Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, June 28, 2019


Demons of the Night and Other Early Tales by Seabury Quinn, edited by Gene Christie (2009)

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969)  was not a great writer but, like many of his contemporaries, he was a highly effective one.  So much so that he became the most popular writer to appear in the legendary magazine Weird Tales.  Best known for his 93 tales featuring occult detective Dr. Jules de Grandin, Quinn was a Washington, D.C., based attorney, teacher of medical jurisprudence, and editor of a mortuary trade magazine.  His first story was published in 1918 in Detective Story Magazine, preceded by his first article  (in Picture Magazine) the year before.  Both are included in this collection.  Also included are two long-lost stories romance stories from Young's Magazine.

The contents:

  • "Demons of the Night" from Detective Story Magazine, March 19, 1918.  Quinn's first published fiction, a vampire/ghost story based on a popular urban myth.
  • "Was She Mad?" from Detective Story Magazine, June 25, 1918.  A young woman hired as a secretary at an isolated manor is slated to be the next meal for her deranged employer.
  • "The Stone Image" from The Thrill Book, May 1, 1919.  A precursor to the Jules de Grandin stories, this features an early version of de Grandin's companion Dr. Towbridge and his Irish housekeeper Nora McGinnis and is set in New York State rather than New Jersey.
  • "Painted Gold" from Young's Magazine, May 1919.  A Southern gentleman lawyer joins the war effort and is stationed in New York where he meets a woman who by all rights should be far below his station because she uses makeup and lipstick.  Predictabkle.
  • "The Cloth of Madness" from Young's Magazine, January 1920; reprinted in Weird Tales, May 1929.  A weird story of vengeance.
  • "Romance Unawares" from Young's Magazine, September 1920.  Best friends since childhood, everyone wonders when David and Gertrude would get married, an idea they find ludicrous because they are only best friends, right?
  • "Ravished Shrines" from Real Detective Tales, July 1925.  Major Sturdevant, a government "secret agent," investigates when religious relics and memorabilia are stolen in both England and America.  Turns out it's a plot by Russian Communist revolutionaries to discredit religion.  I'm sure it made sense at the time.  Strudevant was featured in a series of 24 stories under the heading of Washington Nights Entertainments.
  • "Out of the Land of Egypt" from Real Detective Tales, August 1926.  Major Sturdevant's friend and "Watson," reporter Frank Loomis of the Clarion-Call, is mistakenly taken for a rendezvous with an Egyptian criminal.  Sturdevant must stop the criminal and rescue one of his people, a beautiful spy.
  • "In the Fog" from Real Detective Tales, February 1927.  Professor Harvey Forrester, an anthropologist and the hero of a dozen stories, spies a girl pleading for help from the window of a passing car.
  • "The Black Widow" from Real Detective Tales, January 1928.  Professor Forrester's colleague Janson is found dead next to an unwrapped mummy that had been secreted out of Egypt.
  • "The Law of the Movies" from Motion Picture Magazine, December 1917.  Quinn's first article in which he rips apart the film industry for using unusable, illogical, and nonexistent law as plot devices in movies.  Cute, but nothing has stopped the film industry from using major plot holes over the following century.
  • "Seabury Grandin Quinn -- A Bibliography of the Written Works" by Gene Christie.  Probably the most complete bibliography of Quinn to date.  It excludes one reference work, An Encyclopedic Law Glossary for Funeral Directors and Embalmers (1940) and has some incomplete information for five of the Dr. Forrester stories.   
A minor collection but an interesting one, of interest to Quinn fans and those who want to check out his literary beginnings.  Be warned that the stories are dated and tinged with the xenophobia of the time and with a touch of male chauvinism.  Check out "The Stone Image" for its influence on the Jules de Grandin stories, "Romance Unawares" for its deft handling of an old chestnut, "The Black Widow" for its similarity to Quinn's later and better tales, and (of course) Christie's Bibliography.   

1 comment:

  1. Jerry

    I have read enough de Grandin stories to say that I don't believe I need to read another one. These sound interesting, though, even if ancient and creaky. And how else will I ever be able to read them? Thanks for the review!