I’m continuing my look at Manly Wade Wellman’s pulp hero Silver John, the roaming singer and guitarist who fights supernatural forces in the Appalachian Mountains of long ago, sort of like a countrified Orpheus meets Kolchak. He’s called Silver John because of the silver strings on his guitar and the silver coins he carries in his pockets. For more details click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/
SIN’S DOORWAY – This story takes place when Silver John is much younger and in fact hasn’t even begun using silver guitar strings yet. For anyone wondering how he would do against supernatural menaces without silver implements this is your chance to see our hero improvise. Anyway, this tale features a younger and less experienced John dodging corrupt southern lawmen and winding up getting lost in the wilderness. He’s nearly starved by the time he finds a town and arrives just in time for the funeral of a foul, vile man named Levi Brett.
Weak with hunger, John foolishly agrees to be a sin eater for the deceased Brett in exchange for the hundred dollars the man left in his will for anyone willing to eat his sins. Now shunned by the citizenry for assuming such a burden of soul-blackening sins, John has no choice but to spend the night in Levi Brett’s haunted, sentient mansion in the company of Brett’s sinister caretaker Dravot, the demented elderly couple who act as groundskeepers and the late Mr Brett’s demonic familiar, a horrific human/dog/monkey beast called Parway.
As the night of chills continues John comprehends the depths of Levi Brett’s villainy and realizes the Antichrist-like figure plans to ressurrect himself by inhabiting John’s body and leading his followers out of the isolated mountain regions to occupy the world at large.
FROGFATHER – This sounds like it would be the title of a Pixar movie about cute, cuddly animal characters in a parody of The Godfather, complete with a Brando-like lead figure ribbeting his way through the story. At any rate, in an example of supreme irony this last of the Silver John short stories is actually our hero’s very first adventure chronologically. He is just seventeen in this tale and has been working as an indentured servant for the past two years for Ranson Cuff, the overbearing, unpleasant money man who lords it over a swamp community in the deep south.
Cuff, John and a Native American guide who never gives his name are boating around the swamps on a moonless night looking for frogs because Cuff enjoys eating frog’s legs almost as much as he enjoys tormenting and killing frogs. Ignoring the Native American’s warning, Cuff orders the boat taken into a part of the swamp supposedly inhabited by Khongabassi, an ancient god who protects the creatures of the swampland. (In fact a television series about Silver John would do well to change the title of this story to Khongabassi in order to avoid the giggle factor) As you would expect the trio encounter the swamp-god when he attacks them in the form of a Creature From The Black Lagoon type monster.
Well, that wraps up the Silver John short stories and vignettes. I’ll examine the five Silver John novels in the future, but up next I’ll begin reviewing the stories of another neglected Pulp Hero.