Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, October 17, 2014


As It Is Written (not) by Clark Ashton Smith (1982)

Considered one of the earliest fantasy magazines, The Thrill Book was a twice monthly publication from Street and Smith and lasted for 16 issues in from May to October, 1919.  When the magazine folded, a number of stories in its inventory went unpublished and remained forgotten for 60 years.  In 1969 writer, editor, and pulp historian Will Murray went combing through the Street and Smith files in search of an unpublished Doc Savage story.  He found instead several of the unpublished stories bought by The Thrill Book, among them this one.  The author's name on the manuscript was De Lysle Ferree Cass, a name Murray did not recognize.  Could it be a pseudonym?

The more Murray looked into the manuscript, the more he became convinced the story was an early work (probably written between 1912 and 1915) by Clark Ashton Smith, the poet/author/sculptor now recognized as one of the greatest fantasy writers of his time.  Notice that "Cass" is Smith's initials with an "s" added.  (Murray's very convincing argument is outlined in the introduction to this book.)  Murray took the manuscript to small press publisher Donald M. Grant, who agreed with Murray that this was an early work by Smith.  The manuscript was also given to Donald Sidney-Fryer, a preeminent Smith scholar, who concurred.

And so the story -- a novella -- was published as a limited edition book by Grant as by Clark Ashton Smith.  Grant did his usual excellent work in putting out a lovingly crafted book.  The illustration -- both black and white and colored -- by R. J. Krupowicz fit the story well.  All well and good.  Except...

It later turned out that De Lysle Ferree Cass was a real person.


About the story itself:  it was an oriental adventure story with some slight fantasy content.  Datu Buang, a devout Mohammedan is a fugitive being chased through Malaysian jungles, certain to be killed if caught.  After several harrowing days, he stumbles upon an abandoned city where he is nearly killed by apes.  Fleeing through the jungle, he is tracked by the apes for three days before he is able to steal a small boat.  Danger still lies ahead for the river soon turns into an area of boiling hot water and whirlpools.  He is sucked into a large whirlpool and is pulled underwater into a pool in a remote palace where he is attacked by a large intelligent ape.  There is also a zoftig, barely dressed girl there and -- joy of all joys! -- she is a Mohammedan also.  They begin to get it on as the curtain quietly closes on that chapter.  There are a few more thrills and one rather unlikely scene involving a costume before the author plot-holes his way to a happy ending. 

All in all, a very readable entertaining story and above the average fare of the time.

As It Is Written will probably be remembered more for the mistaken attribution of authorship than for its content, but it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

1 comment:

  1. Jerry, I have never come across The Thrill Book during my online search of copyright-free vintage magazines. Thanks for bringing this to my notice.