The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman Volume 3: Fearful Rock & Other Precarious Locales Hardcover – May 1 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Wellman favored heroic characters conquering evil; his most famous creation, John the Balladeer (or "Silver John") stars in the volume V collection "Owls Hoot in the Daytime." This volume contains eight novella-length stories featuring Sergeant Jaeger ("Fearful Rock," "Coven," and "Toad's Foot") and Judge Pursuivant ("The Hairy Ones Shall Dance," "The Black Drama," "The Dreadful Rabbits," and "The Half-Haunted") as well as a historical fiction set in the Jamestown colony, "For the Love of a Witch."
Jaeger is a former Union sergeant who, like many Wellman heroes, acts as a sort of mentor and savior of characters who become embroiled in occult difficulties, in this case in the post-Civil War period. Pursuivant is a sort of 'elder-occultsman' who performs the same role in a "contemporary" (1950s - '60s) time period.
Manley Wade Wellman's concerns are very different from Lovecraft, C.A. Smith, or Robert E. Howard. Wellman's main theme is almost always the power of good and the inferiority of evil; his stories are more occult adventure than horror per se. They rely heavily (and wonderfully) on setting and characterization. If you like these stories, be sure to try the ones featuring Silver John (Wellman's best IMHO), and you'll certainly like Volume I, "The Third Cry to Legba and Other Invocations."
There is also another early regional tale, "For the Love of a Witch" which is a captivating little read.
Pursuivant only made these handful of appearances on his own, but he was mentioned a few times in the Thunstone works: and of course his St.Dunstan forged silver swordcane was handed on to John Thunstone for a little more of a link between the characters. He's a great creation in his own right. The Hairy Ones Shall Dance is a great introduction to the character.
The best and most notable Pursuivant story though is "The Black Drama", concerning the lost Byron play "Ruthven", although perhaps a lot of the resonance was from having recently read Tim Powers "Hide Me Among the Graves" which also dealt with Shelley and Polidori (as did Powers' earlier "The Stress of Her Regard"). I don’t know whether Powers read and was inspired by Wellman, or they both looked at the common known facts about the Romantics and managed to draw something supernatural out of them. It’s a novella in length, really, and works terribly well. The other Pursuivant tales are all different in nature, showing Wellman's range - and I suspect that one did in fact inspire the 1970's B-grade horror movie Night of the Lepus. So in one sense, that’s not bad, managing to inspire both high concept literary horror and low concept visual schlock with the one character.
For some reason this volume remains available on the secondary market at a reasonable price: failing news of a trade paperback reprint by Night Shade (as they are doing for the CAS collection) its worth picking up if the price is close to the original RRP.
It featured an occult investigator named Judge Pursuivant. The introduction mentioned that he was in some other stories as well.
So that was the main reason I got this book, for those additional Judge Pursuivant stories. Unfortunately, the other Pursuivant stories aren't that good, and there are only 3 of them. Two are just really short, one of which is really a comedy piece. The other long one doesn't really star him, except at the very end, and is mostly on spiritualism.
However, the other character stories in the book, about Sgt Jaeger, a Civil War sergeant turned preacher and occult batller, are quite good. In particular the one the book is named after, Fearful Rock. But there are only 3 of those stories.
Really, it makes me wish he had written more about these characters, who I find far more interesting than his more popular characters.
There's also a long lost tale of his, set around the early colonization of America by the English. Interesting and colorful read, but the ending left me a bit cold.
The physical quality of the book is outstanding. I guess it should, given the price, but still, really excellent.