Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 21, 2023


     "The Surgeon of Souls" by "Victor Rousseau"  (Avigdor Rousseau Emanuel) (a series of 12 short stories, most appearing first in Seven Points Daily Journal, 1910-1911; 10 of the stories, plus one new on, appearing monthly in Weird Tales, September 1926 through July 1927; the complete series published as The Surgeon of Souls [2006; limited to 200 copies, with an introduction by Mike Ashley]) 

Dr. Ivan Brosky si a scientist who believes that "a certain persentage of all cases of mental derangement was due to actual usurptation of the body by discarnate spirits.  These, he explained, attempting to come into physical relations with the external world without the happening of birth or the slow disciline of childhood, could not achieve normal relations, and their confusion of apprehension resulted in the incarnceration of the bodies which had appropriated."  To prove his point, Brodsky once, in 1908, "succeeding in curing nearly 200 out of some 350 patients in the Stafford county asylum."  For Brodsky, reincarantion is a given:  "[C]haracter is not the creation of a moment; the character of each of us is the product of millions of incarnations, beginning with the unicellular ameba and ending God knows when, where, and how.  Some eocene pig may be the ancestor of a gourmand, some dog of the loyal soldier, some lynx of the crafty.  Death does not preceptibly modify the character; in fact, it brings it out the more stongly, the artificial circumstances of life being removed."

To today's reader, much of this is goobledygook, but when the stories were written, spiritualism was a popular fad, psychiatry was still (and may still be) uncharted waters, and hypnotism  was both over-hyped and misunderstood.  That was enough for pulp writer Victor Rousseau to write a series of weird tales about Brodsky, who became known as "the Surgeon of Souls."  Each of the dozen stories is a short, bare bones, account of Brodsky's cases, where usually faith and hypnotism prevail.  As strange as each case was, the writing style remained mundane and subdued; each unique case was more important tot he reader than Rousseau's approach.

A typical story was "The Legacy of Hate," the third written and the fourth to appear in Weird Tales.  Here, Brodsky takes on the case of Rita Durham, a beautiful young woman who has become both homocidal and suicidal.  As a child she was pledged to Philip Richepin, a native of Louisiana.  Philip's ypiunger brother, Ralph, falls in love with the girl and she reciprocates.  Thay day before the intended wedding to Philip, Ralph and Rita elope, returning to break the news to Philip.  Philip senses what has happened, and, in a rage tries to shot his brother.  When that fails, Philip puts a bullet through his own skull.  Philip's spirit does not realize he is dead and inhabits Rita's body, forcing Rita to act on both homicidal and suicidal impulses.  Brodsky mus convince Philip that he is indeed dead and to convince the spirit to forgive his brother and his former fiance.  For some reason, it takes about a week for Brodsky to carefully set the stage for this encounter,  Brodsky's plan works.  Philip moves on to a hgher plane after forgiving the two, Rita is cured, and the young couple are able to now start their lives together.  All that happens in the last few, somewhat rushed, paragraphs.

The stories [listed in order of their appearance in Weird Tales, where some had appeared out of their original publication order, as noted]:

  • "The Case of the Jailer's Daughter" (from Weird Tales, September 1926)
  • "The Woman with the Crooked Nose" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, September 30, 1910; reprinted in Weird Tales, October, 1926)
  • "The Tenth Commandment" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, November 11, 1910; reprinted in Weird Tales, November 1926)
  • "The Legacy of Hate" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, October 28, 1910; reprinted in Weird Tales, December 1926)
  • "The Major's Menagerie" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, November 25, 1910; reprinted in Weird Tales, January 1927)
  • "The Fetish of the Waxworks" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, December 9, 1910; reprinted in Weird Tales, February 1927)
  • "The Seventh Symphony" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, December 23, 1910; reprinted in Weird Tales, March 1927)
  • "The Chairs of Stuyvesant Baron" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, January 20, 1911; reprinted in Weird Tales, April 1917)
  • "The Man Who Lost His Luck" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, January 6, 1911; reprinted in Weird Tales, May 1927)
  • "The Dream That Came True" (from Steven Point Daily Journal, February 17, 1911; reprinted in Weird Tales, June 1927)
  • "The Ultimate Problem" (from Stevens Point Daily Journal, March 3, 1911; reprinted in Weird Tales, July 1927)
  • "Homo Homunculus" (dated February 3, 1911, presumably from Stephens Point Daily Journal, although this story is not listed in the Fiction Mags database; not reprinted in Weird Tales; available in the limited edition of The Surgeon of Souls, 2006)

The author, Victor Rousseau (1879-1960), was a British journalist who used the proceeds of his first novel to sail to America in 1901.  There he wrote syndicated children's vignettes and other stories, articles of regional interest, workee on Funk & Wagnell's Jewish Enclyopedia. and worked as an editor for Harper's Weekly.  In 1913, he moved to Canada and wrote several Canadian-themes serials which sold well wen they were published in hardcovers.  In 1914, he wrote the science fiction novel The Messiah of the Cylinder, which took three years to be published.  In 1915, he wrote the book The Sea Demons, published under the pseudonym "H. E. Egbert" (derived from an earlier pseudonym, "Egbert Prentice").  A number of his novels were serialized in the Munsey magazines, including Draft of Eternity, Erik of the Strong Heart, and The Eye of Balamok.  With the reprinting of the Surgeon of Souls serie in Weird Tales, He was able to sell a series about psychic invetigator Dr. Martinus to Ghost Stories., written as either "Arthur" or "Eugene Banscombe," as told to Victor Roussea.  His three-part serial The Beetle Horde began in the first issue of Astounding Science Fiction.  In the mid-1930s he began writing hundreds of sexually suggestive stories for the "spicy" pulps, often under the pen names of "Lew Merrill" and "Clive Trent;" a number of these stories were reprinted under different titles and one-off pseudnyms  Under the house name "John Grange," he wrote several of the twenty-five adventures of Super-Detective Jim Anthony.  Among Emanuel's other pseudonyms were John Austin, George Munson, and Hugh Speer.  He published twenty-one novels by 1927, before concentrating on shorter works.

Never really a top-tier writer, Emanuel remains a talented and readable author whose many pulp stories deserve a second look.

The eleven issues of Weird Tales containing stories about Ivan Brodsky are all available to be read online.

1 comment:

  1. As I tend to note, I prefer the Dorothy McIlwraith-edited issues of WEIRD to those of Farnsworth Wright (or the first year editor Edwin Baird), and this kind of story, fun in small doses as it can be, would be the reason why...McIlwraith's more mediocre content when it appeared was less, if nothing else, self-indulgent than the lesser stories in the earlier issues tended to be. Even if Donald Wollheim and many others disagreed...but Wollheim's AVON FANTASY READER, his attempt to recapture the older WT, averaged less dross than the Wright issues did, as well...