Sunday, October 26, 2014

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 249: Seabury Quinn, The Curse of Everard Maundy (#249)

Seabury Quinn, "The Curse of Everard Maundy" (1927) from American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps:

Not much to say about this: at first, I thought to crow over Halloween, when everyone else comes around to the idea that horror/fear is an important part of our emotional register. But this story, while it might have worked in 1927 in the pages of Weird Tales, feels a little flat in all the wrong ways.

For instance, I really like paranormal investigators; I really like the standard genius-and-ordinary team (Holmes and Watson); and I don't mind the "genius explaining" scene. But Quinn (who was a very popular writer of the time and whose stories I have run across before) doesn't really do much more with those characters. When the genius detective whips out a sword cane, I didn't feel any thrill. I felt "I was waiting for that to happen."

There are some things that set this story apart: for instance, the potshots at spiritualism; the two-three instances of same sex friendships/crush (the genius saves the ordinary from a nightmare, then gets into bed with him to watch out for more monsters); and the ending wherein the genius totally mutilates and hides a dead body. Which is at least something we never saw Holmes do.

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