Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 4, 2014


Strange Gateways by E. Hoffman Price (1967)

Price (1898-1988) was a diversified pulp writer (he called himself a "fictioneer") who published well over 400 short stories and novelets in his long career, as well as eight novels, 13 serialized novels, and many articles.  A one-time professional soldier, Price was an orientalist and practicing Buddhist, as well as a champion fencer and boxer.  He was the only pulp writer to have met Robert E. Howard in person, and the one to have met Howard, Lovecraft (with whom he collaborated), and Clark Ashton Smith -- the great Weird Tales triumvirate -- face to face.  Jack Williamson once wrote that Price was a "real live soldier of fortune."

Strange Gateways was Price's first collection -- one of two published in his lifetime -- was the 94th publication from the legendary Arkham House and contained a dozen stories from the pulps and the digests from 1924 to 1953:
  • "The Fire and the Flesh" (Fantastic Universe, June-July 1953) - Wade Harmon has developed a new type of rice which he is growing on a volcanic island.  The volcano is becoming active and , as a result, the crop is failing.  The locals tell him a gift will appease the volcano.  He doubts them until he meets a beautiful girl whom no one else has ever seen.  She is a goddess, an incarnation of the volcano itself.  And volcanos can become jealous.
  • "Graven Image" (Adventure, September 1964) - A missionary has spent 35 years in a Chinese village and has never converted a single native.  When the Japanese invade the area, he must choose between the Christian god and the ancient Chinese gods.
  • "The Stranger from Kurdistan" (Weird Tales, July 1925) - A stranger attends a Black Mass and finds it unusual for its type.  Considered one of the author's best stories and was quite controversial when first published.
  • "The Rajah's Gift" (Weird Tales, January 1925) - A rajah decides to bestow a gift upon his most faithful servant and the servant choses one that most likely will be deadly.
  • "The Girl from Samarcand" (Weird Tales, May 29) - A tale of obsession, reincarnation, and oriental rugs.
  • "Tarbis of the Lake" (Weird Tales, February 1934) - Could the beautiful Tarbis really be centuries old?
  • "Bones for China" (copyright page does not note original publication, but it came from Speed Adventure Stories, July 1945) - An old man returns his grandfather's bones to his hometown during the Japanese invasion.
  • "Well of the Angels" (Unknown, May 1940) - An oil executive in Mosul resorts to magic in order to get out of a five-year contract.
  • "Strange Gateway" (Unknown, April 1939) -  Price sets this and the next two stories in America, in this case to Arizona.  Gateways closed to normal senses may be opened through fasting, fever, or drugs.  For the protagonist in this story, the gateway was opened by sheer fatigue.  Bill has been driving for three days in order to get some money owed to him by a prospecting friend in Arizona -- money urgently needed for his brother's medical expenses -- and now finds himself embroiled in murder, treachery, and astral projection.
  • "Apprentice Magician" (Weird Tales, August 1939; also appeared in Tiger Girl, a 36-page, two-story pamphlet with the title story by Jack Williamson, published in the "American fiction" series by Utopian Publications [England] in 1945) - Panther Buckner leaves Georgia to live with his great-uncle Simon in California in hopes that he might become the old man's heir.  Buckner (a literary cousin to Price's Simon Grimes and to Robert Howard's Pike Bearfield and Breckinridge Elkins) learns that his uncle is a master magician and is drafted into becoming his apprentice.  Then the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet takes a liking to our hero.  An enjoyable and humorous story.
  • "One More River" (Strange Tales, February 1941) - Hank Tate, on learning an old friend is dying, puts aside a fifty-year feud and starts to walk through the California wilds to share one last drink with him.  the only thing that stands between him and reconciliation is a fierce blizzard.
  • "Pale Hands" (The Magic Carpet, October 1933) - Davis Lawton learns that he will be arrested by French officials the next morning for conspiring with a Moroccan rebel.  Facing either Devil's Island or a firing squad, he prepares to leave the country, but first he must determine who betrayed him to the Surete Generale.  For this he uses the Gray Goddess, his term for the absinthe that seems to heighten his awareness,
All in all, a good selection of Price's weird and oriental stories.  Recommended.


  1. This is a fine collection. I think FAR LANDS, OTHER DAYS, the collection of Price's adventure fiction, is slightly better, but this one is well worth reading.

  2. E. Hoffman Price wrote plenty of great stories. I have to agree with James: FAR LANDS, OTHER DAYS is a top-notch collection, too.

  3. Great stuff, Jerry. I wonder to what extent his stories found their way to other anthologies, as I may have read a couple but not in a single author collection. As for those, I think the one James mentioned may be more to my liking.