The Exploits of Engelbrecht

The Exploits of Engelbrecht




The Chronicles of

The Surrealist Sportsman’s Club



Maurice Richardson




Gibbon Moon


Copyright © The Estate of Maurice Richardson

Introduction copyright © 2014 Rhys Hughes

Cover Art copyright © James Boswell


All rights reserved. This book and any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

First Ebook Edition 2014

Gibbon Moon

An imprint of
Gloomy Seahorse Press

Swansea, Wales
, UK




The Exploits of Engelbrecht
is English surrealism at its greatest. Witty and fantastical, Maurice Richardson was light years ahead of his time. Unmissable.”

J.G. Ballard


The Exploits of Engelbrecht
is a classic that should never have been overlooked.”



“English Surrealism with the psycho-sexual seriousness replaced by a sense of theatrical fun.”



“How do you describe a character like Engelbrecht? Except to say that there are some great one-liners: one of the boxer's opponents has “got a classic stance, hour hand well forward, minute hand guarding his face. They've mounted him on castors with ball bearings, and his footwork is as neat as a flea's.” Or: “there are ugly rumours that Engelbrecht's manager, Lizard Bayliss, slipped that Clock a couple of hundred hours to lie down.”



The following is an extract from the Millennial General Meeting of the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club:


…the Id recalled the rugby match against Mars when an impending defeat of approx. 996,481 to 0 was narrowly averted by Engelbrecht’s volunteering to get
, rather than “on to”, the ball. The Oldest Member, rising, made special mention of the plucky way in which Engelbrecht, swollen to bursting with snake-bite, rode Medusa to victory in the Grand Cosmological against a field that included such formidable opponents as Lady Godiva, Bucephalus and the Night Mare. Lizard Bayliss, speaking as E’s manager, reminded the meeting of the battle with Grandfather Clock behind the gas works which made Engelbrecht “Champion of All Time”; of the occasion when E wrestled all night with the Octopus in a tank of water; of his heroic conduct at the Great Witch Shoot down on the Id’s country estate. Whereupon the Meeting rose like one man and voted Engelbrecht, the Dwarf Surrealist Boxer, “Sportsman of the Millennium” (stormy applause).

Further, in view of E’s celebrity, it was recommended that certain portions of the Records be made available to the public. A sub-committee, under the Chairmanship of that well-known phantom all-rounder A.N. Other, to be set up to prepare a Volume for publication in which Interminable Golf Courses, Voting Witches, and other Surrealist Sporting Phenomena should be adequately represented.

Said committee to be empowered to co-opt the services of Mr Maurice Richardson (Assistant Editor of
, and crime rationer for
The Observer

This motion was passed in uproar, with cries and counter-cries of: “Certify them Certify them!—Sane! Sane!”


With love to

Oonagh and Celia




There are few things less Gothic than vigorous physical activity, so the very idea of writing a series of linked short stories that combine the motifs and props of the horror genre with those of sports journalism must surely be the endeavour of an author who wilfully hungers for obscurity and chronic unpopularity.

The two traditions are in opposition but unlike many things that are poles apart they don’t combine well. In fact they don’t blend
at all
. And yet Maurice Richardson somehow makes the unnatural collision work. More than anything else, his Engelbrecht stories are funny; and their oddness never seems awkward.

I am at a loss to find much, if anything, to compare this book to, either before or since it was issued as a limited edition hardback in 1950 by the legendary publisher Phoenix House. It is a work of fantastical fiction that fitted into no known category back then and has subsequently inspired few imitators. Yet it is rarely forgotten by those who encounter it.

The Exploits of Engelbrecht
is the living breathing definition of a ‘cult book’, a work read by only a small number of people who get wildly enthusiastic about their discovery and try to spread the word. The word generally falls on deaf ears but occasionally a new convert will be won; and so the cult perpetuates itself.

Some illustrious figures are proud members of this particular cult. The most vigorous, Michael Moorcock, was the one who first alerted me (and many other devotees of imaginative fiction) to the existence of Richardson and his book. I think it was in 1986 or thereabouts when I bought Moorcock’s
The Opium General
, a collection of stories and essays, which included the article ‘Starship Stormtroopers’, in which Moorcock made the claim that no other writer, not even Borges, could much the density of invention of
The Exploits of Engelbrecht
. As a reader awestruck by Borges, this was staggering news to me. It was in the days before online bookshops and I searched in vain for years in second-hand outlets for a copy. I knew it had been reprinted once, in 1977, by John Conquest, but no bookseller had heard of the title.

On the single occasion I met Moorcock in the flesh I questioned him and learned that the reprint had failed to sell in just the same way the original 1950 edition had. The world simply had no use for such eccentric reading material. Finally in 1993 I managed to secure a battered copy of the first edition. I devoured it and so marvellous and inspiring did I find it that I eventually ended up writing my own collection of Engelbrecht tales, the first of which I impulsively began late one evening in the autumn of 1999 when I was somewhat under the influence of cider, finishing the last one the following summer. These stories didn’t find a publisher for another eight years, despite Moorcock’s generous support. My book,
Engelbrecht Again
, remains an obscure sequel by an obscure writer to an already obscure original by an underrated genius. Copies are still out there and if you feel like buying one, I won’t stop you...

But the world is a strange place. One person who did notice my book was Richardson’s daughter, Celia, who got in touch with me. From her I learned that there seemed to be a very slow but significant surge of belated interest in her father’s magnificent creation: for instance, that a French translation was planned (it has now been published). I was delighted to correspond with her. I already knew that Savoy Books had published a third English edition in a limited deluxe format with extra material and all the extremely clever illustrations (by James Boswell) that had accompanied the first edition, but sales had been exasperatingly poor (I had spoken to Mike Butterworth of Savoy on this point); now sales seemed to be picking up. Was something happening? Was the dwarf surrealist boxer being given the proper chance he deserved at long last?

For that is what the character of Engelbrecht is. A dwarf surrealist boxer. He fights mainly clocks, but is happy to take on anything at all, including arcade machines, zombies, robots, ghosts, krakens, witches and other horrors, and not only at boxing. He will try any sport at all and he’s willing to stretch the definition of the word to include chess and elopement, and such cultural pursuits as opera and theatre. He is both egged on and opposed by the other members of the remarkable, illogical club to which he belongs.

Thanks to Celia (to who
m Richardson dedicated this volume)
The Exploits of Engelbrecht
is now available as an ebook. This is the first low cost edition of this cult classic ever to be issued. My hope is that it will reach more people than the previous three restricted and expensive editions, and that it will encourage interested readers to seek out more work in the less frequented corners of the World of Imaginative Literature. Perhaps they will chance on Felipe Alfau, W.E. Bowman and Jacques Sternberg too, and other writers of astounding ability who are all too frequently overlooked.

But Richardson is here at least; and his book is tremendous.
The language is reminiscent of Damon Runyon; the special effects come courtesy of Bram Stoker; the humour is half Music Hall, half sharp satire; there is a flavour of Saki and perhaps Beerbohm and maybe even Huxley; but all these factors and allusions and possible influences are gripped tight by a muscular aesthetic; and the Midnight Hour Realm of ghosts, ghouls and witches is balanced, most unexpectedly, by the shady world of boxing match fixers and nightclub bouncers. Why not find out this and more for yourself?

Kindly step this way, Ladies and Gentlemen...



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