A Cornell Woolrich Collection: After-Dinner Story (1944)

Much of Cornell Woolrich’s best suspense writing comes from his deep well of short stories and novellas. Numerous collections were published during his lifetime, most using the William Irish pseudonym, even though the stories first appeared in magazines under Woolrich’s name.

One of the most successful of these collections is After-Dinner Story, published by Lippincott in October 1944 when Woolrich’s popularity was rising because of the success of Phantom Lady. It went through numerous paperback editions after the initial hardcover release, sometimes with the alternate title Six Times Death. It was included in Lippincott’s 1960 hardcover omnibus The Best of William Irish along with Phantom Lady and Deadline at Dawn.

After-Dinner Story contains six stories, one never previously published: the title story (Black Mask, January 1938), “The Night Reveals” (Story, April 1936), “An Apple a Day” (first publication), “Marihuana” (Detective Fiction Weekly, 3 May 1941), “Murder Story” (Detective Fiction Weekly, 11 September 1937), and the first appearance of the story originally published as “It Had to Be Murder” (Dime Detective, February 1942) under its forever title “Rear Window.” Yes, that one.

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New Story Available: Dead Queen’s Triumph

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I’m marching toward the November release of Turn Over the Moon, moving into the final revisions on the manuscript and putting the promotional materials in place. But you don’t have to wait to read a new story set in Ahn-Tarqa: order a copy of issue #4 of Tales From the Magician’s Skull now (either in print or PDF) and read my novelette “Dead Queen’s Triumph.”

“You—don’t yet believe—that I am your queen.” The tongue moved freer as the abomination became used to speaking. “For long, I forgot that I was as well. But I am royal blood still. See?” One of the manipulated arms placed its hand over a flap on the chest cylinder. Fingers gripped the sides and pulled it open.

“Dead Queen’s Triumph”
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The Listener and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood

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As we close in on the end of the Great Month of October, it would be remiss of me not to pay further homage to my favorite author of the weird tale, Algernon Blackwood. He has made possible a good deal of my fiction, such as my Gothic horror story “The Shredded Tapestry.” That piece wouldn’t exist without two of his John Silence stories, “Ancient Sorceries” and “Secret Worship.”

Earlier this month, I looked at Blackwood’s fourth collection of stories, The Lost Valley. Today, I’m rolling back a few years. Blackwood’s second original collection of (mostly) supernatural tales, The Listener and Others, was published in 1907, following the success of The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories the previous year. The Listener is best known for the novella “The Willows,” often cited as Blackwood’s masterpiece. The collection also contains a first-rate non-supernatural suspense story and a running theme about characters suffering from the oppression of the everyday and longing to escape from it into Nature (always with a capital “N”)—a theme as close to Blackwood’s heart as anything in his life. The often nameless protagonists are trapped in a modern psychical emptiness that feels surprisingly like the early twenty-first century rather than the early twentieth.

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The Lost Valley and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood

NPG x2992; Algernon Henry Blackwood by Howard Coster

My favorite author of the “weird tale,” and by extension supernatural horror in general, is Algernon Blackwood. Blackwood was enormously popular as an author of ghost stories—or so they were classified—in the early decades of the twentieth century, and his legacy has stretched on through the many authors who learned their sense of the supernatural and the transcendental through his work. He was a direct influence on my Gothic horror story “The Shredded Tapestry.” With the possibly exception of M. R. James, Blackwood is the author most suited toward quiet reading on October nights.

Most readers came across Blackwood’s work in anthologies of ghost stories or in “Best of” collections like Penguin’s Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Tales. Small presses have brought out editions of Blackwood’s original collections as they were first published. The Complete John Silence Stories contains the full text of John Silence—Physician Extraordinary (1908), and there are also small press editions of Incredible Adventures (1914) and the volume I’m looking at here, The Lost Valley and Other Stories (1910), the fourth of Blackwood’s original collections. Since most of Blackwood’s work is in public domain, you can find ebooks containing almost all his short stories—with more or less adequate formatting—including the ones I’ll discuss below.

In the early twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood entered into a feverish creative period, penning a flood of classic stories and novels from his home in Switzerland. The Lost Valley and Other Stories was first published in 1910 by Eveleigh Nash, London. The novelette “The Wendigo” would turn into this volume’s most enduring and often reprinted story. I consider it a “must-read” for anyone with an interest in supernatural horror literature. But all ten novelettes and short stories in The Lost Valley and Other Stories are worthwhile reading for horror and fantasy enthusiasts. All but one have supernatural themes, and while some are horrific (“The Wendigo,” “The Terror of the Twins,” “Old Clothes,” “The Price of Wiggins’s Orgy”) others are gentle fantasies addressing Blackwood’s deification of nature and his belief in its transformative power (“The Man Who Played upon the Leaf,” “The Eccentricity of Simon Parnacute,” “Perspective”). The singular non-fantasy story, “The Price of Wiggins’s Orgy,” is the most overtly grotesque. The title novelette straddles a line between fear and wonder, making it an appropriate place for readers to begin their journey through Blackwood’s world of the weird.

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New eBook Story Available: The Shredded Tapestry

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You can now purchase my Gothic horror story, “The Shredded Tapestry,” from Amazon to read on Kindle or the Kindle App.

“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” But that is a lie. The Devil may also repay, when he has been falsely accused and long denied…

When highwaymen hold up seeker-of-curiosities Richard Davey on a lonely road in Bavaria, it’s only the beginning of the nightmare. Fleeing from a hissing apparition on the road, Richard finds himself in an old monastery. The monks offer him shelter for the night—but what shelter can there be from a diabolic vengeance in feline shape, seeking redress for a crime that has haunted the monks for over two centuries?

Previously published in the print anthology Candle in the Attic Window and now available for Kindle, “The Shredded Tapestry” is a thrilling Gothic horror story in the classical English tradition from award-winning author Ryan Harvey.

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