Thursday, May 27, 2021

Mothman and Something for the Dark Illustrations

 

As noted as an addendum on a recent post on Edward D. Hoch's story "Something for the Dark," the tale originally appeared in the June 1968 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. 

The original illustrations, in the style that appeared in AHMM for the better part of 20 years or more, further evoke the mothman allusions. 


Mothman-style Illustration - Story By Edward D. Hoch

AHMM - Mothman Illustration

Monday, May 24, 2021

Favorite Short Stories: Something for the Dark By Edward D. Hoch

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories that Go Bump in the Night
To identify one sub-category of Edward D. Hoch's fiction is to spoil a bit, I suppose. Hoch excelled at
all varieties of mystery from the locked room to the procedural to the cozy and more. His cadre of sleuths included a cowboy, a spy, a country doctor and the representative of a bureau devoted to apprehensions of fugitives. 

The collection Ellery Queen's Grand Slam (Popular Library 1970) includes a Hoch trifecta divided by mystery technique, whodunit, howdunit, whydunit. 

But there's also a significant portion of Hoch's work that falls in the realm of the fantastic uncanny alongside The Hound of the Baskervilles or the the more recent Scooby Doo. The supernatural is seemingly present in the mystery, but the solution is rational with clues neatly placed along the way to look like phenomena.

Clearly Hoch read widely in probably scientific and technical journals, mining for tidbits to serve his ongoing, incredible output. Thumbprint scanners in their infancy might provide a reason for one of thief Nick Velvet's unique pilfers, for example, and all manner of devices or small details might serve Simon Ark tales and many others.

Ark, alleged to be a coptic priest thousands of years old, tended to be called in when high strangeness seemed at hand. Even with a bit of mysticism sometimes mixed in, Ark's cases always proved to have a logical explanation.


That same style is on display in what's maybe a bit of an obscure Hoch tale, "Something for the Dark." From what I can tell it appeared only in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents collection Stories that Go Bump in the Night (Random House1977), though its roots seem to be the 1960s. That hints it may have been in a magazine earlier. 

The collection's one of a long series of anthologies spawned by the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series, offering tales in a similar vein. 

Double-Action Detective Magazine
The hero's not Ark nor one of Hoch's many series characters but magazine writer Steve Foley, though he works for Neptune Magazine, which bears the same name as the publishing house for which Ark's unnamed friend and case-narrator works.

Maybe it started out as an Ark tale. (Occasional signs of Hoch's experimentation turn up in mining his cannon. The September, 1959 Double-Action Detective features a more traditional hardboiled private eye named Simon Ark narrating and solving "The Case of the Naked Niece.")

In "Dark," the human-interest angle on reports of a man's encounter with what might be called a strange cryptid piques Foley's interest. While on a camping trip with his wife, the man spied a winged creature sounding a lot like Mothman though described as similar to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwock.

Circulation's lagging at Neptune, and an October issue is coming up, so his editor dispatches Foley to Pennsylvania for details from Walter Wangard and his wife Lynn. 

Sounds maybe a little like Woodrow Derenberger, noted for encounters with alleged alien Indrid Cold in proximity to Mothman sights.

Turns out the creature may have winged away with the couple's dog.


Foley's skeptical, but a trip back to the woods and the spot of the initial sighting gets spooky, and Walt's overcome by something unseen not far from where their dog's found buried. 

For a magazine feature writer, Foley's as attuned to detail as any classic sleuth. As events seem to overwhelm Walt Wangard, Foley pieces together a different interpretation of events, drawing on a bit of science and an inconsistency or two that Sherlock himself might have noted.

It's not a terrifying tale, but it has a creepy factor and a satisfying solution. It shouldn't be overlooked by Hoch fans nor those who enjoy a tale with a few clever twists. 

ADDENDUM
Poking around a bit, I see that "Something for the Dark" appeared in the June, 1968 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Mothman sightings and related incidents occurred in 1966 and 1967. See illustrations from that publication here



Saturday, May 15, 2021

Original Publication Sites: Scars and Blue Murder


I get periodic reminders my memory is not what it used to be. 

My story "Scars" originally appeared in the online magazine Blue Murder. It's in the ebook collection Scars and Candy from Crossroad Press. I read a few flash stories from that collection the other day at the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Focus Facebook group and was reminded. 

I'm not sure the issue number any longer, and shifts from one computer to the other over the years have lost any contributor's e-copy I had.

It's a good lesson on the need to keep good records, I guess. 

The story was first submitted to the Hot Blood series, and it resulted in a freak-out rejection from Michael Garrett, I believe, and not Jeff Gelb, over something implied but not implicitly stated in the story. 

It went to some other mag of the time where it chilled one editor but not the second reader it seemed, who took it in better stride than the HB editors at least.

I don't recall Blue Murder batting an eye. Shows what a crapshoot the whole submission process is, I guess.

Wish I still had a copy of the original. I found a few others around on Planet PDF and discovered several friends in the contents pages, but haven't run across myself.

Maybe it'll turn up. At least the story's preserved in Scars


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Favorite Short Stories - The Judges of Hades by Edward D. Hoch

I first turned to 
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in the late '70s. They were in the mix and progression of interesting and eclectic things to which I was drawn once the comic books were taken away by the Eckerd Drugs powers that were of the day. 

I met Micahel Morbius on those magazine racks and Doc Savage on the nearby paperback display, so those old Eckerd bean counters nudged my reading tastes, I suppose.

I was unaware of Simon Ark's legacy in that moment. I just started to notice the contributions of Edward D. Hoch in every issue of EQMM and frequently in AHMM. I came to like police detective Captain Leopold and thief-of-obscure-and-worthless-objects Nick Velvet among Hoch's wide mix of characters. 

When Ark came to the pages of EQMM and AHMM a while after, I started reading of him as well. An introduction noted Hoch had written of him for some time, but I just picked up with the newly arriving tales. 

I sadly never ran across the 1971 paperback edition in my used book store dives. I would have snatched it up, of course. Paperbacks sold for half their cover price back then, not collector's prices. I would have snatched up a 1973 re-introduced Weird Tales too that included an Ark story too. It never made it to Eckerd's that I noticed. 

The Judges of Hades cover

Ark might almost have fit in the original Weird Tales alongside Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin, I suppose. As explained by Ark's nameless Watsonesque first-person narrator from the publishing industry,  Ark was a Coptic priest, thousands of years old. But his mysteries, while hinting at the bizarre or the mystical, were of the "fantastic uncanny" school. Like The Hound of the Baskervilles or Scooby Doo, while things might seem ghostly or otherwise supernatural, the explanation was rational.

I enjoyed the Ark stories. My old man, who'd take a turn toward less fantastic tastes later in life, read them as well along with other Hoch stories. "Anything by Edward Hoch is good," he declared. 

 SEE ALSO: Favorite Short Stories: The Hospice by Robert Aickman

He liked the clever twists and turns of Hoch's plots, frequently locked rooms with Dr. Sam Hawthorne and more violent crimes with Leopold.  Often, they'd hinge on technology of some sort. I decided Hoch must read a lot about new developments as well as the inner workings of older devices. He was no stranger to minute details in other realms such as myth and folklore either. 

That hint of the arcane in Ark stories probably appealed to me more as my interest in Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft grew. The delight when Hoch revealed how a man trapped in a revolving door all alone could perish at another's hand grabbed both my dad and me, however.

Things weren't as accessible in those days as they are now. I had to wait for ebooks to bring back early Ark tales including Hoch's first published story, I believe, "Village of the Dead." In that one an entire village plunges lemming-like over a cliff. 

SEE ALSO: Ray Bradbury's October Game

"The Judges of Hades," probably novelette length, is in the Mysterious Press/Open Road ebook of The Quests of Simon Ark as well. It's nice to backtrack a bit now that so much is at our fingertips.

According to this handy list, the story first appeared in the February 1957 Crack Detective and Mystery. It's fun to have a sense at least of a tale's original trappings. 


The story takes Ark's publishing-industry friend plus wife Shelly back to his hometown, Maple Shades, Indiana. Kids are wont to strip Maple S from local welcome signs, but it seems to be one of those quiet picket-fences places, though the narrator's much happier in the canyons of New York. 

The friend's father, Richard, and sister Stella, have died in a head-on collision, each alone in a separate car. 

The narrator's strict father was a strict local judge as well. He and his brother, Uncle Phillip, also a judge, had been dubbed judges of hades by the local press, inspired by vase depicting the mythological Greek guardians of the underworld.

What made either the Stella or the Richard decide to ram the other? Dad had ruled against the sister's husband, but would that have triggered a dark impulse on her part?  

The narrator persuades Ark to look into the matter and his interest is piqued by the mythological reference. Was supernatural evil to blame? And what's up with the fact that there were three mythological judges of Hades?

Ark's interest grows as the potentially spookier side of things becomes evident.

The solution's wrapped up in fifties small town repression and more character texture than usual. All is revealed as the narrator contemplates choices and contrasts between life in Maple Shades with the glitzy life of the city. 

Are there a couple of stretches? Perhaps, but it's all clever enough and anticipates what's ahead for Ark who's a tall and heavy-set man not yet showing some of the signs of age mentioned in later tales. So is he really who he claims to be?

It should be enjoyable to fans for the likes of Carnacki, though he might have found a ghost or a logical explanation.

And, if we'd have run across it while he was alive, I'm pretty sure my old man would have liked it and held to his Hoch contention. We had our tiffs, but we got along better than Ark's narrator and his dad Richard. 


Monday, April 12, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - The Green Eyes of Bast by Sax Rohmer - Twenties Horror

Best known as the creator of Fu Manchu, Sax Rohmer, real name Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, also produced a host of stand-alone novels. He also penned several other series, Gaston Max, Red Kerry, Paul Harly and Sumuru. 

Sumuru seems to have been an attempt to produce a slightly more enlightened series in the fifties even though his Fu Manchu series, which had generated controversy and charges of racism, continued on paper. 

He also wrote tales of Bazarada based on magician Harry Houdini. The Green Eyes of Bast is more in that vein, a horror thriller from 1920 with a focus on Egyptian magic. It feature psychic investigator Dr. Damar Greefe. This edition is February 1971 from Pyramid.
 



Green Eyes of Bast Sax Romer Creator of Fu Manchu

Green Eyes of Bast Back Cover



 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Cover Stories - Ali Larter was apparently the model for my novel Blood Hunter's Original Cover

Blood Hunter and Ali Larter - cover model

Apparently even if I read reviews, I'm guilty of not reading them carefully. A gentleman named Mark Louis Baumgart was kind enough to write a thoughtful review of my novel Blood Hunter some time back. It was a meticulous piece on Amazon that sought to put the book in perspective on the horror paperback fiction landscape.

I noted it there somewhere along the way, happy to have it, of course, but I only noticed today that he included a bit of trivia several paragraphs deep.

SEE ALSO: THE RETURN OF BLOOD HUNTER

Apparently the cover painting artist on the original Pinnacle Books edition was done by E. T. Broeck Steadman, and a 17-year-old Ali Larter of Heroes was the model for his work. It was before she became an actress. Checking her bio, she must have been a Ford model at the time and just shy of heading to Italy, Japan and a few other places. 

I honestly never knew that. A little googling located the author's website with his note on the work

The character in the painting is a little younger than the character she more or less represents in the book, but it's still kind of fun to know.

I can't recall my original title for the book. Blood Hunter was the publisher's choice from a later list I submitted. 

SEE ALSO: WHEN DARKNESS FALLS - THE NEW COVER 

My original cover idea was a clawed hand and forearm raking its way across the cover, back of said hand and the forearm covered with mud, leaves and Spanish moss as the human creatures in the tale used to form pelts for themselves.

Something similar had been done recently, so the editor asked for another idea. 

I suggested a swamp.

"What's a swamp look like?" she asked from her New York City desk.

I had a Louisiana cypress swamp in mind. By the time notes were conveyed, the swamp took on a more lush look and the character most-closely aligned to the one on the cover lost a few years. 

So it goes, it's still a catchy image for one of my favorites of my early works. 

Order Blood Hunter here


Monday, April 05, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: Donovan's Brain and Hauser's Memory by Curt Siodmak

Curt Siodmak made significant contributions to the Universal horror canon with screenplays for The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Son of Dracula and others. 

His novels add dimension to the horror and science fiction realm. This handy edition brings together a couple of his greatest works, both of which were made into films. Hauser kind of expands on ideas in Donovan's Brain, so this makes for a nice package. This twofer is from November 1992 from Leisure Books. 

Noel Carroll examines Donovan's Brain in The Philosophy of Horror in contemplating the overreacher plot, the structure/paradigm in the Frankenstein mold. 

Donovan's Brain and Hauser's Memory


Donovan's Bfrain and Hauser's Memory

Here's an interesting interview with Siodmak.

 

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong Review

I occasionally write reviews and other articles for the nice folks at Wicked Horror. 

I did a quick take on Godzilla vs. Kong. You can check it out here

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