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In this third volume of a projected five-book selection of the fantastic fiction of versatile Weird Tales veteran Wellman (d. 1986), the collected adventures of two series characters provide sterling examples of the craft of the author, who as a raconteur could elevate the pulp horror thriller to an uncommon level of sophistication. The title story, one of three to feature Sergeant Jaeger, an ex-Union soldier turned minister, is an eerie tale of an occult horror that takes root in the wilderness along the Missouri-Arkansas border at the height of the Civil War. Built solidly from elements of the Southern Gothic, regional folklore, classic supernatural fiction and the grim history of Quantrill's Raiders, it and companion novella "Coven" blend spooky atmospherics surprisingly well with two-fisted heroics that keep the pages turning. Four tales involving debonair occult detective Keith Hilary Pursuivant approach their similar supernatural themes from a more learned and scholarly angle.They ring intriguing variations on the werewolf theme ("The Hairy Ones Shall Dance") and give Wellman a chance to pen credible excerpts from a "lost" verse drama by a supernaturally sustained Lord Byron ("The Black Drama"). These stories were frequently a cut above the work of Wellman's contemporaries, and they still provide a pleasing frisson of terror more than half a century after they were written.
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Manly Wade Wellman (May 21, 1903 – April 5, 1986) was an American writer.
While his science fiction and fantasy stories appeared in such pulps as Astounding Stories, Startling Stories, Unknown and Strange Stories, Wellman is best remembered as one of the most popular contributors to the legendary Weird Tales, and for his fantasy and horror stories set in the Appalachian Mountains, which draw on the native folklore of that region. Karl Edward Wagner referred to him as "the dean of fantasy writers." Wellman also wrote in a wide variety of other genres, including historical fiction, detective fiction, western fiction, juvenile fiction, and non-fiction.
Wellman was a long-time resident of North Carolina. He received many awards, including the World Fantasy Award and Edgar Allan Poe Award.