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Who Fears the Devil [Paperback]

Manly Wade Wellman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

January 1980
There's a traveling man the Carolina mountain folk call Silver John for the silver strings strung on his guitar. In his wanderings John encounters a parade of benighted forest creatures, mountain spirits, and shapeless horrors from the void of history with only his enduring spirit, playful wit, and the magic of his guitar to preserve him. Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John is one of the most beloved figures in fantasy, a true American folk hero of the literary age. For the first time the Planet Stories edition of Who Fears the Devil? collects all of John's adventures published throughout Wellman's life, including two stories about John before he got his silver-stringed guitar that have never previously appeared in a Silver John collection. Lost, out of print, or buried in expensive hardcover editions, the seminal, unforgettable tales of Who Fears the Devil? stand ready for a new generation ready to continue the folk tradition of Silver John!
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars When a good man goes to war devils run. April 27 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Who fears the devil is an omnibus of John Silver stories an everyman type hero; he isn't wealthy, he can't shoot lasers from his eyes and he doesn't have adamantium claws, but woe be to the demonic force who harms good people in his presence. The stories take place in the American south, in the early part of the 20th century; where it's full of swamps, poor little towns where people speak an archaic, colloquial English. Although the people he writes about are "HillBillys" they are not trailer trash. If you like the "Supernatural" TV show then you'll like these stories.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Taste of American Folklore Nov. 27 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
An authentic foray into Carolinian folklore, calling forth stories of witches, ghosts, familiars, and an assortment of other supernatural creatures, all set against the protagonist, John the Balladeer, a likable southern bard with a silver-strung guitar and a bit of occult knowledge. The book is a collection of short stories and vignettes written over a period of nearly forty years. All are good, some are excellent. The vignettes are often simply beautiful. All of the writing is first person with a genuine southern voice, without making the people or area seem ignorant or uncivilized. A wonderful collection of tales with from the much forgotten American mythology.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John, John the Minstral Man/ And His Silver Stringed Guitar March 18 2008
By Paul Camp - Published on Amazon.com
Alfred Bester tells how he used to listen to Manly Wade Wellman recount many anecdotes in which Southerners would repeatedly get the better of Northerners. Bester decided that he could tolerate such stories, since the North had, after all, won the war. But there is no question that Manly Wade Wellman was unabashedly Southern-- more particularly, he was unabashedly a native of North Carolina. Many-- though certainly not all-- of his stories had Southern settings. And one of his nonfictional books, _Dead and Gone_ (1954), is an excellent historical study of North Carolina murderers. _Who Fears the Devil?_ (1963) is the first of Wellman's Silver John books and is also set in North Carolina. There are eleven full length short stories that appeared in _Fantasy and Science Fiction_ between 1951 and 1958. Seven vignettes appeared in _F&SF_ in 1962 under the title, "Wonder As I Wander". Four other vignettes appeared in the book for the first time. A vignette preceeds each of the longer stories in the collection. There are other Silver John stories, some novels and some short stories, that appeared later. But there is a kind of unity to _Who Fears the Devil?_ that makes it worth reading by itself.

For readers not familiar with this series, John is a folksy balladeer who wanders the Southern mountains with a silver stringed guitar and who helps deserving people get out of magical scrapes. His knowlege of music and magic, along with his basic decency, often saves the day. I am not going to spend a lot of time with the plots of the stories, which are actually straightforward enough. What I would like to call attention to is the style. All of the pieces are first person narrations by John. Here is a representative example:

_If the gardinel's an old folk's tale, I'm honest to tell you it's a true one.
Few words about them are best, I should reckon. They look some way like a shed or a cabin, snug and rightly made, except the open door could be a mouth, the two little windows might could be eyes. Never you'll see one on the main roads or near towns; only back in the thicketty places, by high trails among tall ridges, and they show themselves there when it rains and storms and a lone farer hopes to come to a house to shelter him._ (31)

There is not a false note in this passage. Wellman catches John's dialect without using phoney grammatical mistakes or unnatural rhetoric. There are a great many stories that attempt Appalachian dialect and fail abysmally... because the authors don't really know it. Wellman knows the language of his region, and it makes all the difference. Here is John again:

Another lightning flash, another thunder growl. Old Mr. Jay hunched his thin shoulders under his jeans coat, and allowed he'd pay for some crackers and cheese if the storekeeper'd fetch them out to us.
"I ain't even now wanting to talk against Forney Meechum," said the farmer. "But they tell he'd put his eye on Lute for himself, and he'd quarreled with his own son Derwood about who'd have her. But next court day at the county seat, was a fight betwixt Jeremiah Donovant and Derwood Meechum, and Jeremiah put a knife in Derwood and killed him dead."
Mr. Jay leaned forward. The lantern light showed the gray stubble on his gentle old face. "Who drew the first knife?" he asked. (118)

Wellman also nails the dialogue of his North Carolina characters. It is not just that the basic story ideas are good-- though they are. The style of the tales carries the day; there is frequently a poetry to it. It isn't easy to do this successfully, but Wellman does so. This book is highly recommended.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book July 16 2003
By Ira Lebowitz - Published on Amazon.com
I went and bought this book after I came across a copy of one of his old books on the street. However, I recommend you check out 5 volume series from Night Shade Books of all of Wellman's short stories. One volume has all of the Silver John Stories.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, but... April 27 2010
By BrentandSue - Published on Amazon.com
Wonderful stories by a wonderful writer. But take note of the intro -"The original stories were somewhat revised (Manley grumbled that this was done to give the collection some semblance of a novel)". Which means some of the best lines from the opener, "O Ugly Bird", are gone. Still a good tale, but not the one that burned a hole in my brain when I was a kid. Overall, though, a great collection.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Not I! Not I!" says John all alone." Oct. 19 2008
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on Amazon.com
Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986) is probably best known for his novels and short stories about John the Balladeer, who roamed the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina during the middle of the twentieth century. John does battle against various fiends and incarnations of Satan, with a silver-stringed guitar and his Christian faith as his only weapons (although he occasionally takes out a monster with a silver dime or quarter).

In the very first story, "O Ugly Bird" a link is implied between our hero and John the Baptist: "It was foretold about you in the Bible," said Winnie, her voice soft again. "'There was a man sent from God, whose name was John...'"

Of course, like any true hero would, John manages to `aw shucks' his way out of that accolade. He sings "Lady, I never loved witchcraft,/ Never dealt in privy wile,/ But evermore held the high way/ Of love and honor, free from guile..." Then like the Lone Ranger, he is off to another mountain valley to do musical combat with yet another aspect of Evil.

These stories are rich in Appalachian tradition and folklore. There is even a tale about the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys: "Old Devlins was A-Waiting." Many of the songs John sings are authentic as well, although Wellman did introduce some original music to fit his story themes.

A complete list of novels and short story collections featuring John:

"The Old Gods Waken" (1979)
"After Dark" (1980)
"The Lost and Lurking" (1981)
"The Hanging Stones" (1982)
"Voice of the Mountain" (1984)

Short story collections:
"Who Fears the Devil?" (1963)
"John the Balladeer" (1988)
"Owls Hoot in Daytime and Other Omens" (2003)
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