Saturday, March 21, 2015


The second de Grandin collection does show some development of Quinn as a writer....some, but not much. He was a pulp writer who had occasional flashes of grace, but at least was never dull, a huge crime in the pulp market. And this book is certainly enjoyable, if not of any real literary stature.

Interestingly, Harrisonville, NJ (the center of de Grandin's universe) doesn't quite serve as a Hellmouth, spewing forth supernatural evil, but it does seem to attract it, as most of the menace here is transplanted. In "Children of Ubasti," a pair of strange immigrants come to Harrisonville, who turn out to be man-eating inhuman creatures, some sort of felinoid creature passing for human, who may have been the inspiration for the ghuls of Middle Eastern lore. It does end with an eyebrow-raising rant from de Grandin about how America is too tolerant of immigrants, which is a bit odd coming from a character who is an immigrant.

"The House of Horror" is a fairly grisly tale of how de Grandin and Dr. Trowbridge stumble on a mansion inhabited by a mad surgeon who enjoys operating on...and mutilating...beautiful women. It has the two facing an interesting ethical conflict, but all is resolved by a too-convenient deus ex machina ending.

"The Silver Countess" has de Grandin squaring off against a vampire who inhabits a medieval statue brought to the country by a collector. "The Corpse-Master" is unsurprisingly a tale of a man using voodoo to raise zombies, in this case to get vengeance on those who slighted him. (Some of these villains seek vengeance for very petty reasons...)

"Ancient Fires" is a rather nice little story that starts off as a haunted house tale, but ends up being a a love story with its origins in a Victorian romance that crossed racial boundaries; despite a pat ending that makes things acceptable to the American reader of the time, it does have a surprisingly progressive view of ethic relations.

"The Serpent Woman" is the least story of the collection, in which a seeming case of a baby kidnapped by a monster has a rather dull, mundane solution. But the last, "The Chapel of Mystic Horror," is the best. A well-off family buys a mansion that was imported stone-for-stone from Cyprus, after the people who brought it over died mysteriously. A house party is stricken with strange events, including an artist who finds herself painting scenes she's not intending to paint. A joking seance leads to even more menace, and an ancient evil that comes from the very stones themselves turns out to be at fault. It's a story with some nifty macabre touches and a reasonable solution.

All told, it's like other Quinn works. It's pulp nonsense, but it's fun pulp nonsense that's still readable today. If you can, seek it out.

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