Shadowridge Press titles in detail...
Manly Wade Wellman
Trade paperback / 7 x 10 / 504 pages / Publication date / Jan 2020
Back in print for the first time since 1981, Shadowridge Press presents LONELY VIGILS, Carcosa’s legendary collection of Manly Wade Wellman’s famous occult detectives from the Golden Age of the Pulps. Featuring Judge Pursuivant, Professor Enderby, and John Thunstone, their battles against dark magic were originally chronicled in the pages of Weird Tales and Strange Stories between 1938 and 1951. While the stories have achieved legendary status among aficionados of weird fantasy, they had been virtually unreprinted until LONELY VIGILS. Here are twenty tales of occult investigation by an acknowledged master of fantasy literature, dramatically illustrated by George Evans. Before he moved to the South, Wellman began his writing career in New York City, where he drew upon the dark side of New York's night club intelligentsia and the native mysteries of the Northeast to create a convincing blend of authentic magic and imaginative peril in these stories of three intrepid crusaders against supernatural evil. Read their complete original pulp adventures in LONELY VIGILS!
The Stories- The Hairy Ones Shall Dance / The Black Drama / The Dreadful Rabbits / The Half-Haunted / Vigil / The Third Cry to Legba / The Golden Goblins / Hoofs / Letters of Cold Fire / John Thunstone's Inheritance / Sorcery from Thule / The Dead Man's Hand / Throne on the Threshold / The Shonokins / Blood From a Stone / The Dai Sword / Twice Cursed / Shonokin Town / The Leonardo Rondache / The Last Grave of Lill Warran
HERE'S A PREVIEW FROM LONELY VIGILS
THE THIRD CRY TO LEGBA
"Suddenly I was aware of great shapes moving in the rain, and heard the sound of voices that were not of my city nor yet of any that I ever knew." —Lord Dunsany, The Madness of Andelsprutz
The glare and the clatter died at the same instant throughout the Club Samedi. Even the buzzing crowd-noise suspended in expectation. Behind the orchestra sounded a gong. Once. Twice. Thrice. . . .
The master of ceremonies intoned: “Midnight. The witching hour. And Illyria! ”
The gong chimed on to twelve, and stopped. A clarinetist piped certain minor notes. A mixed quartet began to croon:
“Ihro mahnda . . . ihro mahnda. . . .”
A spotlight, dim and brownish, bored through the smoky air. Into it paced a black-robed figure, bowed face hidden under cascading black locks. To the center of the dance floor moved the silent, slow shape. “ihro mahnda . . .” breathed the quartet.
A sudden explosive gesture. The robe swirled away, the head lifted. There stood a woman, a long-limbed dancer figure, clad as scantily as night clubs permit. Her face was lovely, tense, rapt. Her eyes burned out of slant sockets. The clarinet squealed louder, a tom-tom slogged into rhythm. The dance began, grotesque, nimble, quickening.
The dancer’s flower-mouth spewed out words, soft and solemn:
“Legba choi-yan, choi-yan Zandor—
Zandor Legba, immole’—hai!”
Louder sang the dancer called Illyria, and louder grew the quartet’s obligato— “Ihro mahnda, ihro mahnda. . . .”
Illyria spun her body. Her ﬂying hair strained outwards in a bushy umbrella. Her arms writhed like snakes, seeming to glide caressingly over her body. Her bare, rouged toes clapped out a pattern of sound in time with the drumbeat. She sang always: “Zandor Legba, immole’—hai!”
And suddenly she froze into a strange, updrawn statue, face lifted, hair back, arms out. At the same instant all the music hushed. A tuxedoed attendant stole into the spotlight’s brown glow, holding out a fluttering something—a rooster, speckled black and white. Greedily Illyria seized it, her long, strong hands clutching. The sickening crackle of broken bones was audible. She dropped the rooster, which ﬂopped spasmodically. The attendant seized it and backed away. Illyria snatched her cloak and sped out of sight. Lights came up, the orchestra played a gay ﬂourish.
“You’ve just seen an authentic voodoo dance-ritual,” blatted the master of ceremonies into his microphone. “Never done before, except in a real meeting of the cult—but it’ll be done tomorrow midnight, and the midnight following, and every midnight after that. . . .”
John Thunstone’s table was well back from ringside. He was a man almost too big to be reassuring, and most of his clothes had to be tailored especially for him. His hands and eyes were sensitive, his big nose had been twice broken, his black hair and mustache showed a little streaking of gray. He sat as relaxed as a big contented cat, and sipped his highball. His eyes gazed somehow hopefully at his companion.
She was as blonde as John Thunstone was dark, of medium height and of figure both full and fine. Above her dark velvet gown her bare shoulders and arms were creamy white. Her large, level eyes shone bluer than the sapphires at her ears and throat. Her lips smiled without parting, in the manner associated with the Mona Lisa and the Empress Josephine. “Was it what you expected, John?” she asked gently.
He rocked his big, close-combed head in what might have been yes or no. “It gave the impression of authenticity,” he temporized. “Not that I'm well-grounded in voodoo.”
“You always were sunk deep in occultism and magic,” she rallied him. “Deeper than you’d admit to anyone. Even to me.”
He looked at her sidelong. “And you were piqued, eh? Enough to go abroad because you thought I wasn’t telling you all I should of my studies—to go abroad and marry Count Monteseco——”
“Which is past, and not particularly nice to bring up.”
He sipped again. “I never meant to snub you, Sharon. Not then or now. But the little I know of magic spells danger. And I don’t want to let anyone in for it. Least of all you. I hope you don’t still condemn me.”
Her small hand crept across to touch his big one. “I’m with you tonight. Isn’t that enough?”
He looked as if it wasn’t, and listened to the dance music. Then: “No, I’m not well-grounded in voodoo. Don’t understand it at all. Neither, I suspect, do the voodoo worshipers themselves. After all, what is voodoo? African jungle worship, or modified European witchcraft, or both—or neither?” His eyes seemed to study something unseen to any but himself. “Did you hear the words of that ritual?”
“French, or French patois, weren’t they?” suggested the lady he called Sharon. “That quartet sang something like ‘ihro mahnda. ’ Mightn’t they mean ‘hereux monde’—happy world?”
“Or perhaps ‘ira au monde’—roughly meaning, ‘it shall happen to the world’.” “Which I call ingenious interpretation,” said a voice beside the table, a voice soft, deep and gently amused.
Thunstone shot up out of his chair with that abrupt transition from relaxed ease to ready action which sometimes irritates his friends. He faced someone as tall as himself, and broader, almost deformedly deep of chest. Above European cut dress clothes and jeweled studs not in the best of taste rode a huge high-craniumed head, either bald or shaven, with a grand hooked nose and eyes as gray and cold as frozen milk.
“I am also an enthusiast for voodoo," said the newcomer silkily. “May I introduce myself? Rowley Thorne.”
He offered a big, over-manicured hand. Thunstone took it.
“I’m John Thunstone. Countess, may I present Mr. Thorne? The Countess Monteseco.”
Rowley Thorne gracefully kissed her fingers. Without waiting to be invited, he sat down in a chair between them. “Waiter! Champagne, I think, is best traditional usage for cementing of new friendships.”
The champagne was brought. Rowley Thorne toasted them, and his gray eyes narrowed over the glass. “I was sitting almost back of you, and heard your wonderings about this Illyria and her dance. I can help a little, I have traveled in Haiti. Yes, the ritual is authentic, an invocation of Legba.”
“Legba?” echoed the Countess. “A voodoo god?”
“One of them. Damballa is more important, and Erzulie perhaps more picturesque. But Legba is the great necessity. He’s keeper of the Gate—must be invoked to open the way between worshiper and other-world, to permit prayers to mightier gods. It’s like speaking a password. Impressive, that bit with the fowl. Other voodoo sacrifices are killed by cutting the throat. Legba’s sacrifices die of a broken neck.”
The Countess shivered, and Thunstone saw. “Suppose we change the subject," he said.
“Suppose we don’t,” she rejoined warmly. “Mr. Thorne is willing to talk of magic, though you aren’t. And I'm fascinated. Tell us more about Legba, Mr. Thorne.”
“He’s said to be a shaggy or furry creature with red eyes. He’s also called Baron Cimmiterre—master of the graveyard, and Baron Carrefours—master of crossroads. The prayer to him for opening the gate is always preliminary to a prayer elsewhere.”
The Countess’ blue eyes were bluer. “And what can Legba, Baron Cimmiterre, Baron Carrefours, do for a worshiper?”
“He can but open the gate," said Rowley Thorne. “Hark, music—Latin American. Will the Countess honor me?”
Thunstone rose and bowed them away from the table, but did not sit down again. As the Countess danced off with Rowley Thorne, he swiftly skirted the outer fringe of tables, spoke earnestly to the head waiter, offering some bills. The head waiter led him to a side passage indicating a row of dressing room doors. “Number two, sir,” he said and Thunstone knocked.
“Who is it?” asked a woman’s voice from within.
“Press,” said Thunstone. “After a feature story.”
The door opened. Illyria smiled there, hastily wrapped in a robe of flowered silk. “Come in, Mr.——”
He entered. She gave him a cordial hand, and sat down by her dressing table. “What paper, Mr. Thunstone?”
“I write for magazines and syndicates,” he said truthfully. She accepted a cigarette from his case, and he went on: “I’m interested in your voodoo dance.”
She chuckled. “Oh, that. I was in Martinique a year ago. My doctor said I had to have fresh salt air and warm weather. Martinique was cheap, and I was broke—don’t print that, though. Say I was fascinated enough to join the voodoo cult. Because I was.”
“Many white people in it?” asked Thunstone.
“Quite a few. But I think I was the only practical one. I knew I could make a sensation with voodoo stuff. And haven’t I? Before this season’s up, I’ll be signed for a revue. After that, maybe stardom.”
Thunstone looked at a bright print on the wall. “Isn’t that a saint’s picture—John the Baptist?”
“It is and it isn’t.” Illyria smiled at his blank look. “The voodoo people want pictures of their gods, to use for idols. The best they can do is regular holy pictures. For Damballa they use St. Patrick—because of the snakes. And John the Baptist is the hairiest, so they take him for Legba. That print was given me by the houngon, the medicine man you can call him, when he got real pictures.”
“Real pictures?” echoed Thunstone. “Some artist was making them, someone on Haiti. The Legba one would scare a top sergeant.” She shrugged her shoulders out of the robe in a mock shudder. “The artist’s name was Thorne.”
Thunstone stared. “Rowley Thorne?”
“Maybe. Rowley or Roland or something. I never met him, he stayed close to the big shots in Haiti. Now, what publicity pictures will you want?”
“Later,” he said. “May I call again? Thanks.”
He returned to his table, just as the Countess and Rowley Thorne finished their dance.