Friday, July 22, 2016

What happens when a podcaster violates the code?

This month on Mystery Movie Night we're joined by special guest Paxton Holley (Nerd Lunch, Cult Film Club, Hellbent for Letterbox) to discuss some older films: The Uninvited (1944) starring Ray Milland, Konga (1961) with Michael Gough, and Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971). Hear what we thought and see if you can guess the secret connection between the three films!

Apologies for some background noise we picked up from somewhere (including a siren).

The Univited review starts at 3:17
Konga review starts at 20:42
Get Carter review starts at 37:00

Friday, July 15, 2016

It is a period of podcast war

In the most recent episode of Starmageddon, after a quick promo for one of my other podcasts (synergy!), Dan and Ron and I say goodbye to Anton Yelchin before diving into the new Star Trek fan film guidelines, the Kelvin Timeline, and some new info about the upcoming Star Trek TV series. On the Star Wars side, we talk about some recent revelations about Rogue One, including ties to Clone Wars, those darn reshoots, and whether or not it needs to open with a title crawl.

Check it out on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever fine podcasts are sold.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sword and Sorcery Cliche No. 3: The Wizard With the Unpronounceable Name [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

The barbarian hero hacks his way through an army of undead to finally come face-to-face with the evil necromancer who has been terrorizing the countryside.

"Barbarian fool!" the old wizard croons.

"Die, fiend!" says the muscular swordsman. "Die, Xultot'ill'xiianx'ius!"

Now it was not quite that bad, but there is a legitimate cause for this parody. The alternative is a portmanteau name such as "Xardonax of the Secret Blood-Red Gods" or "Torbindardos of the Fourteen Dancing Dwarves of Hades." You get the idea. Sword-and-sorcery villains know the PR game better than the lunk-headed heroes of the one- or two-syllable names.

So where did this start? One would assume (incorrectly) that it began with Robert E Howard. REH's wizards often have simple names, or if not, they are at least easy to roll off the tongue. In the Conan saga there is Xaltotun, Thoth-Amon, Thugra Khotan and Khemsa. In the King Kull stories we have the Pictish wizard Ka-Nu, Kuthulos, Tuzun Thune with his evil mirror, and the grand-daddy of them all: Thulsa Doom. Howard's predilections tend toward three or four syllables (blank-blank-boom) as in Thulsa Doom. It doesn't hurt to have a power word in there like Doom or Thug.

Other sword-and-sorcery writers during Howard's time included CL Moore whose Jirel of Joiry featured a few wizards, but all with French or simple names such as Giraud, Andred, and Pav. Nictzin Dylahis (whose name looks like the proverbial wizard) wrote "The Sapphire Siren" and featured two wizards, Djl Grm and Agnar Halit. A little weirder, but still similar to Howard's 3-4 syllables.

The writer who perhaps could take the most credit for the weird wizard name was Clark Ashton Smith. A contemporary and friend of REH, he was considered a great poet and known for his colorful vocabulary. Smith wrote a hundred stories for WT and many feature wizards and magic-users, so with names we find a range. Some are lengthy and strange such as Mmatmuor, Mior Lumivix, and Abnon-tha while others less so as Vokal, Malygris, and Ulua show. Smith's poet ear drew him to melodious names that spoke of exotic and foreign places. A name like Namirrha or Malygris looks odd but once pronounced isn't so much (Nah-mir-ah, Mal-lig-ris).

Of the post-Howard Weird Tales writers, the most important were Clifford Ball, Henry Kuttner, and Fritz Leiber. Clifford Ball wrote only three sword-and-sorcery stories, but two feature Karlk the enchanter. Kuttner kept things simple in the Elak of Atlantis stories, calling his druid Dalan. In the Prince Raynor stories (the first sword-and-sorcery to appear outside Weird Tales, in Strange Tales) there is Necho and Ghiar and a mention of a Bleys of the Dark Pool. Fritz Leiber, who was inspired by ER Eddison and James Branch Cabell as much as Robert E Howard, begins the portmanteau names in earnest, with Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face, the two wizards the swordsmen work for. Leiber has his tongue firmly-in-cheek, in a way Robert E Howard never did, enjoying the silliness of the wizardly names. Leiber felt sword-and-sorcery should be fun as well as exciting. The first Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories appeared in Unknown, not Weird Tales, and this may explain a little the difference in attitude towards heroic fantasy.

We can't ignore JRR Tolkien as we move into the 1950s. He wrote The Hobbit in 1937 but with The Lord of the Rings we get more than just Gandalf the Grey, with Radagast the Brown and Saruman the White. Tolkien was quite transparent about where he got the name Gandalf, from an old Icelandic list of dwarf names. As for Saruman, some readers and critics complained about the similarity of Tolkien character names (Saruman/Sauron, Arwyn/Eowyn) but he defended these as the natural result of his history and languages he created for the series. The sword-and-sorcery hacks of the 1960s certainly didn't spend that kind of time and attention on naming characters.

The 1960s boom was established from the stories of the 1920-1950s. Lin Carter had Sharajsha the wizard in the Thongor novels. John Jakes, working in an acknowledged Howard homage, created the Roman sounding Septigundus and Valconius, but also had Pom and Ool. Roger Zelazny kept it simple with Shadd and Jelerak. L Sprague de Camp was rather anti-wizard whether writing about his own world of Pusad (Derezong Taash, Ugaph, Bokarri) or pastiching Conan (Diviatix, Nenaunir, Muru). Michael Moorcock, like de Camp, wasn't afraid to follow in Clark Ashton Smith's style with Jagreen Lern and Theleb K'aarna, but it was Jack Vance who takes on Smith's mantle in his Dying Earth books with Mazirian the Magician, Turjan of Miir, and Rhialto the Marvelous.

So where did the cliche come from? This list is odd - fantasy-scented, if you will - but not overly verbose. Part of it may come from the fact that Robert E Howard and Clark Ashton Smith were friends with HP Lovecraft, a writer known for his tongue-tying names and eldritch labels. Lovecraft, in turn, took a page from Lord Dunsany's Pegāna series with names like Plash-Goo, Tharagavverug Mana-Yood-Sushai, Wong Bongerok, though these weren't necessarily wizards. Howard certainly was a fan as well, while Smith admired more Arabesque works such as Vathek with characters like Firouzkah and Zulkais.

Sword-and-sorcery was created in 1929, but it has a long pre-history in myths and fairy tales before it. These ancestors include the fantasy of the previous generation that included Dunsany, Eddison, Cabell, and William Morris. It is fair to say that sword-and-sorcery inherited the weird sounding characters as much as it did dragons, sword fights, evil magicians and beautiful maidens. Where sword-and-sorcery differs is saving the strangest names for the wizardly, and specifically the evil bad guy. And this is where the pulp aspect of the sub-genre becomes evident. The pulps loved short-hand. Heroes were brawny and had names like Buck and Hawk, while beautiful women were good (or their fatale version, slutty and kinky) and ugly women bad, rich men corrupt, and old men who seek knowledge and power are wizards and they are always evil. And to prove it they have weird, exotic names. Strangely, none of them ever thought to hide their wicked natures by simply being called Bob. They are egomaniacs if nothing else.

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Year in Movies: 1931 - Mystery and Horror

Dracula (1931)

It's tough not to compare Tod Browning's Dracula to Murnau's Nosferatu from nine years earlier. The ability to add sound to movies was a great reason to do a new version of Stoker's story (with all the proper rights, too, instead of sneakily changing the characters' names) and Browning was a good choice to direct it. His style is very different from Murnau's, but it's distinct and creepy and brings some beautiful atmosphere to Dracula.

But Murnau's version is actually scary and Browning's never is. Murnau's Count Orlok is a true monster, from his very appearance to his strange powers that Murnau so cleverly gives him through special effects. Browning's version - truer to Stoker's novel - is meant to be creepily charming. You don't realize he's a threat until it's too late. Which is cool, but Browning uses so little effects that even when Dracula is supposed to be frightening, it's mostly suggested by the way other characters are reacting to him.

That can be very effective sometimes, especially in the case of Dwight Frye's Renfield, who's easily the most chilling character of the film. Edward Van Sloan also adds to Dracula's menace as Van Helsing. The Van Helsing character is a giant weakness of Nosferatu, but I always have a lot of fun watching him work in Dracula, trying to first figure out who the vampire is (initially suspecting Renfield), then playing a game of wills against Bela Lugosi's monster.

I wish that Helen Chandler was a better Mina, though. Mina is the heart of any version of Dracula and it's important to get her right. Nosferatu gives her a tragically heroic role (renamed Ellen and played with full commitment by Greta Schröder). In Browning's movie, Mina is simply the MacGuffin; the object that the characters are all fighting over. She's not written very well, but she's played even worse by Chandler who never eases into the character and always reminds me that she's an actress playing a role. (Lupita Tovar is much better in the Spanish version that was shot simultaneously with Browning's using the same script and sets, but with a different director and cast. That's a different review, though.)

The movie is also dreadfully slow, but in spite of that and my misgivings about Chandler, I always enjoy revisiting Browning's Dracula for its mood and its cultural impact and especially for Lugosi, Frye, and Van Sloan. I should give a quick shout out to David Manners' John Harker, who's mostly nondescript, but has one great moment when he throws down his newspaper in disgust and leaves the room because of Van Helsing's crackpot ideas about shape-changing, immortal blood-suckers. Manners is visually pretty nondescript, but he's grown on me as an actor and I always seem to find something to enjoy in his performances.

The Sleeping Cardinal (aka Sherlock Holmes' Fatal Hour(1931)

Unlike the silent Sherlock Holmes from 1922, this is a pretty good representation of Holmes and Watson. Holmes is smart and knows it, but his arrogance is gentler than in a lot of adaptations. Watson is always a step behind, but he's familiar with Holmes' methods and no fool. I liked these guys a lot.

I also enjoyed how much focus the movie gives to some of the supporting characters before bringing in the detectives. That helped pull me into the mystery.

M (1931)

Sort of Ocean's Eleven meets Silence of the Lambs with a gang of crooks teaming up to capture a serial killer/pedophile. Peter Lorre is super creepy and appropriately baby-faced as the murderer, but my favorite part is the cat and mouse game when the criminals have him holed up in an office building and he's working to get away from them. That section holds up next to any modern thriller.

And the film wraps up with a fascinating meditation on justice that had my son and I arguing about what the right thing to do would be. Nicely done.

The Maltese Falcon (1931)

It's been a long time since I've seen the original, so I can't compare the two versions, but I really enjoyed Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade. He's a sleazy, but charming ladies' man in a way that Bogart can't possibly pull off. As interesting as that is, though, I couldn't really root for him the way I can with Bogart. And I kept missing Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

It was sure great seeing Dwight Frye as a tough though. I love that guy.

The Black Camel (1931)

It's fun to see Warner Oland as Charlie Chan interacting with Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye from the same year as Dracula. And The Black Camel a pretty good mystery story. But this is early days in the Charlie Chan series and it moves slowly. There are much better as the series goes along.

Murder at Midnight (1931)

Fun, if unbelievable and convoluted mystery about a murder that takes place during a party in front of witnesses. Once you know the relationships between the victim and the other characters, the broad strokes of the plot are predictable, but there were also a couple of twists that I didn't see coming.

Daughter of the Dragon (1931)

Aside from the problems of non-Asian actors playing Asian characters, I always enjoy Warner Oland as Charlie Chan. That doesn't make him a good Fu Manchu though. He's not threatening enough, though Daughter of the Dragon's script gives him a pretty good scheme to implement.

As the title suggests, it involves his daughter, played by Anna May Wong. She's great in the role, but the character has super shaky motivations for taking over her father's vendetta against an English family. And not just that, but she also has extremely good, personal reasons not to pick up that mission. But even though her struggle isn't really earned, the movie does some interesting things with it and there are enough pulpy elements to keep the story entertaining.

The Phantom (1931)

I usually have a high tolerance for slow-moving movies of the early '30s, especially if there's an old, dark house involved, but I couldn't finish this one. Without an interesting actor to latch onto or any sort of plot development that I haven't seen done better in countless other mystery/horror films, it became too much of a chore to keep going. Dull and unremarkable.

Frankenstein (1931)

Seen it a million times, but I'm still surprised at how scary and creepy it is. Not much faithful to the plot of Mary Shelley's novel, but very faithful to its themes.

My only issue is the way it rushes through parts of its final act. Everyone learns about the monster and processes that information really quickly. On the other hand, I'm not sure I actually want a slowed down version.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

The inventive camera work can be distracting, but the performances are so earnest and March's makeup is so effective that the movie is legitimately horrifying, even today. Miriam Hopkins is especially heart-breaking as Hyde's terrorized, primary victim. March's Hyde is easily the most monstrous of movie monsters from that era.

Friday, July 08, 2016

When the legend becomes fact, podcast the legend

In the most recent episode of Hellbent for Letterbox, Pax and I discussed John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, Lee Van Cleef, and Woody Strode. Before we talk about the movie though, Pax goes over the comics Galveston and Manifest Destiny, and I share an issue of Kid Colt Outlaw, the novel The Last Mountain Man by William W Johnstone, and The Big Trail starring a young John Wayne.

Check it out below or on iTunes, GooglePlay, Podbean, SoundCloud, and now Stitcher! Pretty much wherever you find podcasts, you can now find us. We also have a new Facebook page, if you're into that. (I'll be expanding Mystery Movie Night's availability too once the new episode drops in a couple of weeks.)

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Year in Movies: 1931 - Comedy, Drama, and Adventure

Monkey Business (1931)

As we get into the '30s, there are going to be enough movies to talk about from each year that I'm going to split them into genre groups. This week I'll talk about comedies, dramas, and adventure movies from 1931, then next week I'll cover mysteries and horror.

In Monkey Business, the Marx Brothers play a group of stowaways on an ocean liner. The twist is that there are also warring gangsters on board, so one of them hires half of the Brothers to assassinate the other, who's in turn hired the other Brothers as bodyguards. And all this is going on while all four Brothers are being hunted and chased by the ship's crew.

The Marx Brothers' movies are having diminishing returns for me as the same recurring gags continue from film to film, but they're still clever and a lot of fun.

Windy Riley Goes Hollywood (1931)

This is a goofy, not-that-funny comedy about a wise guy from New York who gets mixed up in the movie biz and almost ruins the career of a young actress. Louise Brooks plays the actress and this short talkie is mostly memorable for giving her a chance to be heard. Sadly, her delivery isn't great, but then neither is anyone else's. Like many early sound films, Windy Riley was made by people who are clearly struggling to figure out the best way to use the new technology. I get the feeling that this was meant to launch a series of Windy Riley shorts, but it apparently didn't catch on. I can see why.

The Front Page (1931)

It was tough for me to figure out how to take this one. It's got some dark elements, but is clearly meant to be funny. The problem is that the humor isn't derived from the dark subject matter; it's in spite of it. That makes for a tonally inconsistent movie that also fits with Adolphe Menjou's character, who's absolutely despicable for most of the movie until suddenly he's supposed to be rather charming. I hated him in The Front Page, but for truly charming Menjou, check out Morocco.

I'm curious to see the Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau remake of The Front Page to see if it fixes anything. I love both those guys, so at the very least I expect I'll be more forgiving.

Mata Hari (1931)

I thought that the fictionalized story of Mata Hari was at least going to be a spy movie, but it's just a horrible, unbelievable, melodramatic romance. Greta Garbo plays the title character who inexplicably decides to give up spycraft out of her unconvincing love of a Russian pilot. There are plenty of opportunities for Garbo to ham it up with overboard drama, but I'm not in.

The Skin Game (1931)

I have a hard time with Hitchcock's early, non-thriller movies, but that's all on me for wanting them to be more like North by Northwest instead of accepting them on their own terms. The Skin Game is a pretty great movie on its own, showing the tragedy when two families go to war against each other.

It's a lot like Romeo and Juliet in that way (and is even based on a play). In fact, the first characters we meet from the two families are a son and daughter who like each other, even if they don't like each others' relatives. Unlike Romeo and Juliet though, the story doesn't focus on the kids. It's all about the parents and the depths of nastiness that they'll sink to in order to gain power over their enemies.

I actually kind of hate Romeo and Juliet and The Skin Game fixes my biggest problems with it. To begin with, it very clearly defines the source of animosity between the two families. The Hillcrists are old money and the Hornblowers are new, but the real clash is over their visions for the rural community in which they both live. The conservative Hillcrists want to preserve the country while the self-described "progressive" Hornblowers want to develop it with factories.

I get the sense that the story isn't really choosing sides; enough characters comment on how nasty both families are being. But it's tough for me not to side with the Hillcrists. That's a surprising place to find myself in because they're so conservative and entitled, but their conservation extends to preserving the land and protecting the tenants who live on it; people whom Hornblower is perfectly happy to evict in order to have cottages for his workers.

In fact, the simmering feud is brought to a sloppy, overflowing boil exactly because Hornblower is tossing out an old couple that he'd promised could keep their home. Hillcrist had sold some land to Hornblower under those conditions, but Hornblower reneges with the explanation that he'd made that promise under the assumption that he'd be able to get some other land that he hasn't been able to acquire. Since those plans fell through, he doesn't feel bound by any assurances he made based on them.

As far as I'm concerned, Hornblower fires the first shot, so it's tough for me to feel badly for his clan, no matter how ruthless the Hilcrists get in fighting him. The script tries to increase the Hilcrists' culpability by having Mr. Hilcrest say at the end that he'd forgotten all about the old tenants. The implication is that he got caught up in hatred for its own sake. But even if he forgot his reasons for going to war, I never did.

It's not that I feel that the justness of the Hillcrests' cause also justifies all their actions. But it does put me on a particular side early in the movie and nothing happens to pull me off of it. The Hillcrests' ruthlessness takes the form of their learning a nasty secret about a member of the Hornblower family and being willing to use it to extort good behavior from the Hornblowers. There's some debate to be had here, but my feeling in the movie is that the Hornblowers are acting so dishonorably that if they're going to have nasty secrets, then those can be used against them to make them do what they should have been doing in the first place. The movie doesn't think so though, and I imagine that there are viewers who agree with it. It's a great topic for discussion.

I also love that the film ends as it begins, on the son and daughter who like each other. The story doesn't focus on them as it unfolds, but it does check in on them a couple of times and their friendship has been tested through these events. The final shot is of their reaction to the tragedy that's been done: they grab each other's hand.

In Romeo and Juliet the tragedy happens to the young people and makes the old folks put aside their differences in response. In The Skin Game the old people more directly suffer the consequences of their deeds while the young people promise that things are going to change in their generation. I much prefer the strength and hope of the latter message.

Sea Devils (1931)

Super low budget movie about an escaped convict who stows aboard a ship with mutinous treasure-hunters in order to find the ones who framed him for murder. It's complicated a little by the presence of the captain's daughter, but mostly it's a straightforward plot and told simply. It's short though and I enjoyed it.

Corsair (1931)

Great concept about a disgruntled stock broker who takes to piracy to hurt his former boss' extra-curricular bootlegging operation. But it ends up in this weird place where our "hero" - having taken down his enemy - rejoins him in business and renews a romantic relationship with the boss' awful, manipulative daughter. Instead of giving them their comeuppance, he validates that they were just fine all along. Ugh.

Rich and Strange (1931)

I'm always nervous when adultery plays a major role in a movie, because I hate when it's glamorized. That's not the case here though in this early Hitchcock story about a couple who take a long, ocean voyage and are both tempted to be unfaithful. Both spouses make mistakes - one way more than the other - but the movie is honest and serious about exploring the consequences of those actions.

It reminds me some of the theme of Gone Girl, about the masks that we wear, even in marriage. But unlike Gone Girl, Rich and Strange deals with the unmasking in a real, human way and I love it for that. Joan Barry is especially powerful in her role and I'm sad that she retired from filmmaking a few years after this.

Not an easy movie to watch, but worth it in the end. I'll probably enjoy it even more next time.

Law of the Sea (1931)

This made a cool double-feature with Rich and Strange since both are about infidelity and life at sea. Rich and Strange more closely connects the two by testing the commitment of a married couple on a long, ocean voyage. In Law of the Sea, a young sailor is tempted by the cousin of his fiancée.

This happens on shore, but sea life is very much part of the movie, especially since the young sailor still struggles with a tragic incident that occurred at sea 20 years earlier. Unfortunately, it's just as he's trying to come to terms with his feelings about the two women that he's also forced to confront the instigator of his childhood tragedy. That's a lot to deal with and the movie handles it well, up to a point. That point is the last scene, which wraps things up more quickly and neatly than I'd like, but Law of the Sea is still an interesting movie.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Literary Slumming: August Derleth and Mark R Schorer [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

Mark Schorer
It is easy for readers like myself to forget that Weird Tales writers and other pulpsters had literary ambitions. Dwelling in my fan-boy bubble, I (and many others as well) think that our favorite writers would be proud of their Weird Tales heritage. As remarks by Fritz Leiber in interviews clearly show, this was not the case. Weird Tales has a patina of nostalgia upon it these days. Back in the day, it was small potatoes, obscure, beneath notice.

To really drive this home we need look no further than two collaborators who sold twenty-one stories to Weird Tales and a few more to its better-paying rival, Strange Stories. These men were Mark R Schorer (1908-1977) and August Derleth (1909-1971). Both these men could have been simple footnote writers in "The Unique Magazine's" twenty-year run, but they were more. Much more.

First off, they were boyhood friends, growing up in Sauk City, Wisconsin. As time went on, Mark Schorer would become Chairman of the University of California; Berkeley, author of Sinclair Lewis: An American Life (1961). His work would appear in The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic Monthly, and Esquire. Three Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright professorship at the University of Pisa, a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was played by Treat Williams in the movie Howl (2010). Is it any wonder his obituary did not mention Weird Tales?

August Derleth
August Derleth began his career as a regional author. He won a place on the O'Brien Roll for "Five Alone" in Place of Hawks (1935). In 1938, Derleth became a Guggenheim Fellow for his early work on his Sac Prairie Saga, sponsored by Sinclair Lewis and Edgar Lee Masters. Instead of taking the path into academia that Schorer did, Derleth created Arkham Press in 1939 with Donald Wandrei, and saved HP Lovecraft from pulp obscurity. This decision, as well as taking up the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle (unauthorized, of course) and creating the detective Solar Pons, sent him down another path entirely. He would carry a fairly large reputation amongst horror fans (many who love and many who hate him). This literary backwater required him to write volumes of horror fiction to survive (over a hundred tales in Weird Tales alone!)

ST Joshi, in The Modern Weird Tale (2001), sees Derleth's influence and that of the small press as a ghettoizing influence on horror. The lack of response from mainstream critics forced Derleth to seek only those who understood his particular love of the weird. To promote Lovecraft's work, Derleth was required to occasionally produce new material. Joshi calls Derleth's "posthumous collaborations" with Lovecraft "perhaps the most disreputable phase of Derleth's activities" in HP Lovecraft: A Life (1996). Love him or hate him, he remained a working writer and editor to the end of his days.

It is hard to imagine these two collaborating on stories. They shared a cabin in early 1926 in rural Wisconsin and banged out their stories, the first appearing in Weird Tales in July 1926. The publication record seems to suggest this continued until September 1928. After this, year-long gaps begin, suggesting Schorer was busy doing other things. During these gaps, Derleth continued to publish on his own. Most of Derleth's solo stories read like retreads of English ghost stories, often set in England, and deserve the obscurity they received. At what point Schorer walked away is not hard to say as their last collaboration is "The Evil Ones" (Strange Tales, October 1940). This is around the time that Arkham House was created and Derleth would become that guy who wrote posthumous collaborations with the dead HP Lovecraft. (There was one more, "The Occupant of the Crypt" (Weird Tales, September 1947) but it was likely a leftover, rather than a new story.)

Derleth has many modes in which he wrote. His horror tales written under his own name are not exactly the same as those he wrote as Stephen Grendon. His Mythos fiction was written in mock-Lovecraftian prose. His Solar Pons reads like mock-Doyle while his science fiction has a different style too. Is there a Derleth-Schorer style? We have no idea what part each writer did with these tales. Was Schorer an ideas man? Or is the prose 50-50? Looking at a few of the more often reprinted stories: "The Lair of the Star-Spawn," a Cthulhu Mythos tale, "The House in the Magnolias." a zombie tale, "Colonel Markesan" (chosen by Derleth to be the headliner for their collaboration collection, Colonel Markesan and Less Pleasant People, published by Arkham House in 1966), and "The Woman at Loon Point," a werewolf story, I can not detect much of a difference from the prose in Derleth's solo stuff, though many of their stories are written as letters or journal entries, a device widely used in Derleth's Mythos stories.

The August Derleth-Mark R. Schorer stories include:

"The Elixir of Life" (Weird Tales, July 1926) with Mark R. Schorer
"The Marmoset" (Weird Tales, September 1926) with Mark R. Schorer

“The River” (Weird Tales, February 1927) with Mark R. Schorer
"The Black Castle" (Weird Tales, May 1927) with Mark R. Schorer
“The Turret Room” (Weird Tales, September 1927) with Mark R. Schorer

"Riders in the Sky" (Weird Tales, May 1928) with Mark R. Schorer
"The Owl on the Moor" (Weird Tales, September 1928) with Mark R. Schorer

"The Pacer" (Weird Tales, March 1930) with Mark R. Schorer

"Laughter in the Night" (Weird Tales, March 1932) with Mark R. Schorer
"In the Left Wing" (Weird Tales, June 1932) with Mark R. Schorer
"The House in the Magnolias" (Strange Tales, June 1932)
"The Lair of the Star-Spawn" (Weird Tales, August 1932) with Mark R. Schorer
"Red Hands" (Weird Tales, October 1932) with Mark R. Schorer

"The Woman at Loon Point"
"The Carven Image" (Weird Tales, May 1933) with Mark R. Schorer
"The Return of Andrew Bentley" (Weird Tales, September 1933) with Mark R. Schorer

"Colonel Markesan" (Weird Tales, June 1934) with Mark R. Schorer
"A Matter of Faith" (Weird Tales, December 1934) with Mark R. Schorer

"They Shall Rise" (Weird Tales, April 1936) with Mark R. Schorer
"Death Holds the Post" (Weird Tales, August-September 1936) with Mark R. Schorer
"The Woman at Loon Point" (Weird Tales, December 1936) with Mark R. Schorer

"Eyes of the Serpent" (Strange Stories, February 1939) with Mark R. Schorer
"The Vengeance of Ai" (Strange Stories, April 1939) with Mark R. Schorer
"Spawn of the Maelstrom" (Weird Tales, September 1939) with Mark R. Schorer

"The Evil Ones" (Strange Tales, October 1940)
"The Horror From the Depths" (1940, published in Colonel Markesan and Less Pleasant People, 1966).
"The Occupant of the Crypt" (Weird Tales, September1947)

Four unsold collaborations appeared after Derleth's death in 1971. These were "The Figure with the Scythe" (Weird Tales, Winter 1973), "The Countries in the Seas" (1999), "A Visitor from Outside" (2000),  and "A Bottle For Corezzi" (That Is Not Dead, 2009).

Derleth and Schorer certainly weren't unusual in appearing in a pulp magazine. Such literary giants as F Scott Fitzgerald, O Henry, Upton Sinclair, Tennessee Williams, Conrad Richter, and CS Forester all started with popular fiction. The difference is they all moved from the poorer paying pulps to the higher paying slicks, then onto the vaunted glory of hard cover book sales. These two friends allow us to see each path taken; Derleth perhaps on the "the road less traveled." From my perch here in the fan-boy bubble, August Derleth is a name charged with history and excitement (read: fame!), while the author of such scholarly works as Sinclair Lewis: An American Life interests me very little. Granted this is a matter of taste (or lack thereof), but it is a sobering reality from the world of science fiction and fantasy that our heroes were often penny-poor, paying a high price to write what they wanted. Fan-boy fame versus academic laurels. Had Derleth ever thought, "I made the wrong choice!"?

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.


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