Wednesday, October 21, 2020

SHORT STORY WEDNESDAYS: Avram Davidson, Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Millar, Donald Barthelme, T. V. Olsen, David R. Bunch, Barry Malzberg, Jay Kinney

 the October country: three magazine (October) issues and a book, relatively recent purchases, which I delve into in small part.

Avram Davidson's "Revolver" leads off this issue of EQMM, and while it's definitely missed in the crime-fiction retrospective collection The Investigations of Avram Davidson, among the welcome host of stories one does find there, that was in large part because it's one of the least-known stories sapiently gathered in the slightly earlier and rather larger An Avram Davidson Treasury (Bill Pronzini was tapped to write the introduction to the story in that volume). Utterly picaresque black humor as it traces the interlocking lives of several denizens of the slums of New York City on an eventful afternoon...a quickly-stolen pistol, a new purchase by a slumlord named Mason (a sure sign of perfidy) being not the only revolving aspect of the tale.

"The People Across the Canyon" by Margaret Millar is a horror story, or what Frederic Dannay tagged a "tale of the preternatural" in his blurb, which was otherwise mostly devoted to a quoted passage from the story. It's a deft one, as might be expected of Millar, featuring a rather fully realized dysfunctional but operational family of three, two middle-aged parents and their young daughter, and what happens when their exurban home gains some new neighbors...and their daughter gains some new playmates. 

And an old favorite story, if "favorite" is quite the right word, Patricia Highsmith's "The Terrapin" made its debut in this issue, which Dannay refers to as "an odd and thoroughly fascinating story"--true enough, haunting, a sure ringing of changes on the same sort of tale of sustained betrayal of a child as Saki's "Sredni Vashtar", only with even more agonizing detail provided (a certain pair of 1959 novels come to mind as well, though perhaps mostly because the films drawn from them are getting a workout on our movie channels--Psycho and The Haunting of Hill House...
though, of course, parental abuse is slightly less front and center in those). Two years later, the fantasy and sf magazine Gamma would publish "The Snail Watcher", despite it being neither fantasy nor sf--I think the later story has the slight edge, but these two are, I believe, the most widely read of her short stories, and there's little mystery as to why. Almost certainly, it's no accident that Millar, Davidson and Highsmith's names are the first three on the cover array.

The October 1970 issue of Fantastic features as half its text the apparently unreprinted novella "The Crimson Witch", from the period that Dean Koontz was primarily a fantasy and sf writer, rather than, as in more recent decades, more often a suspense and to a lessening degree a horror novelist. David Wright O'Brien, one of the brighter stars of the Ray Palmer era of Fantastic Adventures and Amazing Stories, and one of the relatively few U.S. writers for the sf and fantasy magazines to die in service in World War 2, has the second-longest story in the issue with his 1941 FA reprint, "Spook for Yourself". I've yet to read either of these, but suspect I'll like the O'Brien story better...and the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable Koontz fans I've known, Ed Gorman and Ian Covell, both are no longer in a position to know or speculate why Koontz hasn't done anything more with this long story. Jeff Jones's interior illustrations for the story rather better than Gray Morrow's generic sword and sorcery cover painting, with Caroline Negretti's lettering and design. 

"A Glance at the Past" is also a reprinted story, but this is unacknowledged in the issue, perhaps because editor Ted White and publisher Sol Cohen were unaware of the fact...this relatively early example of David R. Bunch's stories of Moderan (and in this case the neighboring nation of Olderan, where people eschewed replacing as much of their bodies as possible with chrome and plastic cybernetics) was first in Diversion magazine in 1959; Bunch's arch but usually cleverly so stories were a staple of Cele Goldsmith Lalli's and subsequent editors' Fantastic and Amazing, up through White's reign, and tended to vignette length, making their points (whether Moderan stories or otherwise) and bowing out. Dan Adkins's illustration gives away a bit of the punch of this one, but it's a punch that would be most surprising only to those who hadn't ever read a Moderan story before...still, a graceful and amusing exercise. (New York Review Books's classics series reprinted the collection Moderan in 2018.)

Barry Malzberg's "As Between Generations" is closer to metaphor and fable than fantasy as it's usually construed, another tale of the dysfunction between, in this case, son and father, the small resentments unforgotten over the course of years, the damages wrought in both directions by the careless or only incidentally spiteful act or words. Malzberg (whose middle initial, N., is typo'd on the cover), after his short term as editor of the magazines, remained another stalwart contributor to Fantastic and Amazing throughout White's years and beyond. His no bones about it horror story "Prowl" in this magazine eight years later deals with similar matter less head-on.

Fritz Leiber's first books column in several issues appears, as in the interregnum Leiber's wife, Jonquil, had died.

Jay Kinney's "2000 A. D. Man", I believe the first comic (or comix) strip to appear in Fantastic (early issues included some of Gahan Wilson's earliest single-panel cartoons to be professionally published, among less impressive panels) is amiable if slight...Spiro Agnew and Mark Rudd are among the nation's fearless leaders to come between 1970 and 2000...

Donald Barthelme's "Great Days" is a set of interlocking bits of dialog, apparently, which can be interpreted a number of ways, but I suspect we are to understand this is the interior dialog of a man who has collapsed in the street and is being dealt with by first responders, imagining or recalling scattered bits of a conversation or conversations with his womanfriend or wife of long standing. Exactly the kind of story which will, in its resistance to being a coherent and clear narrative, annoy the hell out of some of my acquaintances who are impatient with his more pellucid work. This story lent its title to Barthelme's penultimate collection published during his lifetime, which featured some similar free-associational dialogs among more conventional prose. 

      T. V. Olsen's "The Strange Valley" was the first western short story I read, as anthologized in Nora Kramer's 1972 Scholastic Books anthology The Ghostly Hand and Other Haunting Stories, which I believe to have been the second satisfying horror assembly I was to find, as an 8yo, I believe in the classroom library in my Enfield, CT, elementary school, and the first then-recent one, as I tore through it in 1973. I've finally gotten around to investing in inexpensive copies of that book and the 1968 Scholastic hardcover mostly original-fiction anthology Great Ghost Stories of the Old West, edited by Betty Baker, the Olsen story's first publication site. It's a deftly told but relatively familiar story, for most adult readers who have read much in the way of horror fiction, and only slightly overindulges in having the three young men of the Sioux nation, visiting an odd, desolate spot in a nearby valley, speak without any contractions, or their equivalent in Sioux. As they discuss the odd apparition one saw a couple of nights before, in 1876, it or something like it appears again. And in 1968 or thereabouts, two 18-wheel truck drivers, one the grandson of one of the 1876 Sioux, have their own odd encounter. Western writers are often drawn, when writing crossover western/horror, to mysterious time-displacement stories, and not so very surprisingly. It was certainly the most impressive story in the book to me at the time...Baker was happy with it as well, leading off her volume with it.

    Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine [v40 #4, #227, October 1962] ed. Ellery Queen (Davis Publications, Inc., 40¢, 132pp, digest)
    Details supplied by Douglas Greene.
    • 5 · Revolver · Avram Davidson · ss
    • 16 · Murder to the Twist · Pat McGerr · vi
    • 20 · The Talking Tree · George Sumner Albee · ss
    • 32 · The People Across the Canyon · Margaret Millar · ss
    • 45 · Mooney versus Cat · Michael Zuroy · ss
    • 50 · Beyond a Reasonable Doubt · Edgar Pangborn · ss
    • 61 · Best Mysteries of the Month · Anthony Boucher · br
    • Briefly discussed:
    • The Edge of Eden by Dick Pearce
    • The Love Thieves by Peter Packer
    • Lizzie Borden: The Untold Story by Edward D. Radin (nf)
    • The Trial of Dr. Adams by Sybille Bedford (nf)
    • The Will of the Tribe by Arthur W. Upfield
    • Counterweight by Daniel Broun
    • The Crabtree Affair by Michael Innes
    • The Evil Wish by Jean Potts
    • and the then-current Ace Double crime fiction releases en masse
    • 62 · Green Goose Chase · Veronica Parker Johns · ss
    • 72 · The Last Answer · Hal Ellson · ss
    • 76 · The Walewska Cross · Dorothy Fletcher · ss
    • 87 · A Matter of Judgment · K. T. Edwards · ss
    • 90 · Mystery Hardcovers of the Month · [Various] · br
    • 90 · Mystery Paperbacks of the Month · [Various] · br
    • 91 · Any Man’s Death · Paul W. Fairman · ss
    • 99 · The Terrapin · Patricia Highsmith · ss
    • 111 · Murder at Merryoak · Margaret Austin · ss

    Fantastic [v20 #1, October 1970] ed. Ted White (Ultimate Publications, Inc., 60¢, 148pp, digest, cover by Gray Morrow and Caroline Negretti)

For more of today's Short Story Wednesday posts, please see 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

FRIDAY'S "FORGOTTEN" BOOKS AND MORE: the links to reviews and related texts: 16 October 2020 (including Short Story Wednesday, #1956Club and Friday Fright Night entries)

This week's books and more, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from); certainly, most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles...if I've missed your review or someone else's, please let me know in comments.

Patricia Abbott: The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes; "The Midnight Zone" by Lauren Grof, The New Yorker, 23 May 2016, edited by David Remnick, and Short Story Wednesday links

Frank Babics: Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Mark Baker: R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton

Paul Barnett/"John Grant": The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Brad Bigelow: This Little Hand by Pamela Kellino

Les Blatt: The French Powder Mystery by "Ellery Queen" (Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee)

Joachim Boaz: Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle

Brian Busby: the novels of Frances S. Wees

Larry Clow: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Douglas Cohen: Realms of Fantasy, October 1996, edited by Shawna McCarthy

Liz Dexter: 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs; The Amir Sisters Trilogy by Nadiya Hussein

Scott Edelman: Geoffrey Landis and Yoji Kondo

Martin Edwards: Deadly Hall by John Dickson Carr

Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: Warren horror comics, July/August 1973

Barry Ergang: Fields for President by W. C. Fields 

Will Errickson: "Blood Son" by Richard Matheson, Imagination: Stories of Science and Fantasy, April 1951, edited by William Hamling (WE's Favorite Horror Stories series)

José Ignacio Escribano: "The Theme of  the Traitor and the Hero" by Jorge Luis Borges, revista Sur ("South" magazine), February 1944, revised version included in Ficciones, 1956; translated by Anthony Kerrigan for Ficciones, Grove Press 1962; "Footprints in the Jungle" by W. Somerset Maugham, Cosmopolitan, January 1927, edited by Ray Long

Curtis Evans: Death Card by Ruth Rendell and Friday Fright Night links

"Olman Feelyus": The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong; The Arena by "William Haggard" (Richard Clayton)

Paul Fraser: New Writings in SF 23, edited by Kenneth Bulmer

Cullen Gallagher: Strange Witness and League of the Grateful Dead and Other Stories by "Day Keene" (Gunar Hjerstedt)

Aubrey Hamilton: Not All Tarts are Apple by Pip Granger; The Rage by Gene Kerrigan

Bev Hankins: Murder on the Eiffel Tower by "Claude Izner" (Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefevre); Shadow on the Wall by H. C. Bailey; Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James

Lesa Heseltine: Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodman

Rich Horton: stories of Marie Brennan; Caitlan R. Kiernan stories; Bryce Walton stories; Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Jerry House: Death of a Flack by Henry Kane; The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain (as edited by Charles Ardai); "Who Wants a Green Bottle?" by "Tod Robbins" (Clarence Robbins); All-Story Weekly, 21 December 1918, edited by Robert H. Davis; Tom Corbett's Wonder Book of Space by Marcia Martin (illustrated by Frank Vaughn)

Kate Jackson: Too Many Bones by Ruth Sawtell Wallis; The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Tracy K: A Necessary End by Peter Robinson; "The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb" by Agatha Christie, The Sketch, 26 September 1923, edited by Bruce Ingram

Colman Keane: The Hardest Hit by Frank Scalise; Anything Short of Murder by Tony Piazza

George Kelley: The Tindalos Asset by Caitlin R. Kiernan; Author's Choice Monthly Issue 11 by Ron Goulart; The Osiris Ritual by George Mann

Mark R. Kelly: Rogue Moon (aka The Death Machine) by Algis Budrys

Joe Kenney: Triple Platinum by Stephen Holden; The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and "Joseph Silva" (Ron Goulart)

Margot Kinberg: notable short fiction by Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edgar Allan Poe, Fredric Brown, Patricia Abbott, Paul Thomas

Rob Kitchin: Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall

Damon Knight: The Power by Frank M. Robinson; The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson; Murray King: Avalon adult sf releases in 1956

Karen Langley: Settling the World: Selected Stories by M. John Harrison

B. V. Lawson: 1997 Anthony Award-winners: Death in Little Tokyo by Dale Furutani; Someone Else's Child by Terris McMahan Grimes; and Detecting Women 2 by Wiletta Helsing

Xavier Lechard: crime fiction without murder

Des/D. F. Lewis: Black Static, September/October 2020, Interzone, September/October 2020, both edited by Andy Cox

Evan Lewis: "The Girl with the Silver Eyes" by Dashiell Hammett, The Black Mask, June 1924, edited by Philip Cody, as syndicated to newspapers including The Vancouver Sun, November 1936; After the Thin Man newspaper coverage/hype, and of Dashiell Hammett, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, the script's collaborators (Mark Coggins: Hammett's treatment published in The New Black Mask #5 &6, 1986, edited by Richard Layman and Matthew Bruccoli)

Steve Lewis: A Bullet for the Bride by Jon Messmann; "The Right Profile" by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery edited by Sarah Corter and Liz Martinez

Robert Lopresti: "The Whole Story" by Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, June 2020, edited by Carla Coupe and John Gregory Betancourt

Barry Malzberg: an interview with Cele Goldsmith Lalli (both having edited both Fantastic and Amazing Stories); on The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis: 

Arguably the greatest novel in our language published in the
1980's.  I have fiercely advocated for almost four decades.  Martin Cruz Smith's endorsement is on the jacket of the Random House first edition.  ("I would not play chess with Mr. Tevis.")  I knew Walter Tevis just barely well enough to call him in 1982 immediately after finishing and as quietly as possible tell him my reaction, one of reverence.  The Luzhon Defence is superb but Tevis is far beyond Nabokov here.

I feel and have gone public on this three and a half decades ago that Walter Tevis' death at 54 was a tragedy to the arts on the scale of Mozart's passing at 36.  Tevis had remarried, fled that highly contested State, Ohio, was - after a decade and a half essentially lost to alcohol and academy - writing fiercely and well, and had produced four novels and a collection in five years, showing steadily increasing assurance and power.  Granted a Biblical lifespan and an equivalent pace, the world was denied perhaps a dozen novels and two collections of immeasurable possibility.  We are blessed to have these five books after the luftpaus but they are also a taunt, a mockery (or mockingbird if you will).  Maybe the adaptation will bring him back a little.  Fast Eddie's final page in The Color of Money evokes Mozart's final composition. 

The trailer for The Queen's Gambit limited series doesn't look so great but I can hope.  All these decades awaiting this adaptation.  The backstory of its journey is as frustrating as Walter's life was tragic.  But I'll leave that narrative to Berlioz or Brahms. 

Ed McBride: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Stephen J. McDermott: Wild to Possess by Gil Brewer; The Bedroom Broker by Gus Stevens

Jeff Meyerson: Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne by Edward D. Hoch

Meygan: Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis

Neeru: Mister Enderby Missing and Tragedy at the Thirteenth Hole by "Miles Burton" (Cecil Street)

Steven Nester: Not Dead Yet by Daniel Banko

Jess Nevins: English Jack Amongst the Afghans; or, The British Flag—Touch It Who Dare! by Anonymous

John F. Norris: London After Midnight by Marie Coolidge-Rask; Lucifer and the Child by Ethel Mannin

Jim Noy: The Dead Sleep Lightly by John Dickson Carr

Ray O'Leary: Freak by "Michael Collins" (Dennis Lynds)

Kristina Olsson: Stasiland by Anna Funder (best to skip the droning introduction)

Paperback Warrior: The Big Caper by Lionel White; The Black Berets: Deadly Reunion by "Mike McCray" (Michael McDowell and John Preston); Paul Bishop's Fey Croaker novels; We Who Survived by Sterling Noel; the Swamp Master series by "Jake Spencer" (Jerome Preisler)

Christine Poulson: the ghost stories of M. R. James

James Reasoner: Whistling Lead by Eugene Cunningham; "No Light for Uncle Henry" by August Derleth, Weird Tales, March 1943, edited by Dorothy McIlwraith; "The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft, WT, February 1928, edited by Farnsworth Wright; "The Hounds of Tindalos" by Frank Belknap Long, WT, March 1929, edited by Wright; "The Colour Out of Space" by H. P. Lovecraft, Amazing Stories, September 1927, edited by Hugo Gernsback

Richard Robinson: The Case of the Constant God by Rufus King; "Diplomat-at-Arms" by Keith Laumer, Fantastic: Stories of Imagination, January 1960, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli

Jason Sacks: We, the Venusians by "John Rackham" (John Phillifent); The Water of Thought by Fred Saberhagen

Gerard Saylor: Wall of America by Thomas M. Disch; Rut by Scott Phillips

Steve Scott: "Night Ride" by and interview with John D. MacDonald, The New Black Mask, #8, 1987, edited by Matthew Bruccoli and Richard Layman

Marina Sofia: The Beginning of Spring and The Means of Escape by Penelope Fitzgerald

Kerrie Smith: Blood River by Tony Cavanaugh

Jonathan Strahan: Rebecca Roanhorse

Simon Thomas: Thin Ice by Compton Mackenzie

Scott Thompson: Living on Yesterday and The Island of Desire by Edith Templeton

"TomCat": The Body Vanishes by [Yves] Jacquemard-[Jean-Michel] Sénécal (translated by Gordon Latta); Meredith's Treasure by Philip Harbottle and John Russell Fearn

Prashant Trikannad: "The Case of the Wandering Redhead" by Leigh Brackett, New Detective, February 1951, edited by ?Peggy Graves; reprinted from Flynn's Detective Fiction, April 1943, edited by ?Harry Steeger

Krys Vyas-Myall: Gamma, September 1965, edited by Charles Fritch and Jack Matcha

Bill Wallace: The Midwich Cuckoos by "John Wyndham" (John Benyon Harris); Weird Tales, July 1926, edited by Farnsworth Wright; Evergreen Review, August 1968, edited by Barney Rosset

Gary K. Wolfe: Sheila Williams

A. J. Wright: Alabama Poetry edited by Louise Crenshaw Ray

Friday, October 16, 2020

FFM: WEIRD TALES, the Robert Bloch issue, Spring 1991, #300, edited by Darrell Schweitzer, illustrated by Gahan Wilson

Robert Bloch is, I would argue, the most important writer actually to have been a Weird Tales "discovery" though there is no denying that a sizable number of readers, as Fred Blosser noted indirectly today in comments, will suggest that his slightly older peer Robert E. Howard deserves that plaudit...Bloch's literary mentor and their mutual friend, H. P. Lovecraft, and most of  HPL's peers in largely making their names in the pages of WT such as Seabury Quinn, had all published some notable body of work before coming to "the Unique Magazine", and even such slightly younger peers as Ray Bradbury, who would begin contributing much of his best early work to WT a half-decade after Bloch, were spreading their contributions out to other markets to a greater degree than Bloch, who would be a stalwart contributor to, and soon a major star in, the Weird Tales firmament and remain so throughout the run of the "original" WT, until folding in 1954 (editor Martha Foley kept listing it as a consulted market for her annual volumes of Best American Short Stories into the 1960s, perhaps hoping that rights owner Leo Margulies would revive the magazine, as he kept hoping to do and finally did, briefly, in 1973). And Bloch's first major branching out was to contribute to a magazine hoping to be a more adventurous and less grim variation on WT, Strange Stories, one of a slew of new fantasy magazines founded by other publishers in the wake of Weird Tales in 1939, along with Unknown: Fantasy Fiction, Fantastic Adventures, and Famous Fantastic Mysteries, all of which Bloch would contribute notable work to in the years to come. Hence this, the most robust of the revivals of Weird Tales, offering the 300th issue (the numbering had been continued from the 1923-54 magazine through three previous short-term revivals) as a celebration of Bloch and his work.

More to come!