Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 17, 2018

FORGOTTEN BOOK: DARK MUSIC AND OTHER SPECTRAL TALES

Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales by Jack Snow (1947)


Save for enthusiasts of L. Frank Baum's Oz series, Jack Snow (1907-1956) is a mostly forgotten author.  As the fourth Royal Historian of Oz (Following Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and John Neill), Snow wrote the 37th and 38th books in the official series, The Magical Mimics in Oz (1946) and The Shaggy Man of Oz (1949).  (It's rumored that Snow wrote a third book but no trace of a manuscript was ever found.)  Snow also published one short story about Oz, "A Murder in Oz," included in the 1966 Snow collection Spectral Snow.  (Three other Oz storie "The Crystal People," "The Magic Sled," and "Princess Crystal and Prince Eolus") were published long after Snow's death, but whether they were new stories or extracts from his Oz novels I can't say.)  Snow's address book of Oz fans became, after his death, the basis for mailings that eventually morphed into The International Wizard of Oz Club.  Perhaps Snow's most important contribution to Oz-ania was his thoroughly researched and detailed reference book Who's Who in Oz (1954).

Snow was a career radio writer.  As a sophomore in high school, he produced (for The Cincinnati Enquirer) the first radio review column in America.  Following a stint in the Army, Snow began working and writing for radio stations.  He originated the call letters for Ohio station WING.  While at NBS radio he tried to get executives interested in a series based on Ray Bradbury's stories, but they passed on the idea.

For his own enjoyment, Snow wrote short stories, five of which were published in Weird Tales.  He had originally planned for Dark Music to contain a dozen stories but his publisher insisted on including six pieces of juvenalia to pad out the slim book.  (When Bradbury, who had agreed to write the introduction to the book, pulled out after reading these pieces, citing them "patently unpublishable.")

Despite this, Dark Music remains an entertaining piece of fantasy fiction.  The stories are slight, sometimes predictable, but nonetheless effective.  Dark Music has never been reprinted, but six of the eighteen stories were included, along with two other stories in Spectral Snow:  The Dark Fantasies of Jack Snow (1996).

The stories:

  • Dark Music - original to this volume; it was reprinted by Marvin Kaye in Witches & Warlocks, 1990
  • Coronation - original to this volume; never reprinted
  • The Anchor - original to this volume; reprinted by Marvin and Saralee Kaye in Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, 1985
  • "The Penhale Broadcast" - original to this volume; reprinted by Marvin & Saralee Kaye in Ghosts, a Treasury of Chilling Tales, Old and New, 1981, and in Spectral Snow
  • The Monarch - original to this volume
  • Seed - from Weird Tales, January 1946; reprinted by Marvin and Saralee Kaye in Weird Tales:  The Magazine That Never Dies, 1988, and in Spectral Snow
  • "The Rope" - original to this volume; reprinted in Spectral Snow
  • Faulty Vision - original to this volume
  • Night Wings - from Weird Tales, September 1927
  • The Dimension of Terror - original to this volume; reprinted in Spectral Snow
  • Poison - from Weird Tales, December 1928
  • Let's Play House - original to this volume
  • The China Tea Cup - original to this volume
  • Business Hours - original to this volume
  • The Dictator - original to this volume
  • The Mountain - original to this volume
  • The Super Alkaloid - original to this volume; reprinted by Marvin Kaye in Don't Open This Book!, 1998, and in Spectral Snow
  • Midnight - from Weird Tales, May 1946; reprinted by Marvin Kaye in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, 1993, by Peter Straub in American Fantastic Tales:  Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now, 2009, and in Spectral Snow
A mixed lot, but I'm glad I read and enjoyed the stories.

Both Dark Music and Spectral Snow had just one printing each.  Both are available online (Dark Music ranges from about $16 to just over $50 on Abebooks; Spectral Snow goes from $50 to just over $150).  Being an impoverished cheapskate, I read both through Interlibrary Loan.

For those who wish to sample some of Snow's stories, six of the above stories are online here:  http://jacksnowtheauthor.blogspot.com/

In addition, The Magical Mimics in Oz is available online at fadedpage.com.

5 comments:

  1. A favorite book of mine for both the stories and the eerie dust jacket illustration. I used to find copies of this repeatedly back when I was selling books. I used to think anyone who owned a copy would want to keep hold of it for the DJ alone. I've since realized why people are often forced to give away their treasures.

    "The Penhale Broadcast" is a classic which has, intentionally or not, inspired many other horror writers over the years. "Seed" is reminiscent of some of Ray Bradbury's early horror ideas.

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  2. I may have to try Interlibrary Loan for Jack Snow books. You review makes them sound appealing!

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