Weird Tales, Unknown, and Other Pulps - American Pulpsmiths - Volume 2: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Unutterable Horror - A History of Supernatural Fiction - S. T. Joshi 2014

Weird Tales, Unknown, and Other Pulps
American Pulpsmiths
Volume 2: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Weird Tales did not, to be sure, have an exclusive monopoly on the weird fiction of the period, although it was the dominant player in the pulp field for this kind of work. The venerable Argosy and its satellite magazines (All-Story, Cavalier, etc.) published occasionally interesting supernatural work, none more so than that of Francis Stevens (pseudonym of Gertrude Barrows Bennett, 1884—1940?). The three-part serial “The Nightmare” (1917), in its depiction of hideous mutations of plant and animal life caused by radiation, exhibits the chief traits of her fiction—a mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and an action-adventure scenario with plenty of hair-raising escapes and a kind of proto-feminist spunkiness on the part of her female protagonists. This work set the stage for the more ambitious The Citadel of Fear (1918), a justly celebrated lost-race novel that similarly involves mutations, this time performed by human manipulation. Claimed (1920) and Serapion (1920) are more conventionally supernatural—the first involving an enigmatic artifact from Atlantis, the second dealing with the baleful effects of a seánce—but, accordingly, are less distinctive.

Even during Weird Tales’s heyday, other rivals sprang up to challenge it for longer or shorter periods. Lovecraft was all too correct when he remarked of Ghost Stories (1926—32) that its only virtue was to prove that a magazine even lower on the literary scale than Weird Tales could exist—and this in spite of random contributions by Agatha Christie and Lovecraft’s own close friend Frank Belknap Long. Ghost Stories featured “true confession”-type stories of the “I Married a Ghost” sort—a subgenre not very amenable to literary artistry. Much more successful was Harry Bates’s Strange Tales (1931—33), which lasted for only seven issues but which was a serious concern to Weird Tales because it paid much better—all of 2 cents a word. Some meritorious work appeared in its pages. And we have seen that Amazing Stories (1926f.) and Astounding Stories (1930f.), especially when it was purchased by Street & Smith (1933), were not inhospitable to science fiction/horror hybrids. Then there were the “weird menace” pulps—notably Terror Tales (1934—41) and Horror Stories (1935—41)—but these specialised venues (whose premise—the suggestion of the supernatural ultimately explained away as the product of trickery—oddly hearkened back to the “explained supernatural” of the early Gothic novel) gradually became mere exercises in torture and sadism, and their aesthetic value is nil. Not much more can be said for such things as Tales of Magic and Mystery (1927—28—whose only contribution of merit was Lovecraft’s “Cool Air”), Thrilling Mystery (1935—45), or Strange Stories (1939—41).

Weird Tales was clearly the flagship venue for supernatural horror in the pulps. The curious thing was that its original owner, J. C. Henneberger, purportedly received promises from such established writers as Ben Hecht and Hamlin Garland (a mainstream writer with an inclination toward spiritualism) to contribute to it. They did not in fact do so, leaving the magazine to publish the work of newcomers and apprentices in many of its early issues; indeed, throughout its run it always remained more receptive to new writers than many other pulps. This policy had both its virtues and its drawbacks: it allowed amateurs like Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith to enter its pages readily, but it also published a fearsome amount of rubbish that was subprofessional even by pulp standards.

In the course of time, a number of writers became “regulars” at Weird Tales, attracting a loyal following. One of the most popular—certainly one of the most frequently published—was the prototypical pulpsmith Seabury Quinn (1889—1969), who, however, is worth not the slightest attention from a purely aesthetic perspective. Virtually the only story of his that is of any interest is the moderately competent werewolf tale “The Phantom Farmhouse” (Weird Tales, October 1923). Quinn became celebrated for the endless adventures of the psychic detective Jules de Grandin (the name is derived from Quinn’s middle name), who, with his colleague Samuel Trowbridge, marches stereotypically through more than 90 adventures, in which all manner of supernatural obstacles—vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies, and so forth—are encountered and, inevitably, defeated. Even more irritatingly than Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, de Grandin repeatedly laces his pompous broken English with elementary French expostulations. The utterly contrived and hackneyed plots and resolutions of the de Grandin stories consign them to aesthetic oblivion, but his small and dwindling number of devotees valiantly seek to find new readers for them. On occasion de Grandin meets with purely human threats, as in “The House of Horror” (Weird Tales, July 1926), in which a surgeon whose son was jilted by a woman develops a hatred for all women and, after kidnapping more than a dozen of them, extracts their bones but keeps them alive to suffer hideous torments. If nothing else, the story is an impressive exercise in monomania and grisliness.

Not much better is the early work of H. Warner Munn (1903—1981), who somehow gained fame for the story “The Werewolf of Ponkert” (Weird Tales, July 1925), which he himself boasted was inspired by a letter that Lovecraft published in the Weird Tales letter column. What Munn did not realise was that he seriously misconstrued the purport of the letter. Lovecraft was berating the moral conventionality of most popular fiction:

Popular authors do not and apparently cannot appreciate the fact that true art is obtainable only by rejecting normality and conventionality in toto, and approaching a theme purged utterly of any usual or preconceived point of view… . Good and evil, teleological illusion, sugary sentiment, anthropocentric psychology—the usual superficial stock in trade, and all shot through with the eternal and inescapable commonplace. Take a werewolf story, for instance—who ever wrote a story from the point of view of the wolf, and sympathising strongly with the devil to whom he has sold himself? (Miscellaneous Writings 509)

Munn accordingly wrote the werewolf story—but had the werewolf repeatedly regret his condition (“these unnatural things, half man, half demonic beast!” [34]). Although the werewolf joins a pack of his fellow creatures and actually kills his wife after she sees him transformed, he then teams up with the villagers to kill the pack, although the leader escapes. This is exactly the “eternal and inescapable commonplace” that Lovecraft condemned.

Munn’s sequel to the story, “The Werewolf’s Daughter” (Weird Tales, October—December 1928), is even worse. It is largely a romantic adventure tale: we are here concerned with Ivga, the daughter of the werewolf of the previous story, who is raised by a foster-father, one Dmitri Helgar. Predictably, Ivga is seized by the superstitious villagers and is about to be burned at the stake, but a young gypsy, Hugo Gunnar, who has fallen in love with her valiantly saves her. There is only minimal supernatural content in the story. Munn also wrote a rather grisly tale of physical horror, “The Chain” (Weird Tales, April 1928), about a man who is tortured in various ways by an immense chain in the dungeon of a castle. It is a striking evocation of old-time Gothic atmosphere, but otherwise the tale is not notable. Munn later gained more deserving celebrity for the Arthurian fantasy Merlin’s Ring (1974), although probably his most impressive accomplishment was the historical novel The Lost Legion (1980).

Considerably more formidable is Henry S. Whitehead (1882—1932), who at least could boast a prose style of admirable fluency and elegance, but who correspondingly had difficulty in summoning up the emotive intensity to create a powerful climax to his otherwise skilful narratives. Whitehead, having worked for nearly a decade as an Episopalian minister in the Virgin Islands, brought that region and its rich stores of superstition—especially the practice of voodoo—to life in many of his tales, a number of which feature what appears to be an autobiographical protagonist, Gerald Canevin.

It is difficult to single out any tale by Whitehead that is any more noteworthy than others. “Passing of a God” (Weird Tales, August 1932) is of interest in betraying what appears to be a clear influence of Edward Lucas White’s “Lukundoo,” which also appeared in Weird Tales (November 1925). Here a white man has surgery for a growth (apparently a sort of tumour) in his stomach, but this proves to be a hideous entity that appalls the surgeon by breathing. The doctor relates what follows:

“And then I saw that it had faint yellowish markings over the brown, and that what you might call its skin was moving, and—as I stared at the thing, Canevin—two things like little arms began to move, and the top of it gave a kind of convulsive shudder, and it opened straight at me, Canevin, a pair of eyes and looked me in the face.” (281—82)

This is shuddersomely effective, but the tale ends anticlimactically.

Another story suspiciously like it in basic plot, “Cassius” (Strange Tales, November 1931), was in fact inspired by Lovecraft, who had related to him the idea of a man who has a miniature Siamese twin, and the strange things that happen when the twin is surgically removed. (This idea was not inspired by “Lukundoo,” for Lovecraft came up with it in the summer of 1925 when he saw a freak at a circus in New York.) In “Cassius,” a black man does have “some kind of growth” (18) removed from his body, but the tiny creature remains alive and terrorises the household. A variety of pseudo-scientific explanations are offered to account for the entity, which is finally dispatched by the family cat. Lovecraft admitted that, had he written up the idea himself, “My story would have had none of the lightness, suavity, and humour of Whitehead’s, but would have been grim and terrible all through” (Selected Letters 5.33).

Something should be said of the work of David H. Keller (1880—1966), a physician who specialised in psychiatry. Much of his weird fiction accordingly focuses on anomalous psychological states, with occasional effectiveness. The problem with much of Keller’s writing, however, is that his prose is so flat and mundane that the incredible events he narrates, even when they are non-supernatural, become preposterous and unbelievable. This problem afflicts even his most celebrated story, an otherwise fine fusion of psychological and supernatural horror, “The Thing in the Cellar” (Weird Tales, March 1932). Here a boy has seemingly developed an unreasoning fear that something is living in the cellar of his house, even though he has never been there. In an attempt to cure the boy of his neurosis, his father nails the cellar door open and leaves the boy, Tommy Tucker, in the kitchen nearby. Later Tommy is found dead—horribly mutilated. Was there something actually in the cellar (even though his parents never perceived it)? or is it the case that the boy’s very fear has created the monster?

Keller was perhaps more effective in tales of pure psychological horror, where he could use his knowledge of psychiatry to good effect. “The Dead Woman” (Strange Stories, April 1939) tells of a man who is convinced that his wife is dead, even though she is ambulatory and doctors can find nothing wrong with her. It becomes fairly obvious that the man is delusional, but the intensity of the tale—culminating in the man’s killing of his wife—is notable. Even more gruesome is “The Literary Corkscrew” (Wonder Stories, March 1934), where a writer confesses that he can only write effectively when in physical pain, with the result that his wife tearfully twists a corkscrew in his back as he writes. Keller also wrote a substantial amount of science fiction as well as a curious religious fantasy, The Devil and the Doctor (1940).

Of later pulpsmiths, some—but not much—attention may be given to Carl Jacobi (1908—1997), whose work August Derleth charitably gathered in three slim volumes for Arkham House. One of Jacobi’s earliest tales, “Mive” (Weird Tales, January 1932), is among his best, if only for its relative success in inspiring fear at the prospect of a giant butterfly. “Revelations in Black” (Weird Tales, April 1933) is a moderately effective vampire tale that was likely inspired by the popularity of the 1931 film version of Dracula. “The Satanic Piano” (Weird Tales, May 1934) features the relatively novel idea of a piano that can play by itself any composition in the mind of a player: the instrument has trapped within it the soul of an obeah man from the West Indies. Jacobi’s work, sadly enough, became weaker and tamer with the passing of years; overall, he is an aesthetic nonentity.

Manly Wade Wellman (1903—1986) seems to have garnered a high reputation in the field, although it is difficult to determine why, if his early weird tales are taken into account. They deal, for the most part, almost entirely with conventional supernatural motifs, and rarely do so in an innovative or distinctive manner. Although he wrote an early and rather frivolous pastiche of Lovecraft, “The Terrible Parchment” (Weird Tales, August 1937), his work of the 1930s and 1940s suggests that Lovecraft’s dynamism in weird conceptions was, as far as Wellman was concerned, all for naught. Accordingly, we have mundane or routine stories of vampires (“School for the Unspeakable” [Weird Tales, September 1937], “When It Was Moonlight” [Unknown, February 1940], “The Devil Is Not Mocked” [Unknown, June 1943]), zombies (“Fearful Rock” [Weird Tales, February—March 1939]), the Gaelic kelpie (“The Kelpie” [Weird Tales, July 1936]), and so forth. “When It Was Moonlight” curiously resurrects the idea that a vampire can be revived by moonlight—last seen in Varney the Vampire a century earlier.

Wellman is, like Keller, hampered by a flat and prosaic idiom that renders his weird conceptions quite implausible. “For Fear of Little Men” (Strange Stories, June 1939) deals with tiny homunculi that attack the members of an Indian tribe. There is not the slighest attempt to account for these creatures except by appealing to the universal belief in “little people”—although Wellman’s entities, unlike the “little people” as conceived by most of the mythologies of the word, are the size of ants. Similarly, “Come Into My Parlor” (1949) is about a small house that proves to be a kind of meat-eating plant, but the execution renders the idea entirely incredible.

Wellman was prolific in the invention of psychic detectives or other heroes who battled the supernatural, but the tales in which these characters figure are not much more impressive than his other work. “The Hairy Ones Shall Dance” (Weird Tales, January—March 1938) is a werewolf story featuring Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant, who appears in several other tales. A similar character is John Thunstone, who first appeared in “The Third Cry to Legba” (Weird Tales, November 1943), “The Dead Man’s Hand” (Weird Tales, November 1944), and other narratives.

In the 1950s Wellman invented a character who came to be called John the Balladeer, although he appears merely as John in the tales collected in the Arkham House volume Who Fears the Devil? (1963). John is probably the most appealing of Wellman’s hero-figures—a gentle, soft-spoken singer, always carrying a trusty guitar with silver strings, who comes upon weirdness in his (and Wellman’s) native South. The landscape and culture of the South are captured felicitously in these tales, although their supernatural elements are no more distinguished than in other Wellman stories, and the implausibility of some of the manifestations is so extreme that the tales collapse of their own absurdity. Decades later, Wellman wrote several novels about John.

Another Southern writer deserving some attention is Mary Elizabeth Counselman (1911—1994), who published thirty-three stories in Weird Tales from 1933 to 1953, along with a few tales in other pulps or later magazines—including, amusingly enough, one in the 1980s reincarnation of Weird Tales as a paperback book. A British edition of her collection Half in Shadow (1964) was followed by a 1978 Arkham House volume of the same title but with differing contents. In all honesty, much of Counselman’s is disappointingly conventional, dealing with routine ghosts, haunted houses, curses, and the like, such as the inexplicably celebrated fable “The Three Marked Pennies” (Weird Tales, August 1934). Good Southern atmosphere, with a liberal dose of evocative dialect, is found in such tales as “Seventh Sister” (Weird Tales, January 1943) and especially “Parasite Mansion” (Weird Tales, January 1942), which features a rich fusion of psychological torture and quasi-supernaturalism (the power of levitation).

But Counselman’s most interesting and thought-provoking story may be “The Unwanted” (Weird Tales, January 1951). On the surface, this tale seems merely to evoke the ghosts of children who were never wanted by a poor country wife; in fact, they are the ghosts of children who were unwanted by the surrounding townsfolk, but who supernaturally appear to the wife, who tends to them. The term abortion is never used but is clearly implied.

Some mention should be made of what might be called notable one-shots—individual stories by authors who are otherwise little-known or who did little other work of note. Lovecraft thought he had found several such specimens in the pages of Weird Tales, but his judgments were perhaps more charitable than sound. He liked a very early specimen, “Ooze” (Weird Tales, March 1923) by Anthony M. Rud (1893—1942), who was an incredibly prolific author of stories in such magazines as Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly, and Short Stories, and who published eight stories in Weird Tales, four under the pseudonym “R. Anthony.” “Ooze” has an ingenious premise—a scientist develops an immensely large amoeba that is “absolved from natural growth inhibitions” (245)—but the narration is clumsy and unfocused. The story was manifestly an influence on Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror,” but for all the aesthetic flaws of that story he has handled the core subject much better than Rud.

Lovecraft was also fond of “The Canal” (Weird Tales, December 1927) by Everil Worrell (1893—1969), but it is a not especially notable vampire tale. Worrell wrote a score of stories in Weird Tales from 1926 to 1954. As for “Bells of Oceana” (Weird Tales, December 1927) by Arthur J. Burks (1898—1974), it is a tolerably effective sea-horror narrative and probably the only notable weird item by this staggeringly prolific pulpsmith.

The one genuine “one-shot” that can be discussed here is “Far Below” (Weird Tales, June/July 1939) by Robert Barbour Johnson (1909?—?), an author about whom almost nothing is known and who published six stories in Weird Tales. “Far Below” has been called the finest story published in that magazine—a ludicrous assertion, as at least half a dozen of Lovecraft’s tales, along with many others one could mention, easily surpass it—but it is a highly effective work nonetheless. The Lovecraft influence is manifest in the pregnant phrase “the charnel horrors of this mad Nyarlathotep-world far underneath” (16). Lovecraft himself is explicitly mentioned a bit later. The story is essentially a riff on Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model,” especially the idea of hideous creatures lurking underground in large cities, although this one takes place in the New York subway system rather than that of Boston. It is difficult to summarise the extraordinary subtlety of the cumulative horror of “Far Below.” Every word, every sentence, every paragraph contributes to the inexorable but stunning denouement. It emphatically draws upon some central tenets of Lovecraft’s pseudomythology—especially the notion of an entire civilisation (of a sort) dwelling on the underside of human society, awaiting the proper moment to overwhelm our race in an orgy of cataclysmic horror.

Noteworthy specimens of this kind were, sadly, quite rare in Weird Tales. For the most part, it catered to the manifestly low aesthetic level of its readership by an endless parade of hackwork by Seabury Quinn, E. Hoffmann Price (1898—1988), Hugh B. Cave (1910—2004), and a host of still lesser lights. Price began his career reasonably auspiciously with a powerful early tale, “The Stranger from Kurdistan” (Weird Tales, July 1925); but with the advent of the depression, he lost his job in a garage and felt that his only means of earning an income was to churn out pulp fiction catered calculatingly to the specific market he was targeting—whether it be weird, weird menace, Oriental, or whatnot. All this activity no doubt alleviated his poverty but spelled his complete aesthetic damnation. Price largely gave up writing in the late 1940s and did not resume until the 1980s, when he began writing a series of Oriental fantasies and science fiction novels; but these are no better than his earlier work. August Derleth charitably published a selection of his weird tales, Strange Gateways (1967), and some of his other pulp tales appeared in Far Lands, Other Days (1975). Even these volumes have a considerable amount of rubbish, and it is probably just as well that the great majority of his writing has apparently been permanently inhumed in the crumbling pages of the pulp magazines.

A number of the writers discussed here published in Unknown (later Unknown Worlds), a pulp whose relatively short lifespan (1939—43) belies its significance in the development of supernatural literature. It is noteworthy that Unknown was a sister publication of Street & Smith’s Astounding Science Fiction and that it was edited by John W. Campbell, Jr., whose impact in the science fiction field is, overall, substantially greater than that in the supernatural horror field; but the fusion of horror, fantasy, and science fiction that we will see in the work of the writers discussed in the next section really had its origin—or, at any rate, received a substantial impetus—in Unknown. Campbell in particular was determined to edit an explicitly non- or even anti-Weird Tales periodical. In particular, he exhibited a certain animus to Lovecraft or to the type of fiction that he believed Lovecraft and his disciples to be offering, as he made clear in a letter to Jack Williamson in early 1939:

I do not want old-fashioned, 19th century writing, the kind that has burdened fantasy readers steadily in Weird Tales. I do not want unpleasant gods and godlings with penchants for vivisection, and nude and beauteous maidens to be sacrificed. I do not want reams of phony atmosphere. I do not want the kind of stuff Lovecraft doted on. He was immensely liked—by the small clique that read Weird regularly. It still wasn’t good writing.

I want simple, clear and direct writing. You can’t convince a man of normal intelligence of something he knows darn well is cockeyed by any amount of argument. On the other hand, he’ll accept any premise you want to set up for the sake of a story. Therefore, magic is acceptable if you say it’s magic, and simply say that magic works. Period. You can’t convince him it does, but he’ll go along with you for the fun of it. (Quoted in Dziemianowicz 14)

There are a number of problems with this formulation. First, it appears to be setting up a straw man—a caricature of Lovecraft’s own writing (although, perhaps, not so much a caricature of some of Lovecraft’s poorer imitators, such as the ubiquitous August Derleth). Secondly, it underestimates the degree to which the standard motifs of supernatural fiction had become played out and all but aesthetically unusable, forcing Lovecraft and others to look to the very fusion of horror and science fiction that Campbell himself apparently sought. (Campbell wrote the novella “Who Goes There?” [Astounding Science Fiction, August 1938] as a purported answer to Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness; but, although it served as the basis of the classic horror film The Thing from Another World [1951], there aren’t many who will think that, on a purely literary scale, Campbell’s story is superior to Lovecraft’s.) The notion that “magic” and other incredible events could be accepted without the proper atmosphere seems to me an aesthetic error; indeed, the kind of writing Campbell is here advocating appears more suitable to a kind of innocuous whimsical fantasy that is very far from the literature of the supernatural.

But Campbell’s editorial skills were superior to his own formulations. The fact is that he published a number of works that are in the central tradition of supernatural horror; the key differences lie in their contemporary settings and their relatively mundane characters, which carried the implication that these horrors could come upon any one of us at any time. Whether the Unknown writers consciously harked back to, say, the work of M. R. James, which also championed this kind of ambiance, is unclear; but even those of Lovecraft’s disciples who published in the magazine eschewed the learned scholars and intellectual loners who came to typify, for Campbell and others, a remoteness and unreality of character portrayal that in their judgment failed to resonate with contemporary readers.

It would be cumbrous to provide any detailed examination of the contents of Unknown, which range from L. Ron Hubbard’s novella “Fear” (July 1940), which powerfully suggests the supernatural but cleverly explains it away at the end, to Frank Belknap Long’s grim short-short “Johnny on the Spot” (December 1939), a remarkable melding of supernatural horror and the hard-boiled suspense tale. Theodore Sturgeon’s “It” (August 1940) is worth singling out as one of Unknown’s most noteworthy contributions to supernatural literature. This extraordinarily powerful and (pace Campbell) atmospheric tale of an anomalous creature that rises out of a forest to wreak havoc on man and beast bears some relations to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: the monster, becoming aware of his surroundings, slowly learns the difference between living and dead matter, the fact of the sun’s rising and setting, and other phenomena of earthly life. Whether we are truly convinced by the explanation Sturgeon provides—the creature is a man whose corpse was somehow revived by the mould of the forest floor—is a matter of debate; but there is no question of the novelette’s clutching grimness.

Sturgeon (1918—1985), who wrote a number of other tales of supernatural horror as well as the classic short vampire novel Some of Your Blood (1961), which shall be discussed later, chiefly devoted himself to science fiction and fantasy. A more orthodox Unknown story is “Shottle Bop” (February 1941), but this tale reflects both the virtues and the drawbacks of Campbell’s stated aims for the magazine. While an amusing and engaging tale of what happens when a man drinks a curious liquid out of a bottle found in a bottle shop—he becomes able to see the ghosts of the dead—the story’s whimsicality, bordering on flippancy, actually hinders its credibility; and the fact that it is somewhat meandering and directionless doesn’t help matters.

Another substantial contribution to Unknown is Darker Than You Think (December 1940), a short novel that science fiction writer Jack Williamson (1908—2006) expanded to twice its size for the 1948 book publication. As an explicit science fiction/horror hybrid it packs considerable power, although the full-length version is bogged down by extraneous verbiage and is very slow to get moving. The core of the story was in some senses derived from an earlier novella, “Wolves of Darkness” (Strange Tales, January 1932), a quite dreadful story that purports to account pseudo-scientifically for the existence of werewolves by appealing to a machine invented by a scientist that inadvertently lets in entities from another dimension. How such entities, who apparently possess random human beings, turn them into werewolves is anyone’s guess.

But Darker Than You Think is a much more plausible and compelling work. It focuses on Will Barbee, a journalist who is troubled by alcoholism and other ailments, who finds himself inexorably attracted to April Bell, whose werewolf tendencies (at the very outset it is shown that she doesn’t like silver) are not slow in appearing. April, however, refers to herself as a “witch” (74), and later it is suggested that she and her kind are vampires of a sort. A pseudo-scientific account of the standard properties of werewolves occupies a lengthy chapter about a third of the way through the novel; how convincing this account is (it relies on the ability of the mind to control “the vibrating atoms and electrons of the body” [118]) is again a matter of debate, but the fact that Williamson takes the trouble to provide such an account is the significant aspect of it. Will himself, at April’s instigation, himself changes into a werewolf, and later into a tiger and a snake. How is this possible? It turns out that he himself is the “Child of Night” that the scattered werewolves of the world are waiting for; and although Will initially refuses to believe that he is a kind of werewolf saviour (“I’ll not be—your Black Messiah!” [308]), he eventually becomes reconciled to his fate.

Darker Than You Think develops a cumulative power as it progresses, and its crisply realised characters—especially the tortured and brooding Will Barbee, who cannot resist being attracted to April even though he knows she is hostile to all that he holds good in the world—are a large part of its success. Williamson went on to work almost exclusively in the realm of science fiction, but this one novel will guarantee him an honoured place in the canon of supernatural literature.

A very different type of werewolf story is the novella “The Compleat Werewolf” (Unknown Worlds, April 1942) by Anthony Boucher (pseudonym of William White, 1911—1968). This farce, in which a magician accosts a professor named Wolfe Wolf and both informs him that he is a werewolf and shows him how to turn himself into such, is one of the gems of weird humour, dealing with everything from movie stars to German spies and concluding ludicrously with Wolf becoming a G-man. Boucher, better known as a longtime reviewer in the mystery field and as editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, also wrote the unwontedly grim supernatural tale “They Bite” (Unknown Worlds, June 1942), about malign presences in the California desert.