There are those who know Russell Kirk for his politics. And there are those who know him for his fiction. At Criterion Books, we now hope to connect the two with our reissue of Old House of Fear, his wondrous and best-selling novel of 1961, out today. Kirk’s conservatism was not an ideology. It was more of an anti-ideology. It was a disposition, rooted in the spirits of our literary and cultural traditions. So we can never really understand Kirk’s conservative mind without reading into his gothic sensibility. The past haunted him. The ground haunted him. His ancestors haunted him. These beliefs inhabited his stories and came to life in his fiction. And my how they came alive. He was a great writer of haunted terrain and thrilling suspense. Set in the Scottish Hebrides, Old House of Fear is a page turner you can’t put down.
That’s what happened to me a year ago. In honor of the hundredth anniversary of his birth, actually, on the very day of his birth, we convened a conference on Kirk at The New Criterion.The proceedings were published in our January 2019 issue. I gave a presentation on Kirk’s ghostly tales. The spirits moved us, and Roger suggested we republish Kirk’s first novel through our imprint, Criterion Books.
I am so pleased to work at a place where we can do just that and do it well, all in time for Halloween. It is also an honor for me to provide the new introduction for Old House of Fear. Not only will you want to buy this book. You will want to read this book. I’d like to thank my colleagues Rebecca Hecht, Ben Riley, and Andy Shea for shepherding its production, Encounter Books for their oversight, and Carl Scarborough for the book design. I would also like to thank the Kirk family for entrusting us with this project.
Fear not: You can now order your own copy of Old House of Fearhere.
For more on Kirk's literary legacy, Annette Kirk joins our latest podcast.