David Morrell’s The Hundred-Year Christmas (pictured at right) was published in a signed edition of 700 copies in 1983. For sheer Christmas sentiment and fun the book ranks right up there with Valentine Davies’ The Miracle on 34th Street, William Kotzwinkle’s Christmas at Fontaine’s and O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” But chances are you have never heard of it. Maybe you haven’t read Kotzwinkle’s great Christmas book either. It’s time you did.
One of the first books I reviewed was Morrell’s The Last Reveille in 1977, and, after going back and reading his first two books, First Blood, which introduced the iconic anti-hero John Rambo; and Testament, a tense and quick- moving suspense novel, I followed his career closely. After his fourth novel, The Totem, perhaps the only unique werewolf novel of the last century, I was hooked.
Thus, I was one of the lucky few who bought one of those 700 copies directly from Donald Grant, the quality small press publisher best known for his limited editions of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. In fact, in a weird bit of serendipity, I ended up with copy number 100 of The Hundred-Year Christmas.
For several years after that, it was a Christmas Eve tradition at our house that I would read the book to my children and my nephew, if he were in town, before they went to bed. Unfortunately, for over a quarter century, there weren’t many houses where that was happening, for the book has never been reprinted until now.
A few months ago, when I heard that Overlook Connection Press was coming out with a new edition of The Hundred-Year Christmas, I immediately ordered several copies for Christmas presents. Unfortunately, production problems continually delayed the release, and my books did not arrive until mid-January. Nevertheless, this is definitely a case of better late than never, and the delays, which I won’t go into here, are understandable. And I and the recipients of these late Christmas gifts are thrilled with the book.
Here is just a bit about what happens. On Christmas Eve a father tells his son and daughter the story of Santa Claus and Father Time. Each Santa does the job of making and delivering presents to children for a hundred years. Each year Santa’s other job is taking care of the New Year Baby who mysteriously shows up in a crib in his bedroom. The baby ages at the rate of eight years each month, and Santa has to train him to control time in order for the world to continue.
In addition, this particular Santa is in his 99th year, and he must go out into the world and find someone who is selfless and generous enough to take his place. In our current society individuals like that are rare.
So, will the New Year Baby, who, in the space of a year, becomes Father Time, be able to do his job and keep the world from flickering out of existence. And will Santa succeed in finding a replacement, or will presents of Christmas morning come to an end? My children were eager to find out each year.
There are some differences between the Overlook Connection edition and the Donald Grant version.
The new book includes the 19-page “Foreword: A Snow Globe of Memories” in which Morrell tells how both books came about and reveals some intimate details of his life and career. The author has also made some minor changes, but, as he says, “(he) made a few inconsequential revisions in the text, smoothing occasional sentences, adding a handful of details, nothing that anyone familiar with original text will notice.”
Cortney Skinner’s illustrations for the new book are much softer than those R.J. Krupowicz created for the original. I like them both, but it is hard to beat the detail Krupowicz included in her pictures.
Finally, Overlook Connection Press has published the book in two states: a 1000-copy edition in green cloth, signed by Morrell, for $35 (the same price Donald Grant asked in 1983); and a slipcased edition in red cloth signed by both Morrell and Skinner for $75. Considering the fact that the Donald Grant version has been sold out for decades and demands several hundred dollars on the rare book market, either of the new versions is a bargain.
The sad fact is that there are only 1500 copies of the new book available. I definitely wouldn’t wait until next Christmas to purchase one, because chances are they will be gone, and who knows when your next chance will be? Get your 2010 Christmas shopping done early. You won’t be sorry.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.