Friday, January 28, 2011

In a Lonely Place by Karl Edward Wagner

In a Lonely Place by Karl Edward Wagner (Collected 1983): This mid-1980's collection of short stories and novellas by Wagner includes probably his most famous story, the award-winning "Sticks" from the mid-1970's. Wagner, who died too young in 1995, was a major writer, publisher and anthologist in the horror, dark-fantasy, and sword-and-sorcery genres for more than 20 years, with his annual Year's Best Horror anthology from DAW pretty much setting the gold standard for genre 'Best of' collections from the early 1980's until Wagner's death and resultant cancellation of the series.

Here, we get many of his best horror stories, including the forementioned "Sticks", a whopper of a Lovecraft homage that also references the artwork and lifestory of pulp illustrator Lee Brown Coye. Did the makers of The Blair Witch Project read "Sticks" at some point? If not, it's an incredible coincidence.

Other stories bounce off Lovecraft, Manly Wade Wellman and Robert Chambers' seminal The King in Yellow in interesting and productive ways, all without requiring any actual knowledge of the references for readerly enjoyment. The novella "Beyond Any Measure" remains, nearly thirty years after its first appearance, one of the five or six cleverest vampire stories ever written. Highly recommended.

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