Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 18, 2014


The Best of Weird Tales, 1923, edited by Marvin Kaye & John Gregory Betancourt, 1997

It was, perhaps still is, self-described as "the unique magazine," and it carries an aura of providing so many classic short stories in the horror genre.  When you say its name, people invoke such legendary contributors as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Seabury Quinn, and Frank Belknap Long.  It has gone through many incarnations, and through many publishers, over the years -- so many that it has been called "the magazine that never dies."  It began in 1923, one of three unpretentious pulp magazines started by Jacob C. Henneberger and John Lasinger.  The founding editor of Weird Tales was Edwin Baird.

There were eight issues released that first year, starting in March.  Marvin Kaye has selected thirteen stories from those eight issues for this anthology.  Throughout its life, Weird Tales has published a lot of poor and mediocre stories, perhaps never as much as in its first year.  Kaye limited his choices to only one story an author and eschewed a number of stories that had been reprinted elsewhere -- only three of the thirteen tales had ever been reprinted.  Some of the stories were selected to give "a flavor" of a particular issue.  In his introduction Kaye called his selections "first-rate material;" they are hardly that, although they represent some of the best (a relative term) from WT''s inaugural year.

  • "The Grave" by Orville R. Emerson (March)
  • "The Basket" by Herbert J. Mangham (March)
  • "Beyond the Door" by J. Paul Suter (April)
  • "The Devil Plant" by Lyle Wilson Holden (May)
  • "The Purple Heart" by Herman Sisk (May)
  • "The Well" by Julian Kilman (June)
  • "The Two Men Who Murdered Each Other" by Valma Clark (July-August)
  • "The Dead-Naming of Lukapehu" by P. D. Gog (September)
  • "The Bloodstained Parasol" by James L. Ravenscroft (September)
  • "The Man Who Owned the World" by Frank Owen (October)
  • "An Adventure in the Fourth Dimension " by Farnsworth Wright (October)
  • "Dagon" by H.P. Lovecraft (October)
  • "Lucifer" by John D. Swain (November)
There is a reason why many of these names are unfamiliar.  Owen was a well-known writer of oriental stories, Wright would become the second editor of WT, and Lovecraft is represented by his first (and fairly weak) WT contribution.  Suter's story was included in Dashiell Hammett's Creeps by Night anthology.  The other authors?  Let's just say they never made it to the big leagues.

And the book is only 129 pages.  Excluding editorial material, the stories take up a mere 110 pages. That averages to eight and a half pages per story.  Quick reads, indeed.  And it's probably just as well.

A second volume, covering 1924, had been announced but has not yet appeared.  Again, it's probably just as well.

Recommended only for the curious.


  1. I've read some other WEIRD TALES collections with better stories. I confess I'm a big H. P. Lovecraft fan.

    1. I love most of Lovecraft's stories, George, but his real talent lay in his letters. As for most of his poetry, the less said the better.

    2. And in fostering, through those letters, such larger talents as those of Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber. As well as bringing the strongest strain of existentialism to horror, honing perhaps that which Poe and O'Brien and others had before him.

  2. Hmm, I have a copy of Marvin Kaye's 1988 anthology WEIRD TALES: THE MAGAZINE THAT NEVER DIES, which clocked in at over 500 pages. Not sure why he'd try starting a year-by-year series when he'd already produced that doorstop.

    I have three or four of Kaye's anthologies, and I have to say I have enjoyed every one.

    1. Kaye's large anthologies are always interesting, Martin, although they tend to have a number of minor stories. (I haven't read his later anthologies which consist of novellas.) This particular anthology came eleven years after his earlier WT anthology and , was evidently done at the urging of John Betancourt, the current publisher of WT. Kaye, of course, later became editor of WT. This anthology was published by Bleak House, which Kaye founded to publish the book -- to my knowledge no other books were published by the firm, although several had been announced.

  3. P. D. Gog, however, is the kind of obscure writer name one can only love. Yes, if they really wanted to make an anthology series such as this one viable, pulling the stories from later Wright or any of McIlwraith's years would have made a lot more sense...and almost certainly a few more bucks.

  4. I did this a while back.