Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Horror on the Links, Seabury Quinn

The Horror on the Links is the first volume issued by Night Shade Books in their complete collection of Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin stories. The stories in this first volume were all published in Weird Tales between 1925 and 1928. Seabury Quinn was an incredibly prolific contributor to Weird Tales. While his Weird Tales contemporaries like H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard continue to have strong followings Quinn’s reputation has not lasted anywhere near as well. In his day he was however the most popular of all the Weird Tales writers.

Some of de Grandin’s cases have supernatural explanations. Those that have rational explanations are possibly even more bizarre.

The Horror on the Links introduces the two main characters who appear in all the stories. Dr Samuel Trowbridge is the portly and rather staid American doctor who acts as narrator and generally plays the Dr Watson role. He meets colourful French doctor/scientist/occult detective Jules de Grandin when mysterious murders take place in Trowbridge’s home town of Harrisonville. A young man has survived a savage attack with serious injuries which provide a vital clue. Several young women were not so lucky. Trowbridge is the sceptic who cannot believe de Grandin’s crazy theories about the crime.

The Tenants of Broussac moves the action to an ancient chateau in France. The tenants of this crumbling pile all seem to come to extraordinarily grisly ends. It’s a haunted house story but with some fairly effective and atmospheric moments.

In The Isle of Missing Ships de Grandin has been employed by Lloyds of London to investigate the loss of a disturbing number of ships. This story features a memorable villain  and an extremely clever setting beneath the sea (with perhaps just a hint of Captain Nemo). The political incorrectness level of this story is absolutely off the scale.

I can’t say very much at all about The Vengeance of India without risking spoilers. It’s a tale of sudden, very sudden, death and vengeance long delayed.

The Dead Hand employs the fairly well-worn device of a disembodied hand. It’s made more interesting by the fact that in Quinn’s de Grandin stories you never know if the solution is going to involve the supernatural or not and the explanation is quite clever.

Quinn could be quite grisly at times and The House of Horror is very grisly indeed. Lost at night in driving rain de Grandin and Trowbridge take refuge in an old mansion and what they find there shocks even de Grandin. This one is perhaps just a bit too reliant on sheer gruesomeness and really that’s about all this story has going for it.

In Ancient Fires we discover that love can survive even the greatest sacrifice. It’s a kind of ghostly romance story.

The Great God Pan deals with what today would be called a cult.

The Grinning Mummy deals, obviously, with a mummy and naturally enough there’s a curse.

The Man Who Cast No Shadow is a very old central European nobleman. Very old indeed. But perhaps not always quite so old.

The Blood-Flower is pretty obviously a werewolf story but it demonstrates Quinn’s ability to come up with intriguing twists on old ideas. In this case a knowledge of botany is required to combat the lycanthropic menace. We also discover that modern technology can be just as effective as older methods of disposing of werewolves.

A woman who fears she is losing her husband to another woman might not seem like the sort of case that would interest Jules de Grandin but this other female is no ordinary woman, if she is a woman at all. The tale of The Veiled Prophetess all started with a visit to a fortune-teller, and with an Egyptian statue.

The Curse of Everard Maundy is a story of a voodoo curse, but a curse with an unusual twist. It’s almost as if those afflicted curse themselves.

Creeping Shadows begins with a man who has been dead for several days, except that he can’t have been since he was seen alive by three reliable witnesses just a few hours earlier. And it’s a story of death stalking men whose greed tempted them into a very unwise theft indeed.

The White Lady of the Orphanage is a rather grisly story of children who mysteriously vanish from an orphanage. It relies a bit too much on shock value for my tastes.

The Poltergeist tells of a young woman afflicted by strange and frightening manifestations which threaten her sanity and her very life. A poltergeist certainly, but what is more interesting is the origin and nature of this ghostly menace. Jules de Grandin comes to suspect that the answer lies in the past, but whose past?

The Gods of East and West is a duel for the possession of a woman’s soul, fought out between the monstrous Indian goddess Kali and the spirits of the Dakota people of North America.

Mephistopheles and Company, Ltd offers a particular challenge, de Grandin’s adversary being the Devil himself. Or at least a representative of that gentleman. A young Austrian woman is the victim of demonic possession although de Grandin suspects it’s not quite so simple as that.

It was inevitable that sooner or later de Grandin would come up against a case involving ancient Egypt and mummies. The Jewel of Seven Stones is almost a stock-standard mummy story but with a few crucial differences. For one thing the mummy is a Christian mummy. The stones themselves are a nice touch. This is one of Quinn’s more ambitious and complex stories and it’s one of his best, combining horror, suspense and romance.

In The Serpent Woman de Grandin takes on the case of a woman suspected of murdering her child. Is it murder, kidnapping or could it really be a giant snake?

Body and Soul is a tale of Egyptology and an attempt to provide evidence of life after death which unleashes  killer from beyond the grave. Quite a creepy story.

Restless Souls is a story of love and vampires, and love after death. One of the best of the de Grandin stories, and one of the few that adds just a little depth to the hero.

The Chapel of Mystic Horror is an ancient villa that had been dismantled, transported from Cypus to America and reassembled. The evil that was in the villa was brought to America along with the stones.

These stories are fairly consistent in quality. None are truly great stories but they’re all clever and entertaining. There are only a couple that are a little weak and there's a handful (such as The Jewel of Seven Stones and Restless Souls) that are particularly good.

They are also pure pulp. In fact they’re remarkably trashy, although they’re trashy in a good way. Jules de Grandin is a character entirely lacking in subtlety or depth. He’s like a hyperactive Hercule Poirot with none of the qualities that make Poirot interesting. None of this really matters. It’s the plots that matter and they’re gloriously ingenious. Quinn takes just about every horror cliché you can possibly think of - vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, voodoo, witchcraft, ancient curses, mad scientists - but he always seems to manage to give these old ideas fresh new twists. And for all their trashiness these tales are fast-moving and entertaining and they have the vitality and manic energy of pulp fiction at its best. Quinn is certain not the equal of a Lovecraft or a Robert E. Howard but his stories are inventive and they’re great fun. Recommended.


  1. I read so many of these stories back when I was a teen and those very cool Popular Library paperback reprints were in every drugstore in my Connecticut hometown. Ever since I've been longing to read more of Jules DeGrandin and Dr. Trowbridge. When I stumbled across these new volumes back in December I bought the first two books as Christmas presents for myself. This is an epic reprint job gathering all of the DeGrandin short stories and reprinting them. It will run to five volumes when they are done. Eager to get my hands on the remaining books. Volume three just came out this month (April 2018).

    1. This is an epic reprint job gathering all of the DeGrandin short stories and reprinting them.

      I believe that quite a few have never previously been published in book form?