Adam Parfrey (1957–2018)

Adam Parfrey, a fearless, maverick independent publisher with a robust sense of humor (and a taste for the macabre), has died at age 61. We note his passing here because Adam’s Feral House Books reprinted Jim Flora‘s legendary 1978 book Grandpa’s Ghost Stories in 2017. Just last week we signed an agreement with Feral to reprint Flora’s last (1982) book, Grandpa’s Witched-Up Christmas.

Feral House was known for publishing edgy titles, and Adam was the heart and soul of the imprint’s inclinations towards sensationalism and extremism. He had no tolerance for political correctness of any stripe; Adam took pleasure in sparking outrage among puritans across the spectrum. A mutual friend who worked with Adam when he was establishing Amok Press in 1987 wrote, “He gleefully offended anyone and everyone with his books, yet he was a very nice person.”

We’d personally known and admired Adam for decades. When he approached us about reprinting Grandpa’s Ghost Stories, we were intrigued, since FH was not known for serving the young-reader market. But Adam’s interest was sincere, not ironic. Feral House had issued a commercially successful reprint of the gruesome 19th century classic Struwwelpeter, and Adam was developing a greater interest in offering ghoulish titles for tots—no doubt to corrupt innocent minds during their formative years. In Grandpa’s Ghost Stories and Witched-Up Christmas, he picked a pair of Flora titles he found “funny and scary,” two qualities that were hallmarks of his catalog.

We’ll miss Adam’s bonhomie, his tenaciousness as a publisher, and his wicked style. Adam’s sister Jessica, managing editor of Feral House, is expected to continue the imprint, and we’re hopeful Grandpa’s Witched-Up Christmas will appear in time for the holidays.

Our friend (and fellow Floraphile) Mark Frauenfelder wrote a nice remembrance of Adam at BoingBoing. A New York Times obit by Sam Roberts called Adam a “publisher of the provocative,” and noted that his father, actor Woodrow Parfrey, portrayed Maximus, an anthropoid judge, in Planet of the Apes. “I just figured everyone’s father did this,” said Adam. “Got up, went to work, played an orangutan in the movies.”

The cause of death was a stroke, which occurred in April. The photo above of Adam was taken in the early 1990s by his buddy Scott Lindgren, deceased brother of Laura Lindgren, who designed our four Flora art anthologies published by Fantagraphics Books. The elegant portrait of Parfrey sporting a cigar (an homage to Orson Welles) was also taken by Scott.

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  • The Mischievous and Diabolic art of James Flora (1914-1998). Glimpses of rare works from the archives and news about Flora-related projects.

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