Book Review: Demons of the Night and Other Early Tales by Seabury Quinn
Seabury Grandin Quinn (1889-1969) was a prolific pulp author, producing more than five hundred short stories. He’s best remembered for his Jules de Grandin stories appearing in Weird Tales, featuring a French-accented occult detective. This particular collection, however, is focused around his other early work.
The title of the first story and the Greg Hildebrandt cover might fool you into thinking this is a “sexy horror” collection, but Mr. Quinn had a wider range than that. “Demons of the Night” is really more a version of the “Phantom Hitchhiker” urban legend, with an amusing twist. “Was She Mad?” concerns a homeless woman offered a job that’s too good to be true. “The Stone Image” is about an apparently evil Oriental statue , and also about a married couple that has very different tastes in art. The best of the “weird” stories is “The Cloth of Madness” about an interior decorator who decides to take vengeance on his cheating wife and best friend. It would have made a good EC Comics story.
Then there are a couple of straight-up romance stories, “Painted Gold” and “Romance Unawares”, both of which feature thirty-something lawyers discovering love for the first time. (By the way, Mr. Quinn’s day job was as an attorney.) They’re light and humorous.
Two stories involve Major Sturdevant of the Secret Service, “Ravished Shrines” in which he investigates a series of thefts of religious artifacts, and “Out of the Land of Egypt”, which involves the Major hijacking his reporter friend’s date to involve him in international intrigue.
Two more tales are told of Professor Harvey Forrester, head of the Anthropology department at Benjamin Franklin University. “In the Fog” has him stumbling about in smog, spotting a woman who seems to be in distress and going to rescue her. “The Black Widow” involves a seemingly cursed mummy. A nice feature is that instead of the distressed damsel of the first story becoming his girlfriend, she becomes Professor Forrester’s ward, as she’s way too young for him.
Mr. Quinn has a good humorous touch, even in his weird tales, which he knows to turn off at appropriate moments in the story. Most of these tales are still very readable. However, there are some outdated ethnic stereotypes (and overuse of phonetic accents, one of the most annoying parts of the de Grandin stories) and period sexism.
Also included are his first published non-fiction article about the way Hollywood gets law wrong in movies, and a very comprehensive list of known Seabury Quinn stories.
Highly recommended to Seabury Quinn fans, recommended to pulp fans and lovers of short stories.