski's Secret" by Mark Valentine
"Sime in Samarkand" by Mark Valetine

The Rite of Trebizond and Other Tales is a sewn hardcover book with illustrated and laminate boards (no dustwrapper) of 110 pages with endpapers and a full-color frontispiece (Six-winged Seraph by Mikhail Vrubel). Edition limited to 400 copies.


"The book is a pleasure to handle and have on one's shelf. The quality of the prose is outstanding and the curious atmospheres and moods generated, highly original. This is what I look for: a distinct voice and point of view, an insight like no other. That is what you will find here."
- Reggie Oliver

"I couldn't put it down. In fact, that's my only criticism - there should be more of it!"
- Rosemary Pardoe, Ghosts and Scholars

"Everyone needs a copy of this book. It's as simple as that. Buy one today!"
- Steve Duffy

"Mark Valentine is surely one of the best writers working in the genre."
- David Longhorn, Supernatural Tales

"The prose is luxurious and extravagant, evoking Huysmans, Wilde, The Yellow Book and, perhaps, Shiel. One looks instinctively for Beardsley illustrations."
- David G. Rowlands

"Mark Valentine, guru of all things literary!"
- Callum James Books

"Certain themes of the Connoisseur canon remind me of Heard's powerful stories of mystical horror and ecstasy (Dromenon, The Chapel of Ease and The Cup). But whereas Heard sometimes undermines his tales through excessive length and a didactism that brings the reader out of the carefully invoked awe and into the tutorial room, Mark Valentine & John Howard somehow manage with remarkable brevity to bring the numinous into the top floor of the #17 bus to Johnson (via Paisley)."
- Chris Ward

"We like the author, we like the limitation, we like the full-color frontispiece and postcards and we like the Bucharest connection. Out of the way, kinda tough to find and a unique and distinctive addition to any library featuring the fantastic."
- Ziesing Books

On "The Rite of Trebizond" by Jim Rockhill

Mark Valentine has that rare mixture of talent, taste, ambition, and critical acumen that allows him to write insightful analyses of fantastic literature and significant contributions to this literature with equal finesse.

Whether one is reading one of the many trenchant yet elegantly written introductions he has contributed to collections of supernatural fiction by Tartarus Press, Ash-Tree Press, or Wordsworth Editions; his monograph on Arthur Machen for Seren Press; his editorial contributions to the critically acclaimed journal, Wormwood devoted to the study of “fantasy, supernatural and decadent literature”; or the exquisite stories he has written chronicling the investigations of The Connoisseur into the variegated realms and outré incidents that penetrate the seemingly mundane fabric of our world; one is conscious of an acute sensitivity to the resources of language as well as a probing intelligence, which ensures that every word, every image, and every allusion bears its full impact. Valentine’s prose has the clarity necessary to make anything he writes easy to appreciate on an initial reading, while at the same time containing nuances capable of lingering in the memory, teasing one with their implications until further readings reveal even deeper meanings.

The grace of the language and the ease with which it captures Valentine’s thought has a Rococo feel to it that may seem to belie the seriousness of his intent, but the careful reader is no more likely to make this mistake than the listener of Mozart’s Piano Concerti is to believe that the attractiveness of the melodies suggests superficiality of content, casualness of structure, or lack of purpose. In this, Valentine declares himself the one true heir to Arthur Machen, whose “The White People”, Ornaments in Jade, The Hill of Dreams, and a few other works written at the turn of the 20th century demonstrated as few authors had done before or since, the extraordinary power of implication that can be created when, as Jack Sullivan has expressed it, “beauty and horror ring out at precisely the same moment”.

The present welcome reappearance of The Connoisseur in “The Rite of Trebizond” offers a fine display of these qualities and reinforces the kinship to Arthur Machen. Valentine and his collaborator John Howard present a fantasia on a number of interrelated themes—the interaction of ephemeral and eternal, spatial and temporal, mundane and spiritual boundaries; the Platonic concept of anamnesis or man’s innate (if often nearly forgotten) grasp of first principles; and the troublesome question of who or what principle beyond human comprehension of good and evil our sacraments really address. As in many of Valentine’s tales, the narrative’s surface tone of urbanity, sophistication, and polite discourse bristles with subtle tensions, intimations of peril, and a steadily coalescing sense of awe. It shares, with Machen’s greatest works, glimpses of mighty powers long held in abeyance because they have been forgotten by the many, though remembered by the few—powers capable of being stirred into terrible glory by the apprehension of the proper artifact, the true rite, and the perfect vessel.

Jim Rockhill
Dowagiac, Michigan
September 20, 2008

Other Ex Occidente Titles by Mark Valentine
The Mascarons of the Late Empire & Other Studies
The Nightfarers
The Peacock Escritoire

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