Phil Baker

Phil Baker is a writer based in London. His books include The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley, and Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist (Strange Attractor), of which Alan Moore has said “Phil Baker has established himself as among the very best contemporary biographers… What [he] has accomplished here is little short of marvellous.”

  • City of the Beast

    City of the Beast

    The London of Aleister Crowley

    Phil Baker

    A work that combines biography and pyschogeography to trace Aleister Crowley's life in London.

    “I dreamed I was paying a visit to London,” Aleister Crowley wrote in Italy, continuing, “It was a vivid, long, coherent, detailed affair of several days, with so much incident that it would make a good-sized volume.” Crowley had a love-hate relationship with London, but the city was where he spent much of his adult life, and it was the capital of the culture that created him: Crowley was a post-decadent with deviant Victorian roots in the cultural ferment of the 1890s and the magical revival of the Golden Dawn.

    Not a walking guide, although many routes could be pieced together from its pages, this is a biography by sites. A fusion of life-writing with psychogeography, steeped in London's social history from Victoria to the Blitz, it draws extensively on unpublished material and offers an exceptionally intimate picture of the Great Beast. We follow Crowley as he searches for prostitutes in Hyde Park and Pimlico, drinks absinthe and eats Chinese food in Soho, and find himself down on his luck in Paddington Green—and never quite losing sight of the illumination that drove him: “the abiding rapture,” he wrote in his diary, “which makes a 'bus in the street sound like an angel choir!”

    • Paperback $18.95
  • Lord of Strange Deaths

    Lord of Strange Deaths

    The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer

    Phil Baker and Antony C. Clayton

    A testimony to complexity and historical significance of the absurd, sinister and atmospheric work of Sax Rohmer.

    Forever associated with his creation of evil genius Dr Fu Manchu, a Chinese super-criminal scheming to destroy Western civilisation, Sax Rohmer (1883-1959) was the king of pulp exotica. At the height of his fame Rohmer was one of the most popular writers on the planet, but now he is largely remembered for outrageous attitudes and lurid Chinaphobia. Lord of Strange Deaths approaches Rohmer with something more than routine disapproval, and instead brings out the complexity and historical significance of his work.

    This is the first extended attempt to do justice to Rohmer, and it ranges across the spectrum of his output from music-hall writing to Theosophy. Contributors focus on subjects including Egyptology, 1890s decadence, Edwardian super-villains, graphic novels, cinema, the French Situationists, Chinese dragon ladies, and the Arabian Nights. The result is a testimony to the enduring fascination and relevance of Rohmer's absurd, sinister and immensely atmospheric world.

    Contributors Jean Augris, Phil Baker, Clive Bloom, Antony Clayton, Gary Dickinson, Christopher Fowler, Christopher Frayling, Paul French, Robert Irwin, Lawrence Knapp, Gary Lachman, Roger Luckhurst, Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Kim Newman, Kevin O'Neill, Mark Valentine, and Anne Witchard

    • Hardcover $35.95
  • Austin Osman Spare

    Austin Osman Spare

    The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist

    Phil Baker

    An elegant and comprehensive biography of the controversial enfant terrible of the Edwardian art world, Austin Osman Spare.

    London has harboured many curious characters, but few more curious than the artist and visionary Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956).

    A controversial enfant terrible of the Edwardian art world, the young Spare was hailed as a genius and a new Aubrey Beardsley, while George Bernard Shaw reportedly said “Spare's medicine is too strong for the average man.”

    But Spare was never made for worldly success and he went underground, falling out of the gallery system to live in poverty and obscurity south of the river. Absorbed in occultism and sorcery, voyaging into inner dimensions and surrounding himself with cats and familiar spirits, he continued to produce extraordinary art while developing a magical philosophy of pleasure, obsession, and the subjective nature of reality.

    Today Spare is both forgotten and famous, a cult figure whose modest life has been much mythologised since his death. This groundbreaking biographical study offers wide-ranging insights into Spare's art, mind and world, reconnecting him with the art history that ignored him and exploring his parallel London; a bygone place of pub pianists, wealthy alchemists and monstrous owls.

    This richly readable and illuminating biography takes us deep into the strange inner world that this most enigmatic of artists inhabited, shedding new light while allowing just a few shadowy corners to flourish unspoiled.

    • Paperback $20.95

Contributor

  • The Surrender of Silence

    The Surrender of Silence

    A Memoir of Ironfoot Jack, King of the Bohemians

    Ironfoot Jack and Colin Stanley

    The life of escape artist, fortune-teller, author and raconteur “Ironfoot Jack,” aka Jack Rudolph Neave (1881–1959), the self-styled “King of the Bohemians” in London's Soho.

    “I became acquainted with gipsies, with show people, with buskers, with people who entertained the public by performing in the city, on fair grounds and market places…and with a variety of “fiddles”—that is, some dubious methods of obtaining the means of life. I became a member of this fraternity.”—from The Surrender of Silence

    Escape artist, fortune-teller, author, and raconteur “Ironfoot Jack,” aka Jack Rudolph Neave (1881–1959), the self-styled “King of the Bohemians,” was a well-known Soho character in pre- and postwar London. His rich and enthralling story of a lifestyle now gone forever was dictated as his portrait was being painted by the artist Timothy Whidborne in 1956. It was then entrusted to a Soho acquaintance, the author Colin Wilson whose first book The Outsider, had been a success in the same year. Despite his efforts, Wilson failed to find a publisher and, after his death, the manuscript was discovered among his papers by his bibliographer Colin Stanley, who assembled the text, which is accompanied by a contextual introduction by cultural historian Phil Baker.

    Jack wrote that The Surrender of Silence was “the outcome of years of struggle to survive; of solving the problem of existence by various and curious methods… Most of the people I am talking about led a precarious life and obtained their livelihood from day to day…. They worked to live; they did not live to work.”

    This Strange Attractor Press edition is the first publication of this legendary work.

    • Paperback $16.95