Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Keeper

Just to show you how things happen by happy accident sometimes, I just finished the novel The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, which I absolutely loved, but I only found it because of my interest in obscure sword & sorcery stories. Here's what happened.
Couple of weeks ago, I was wandering through Marietta Book Nook and I picked up an old sword & sorcery anthology called Heroic Fantasy. This one came out in 1979 and was edited by local boys Gerald W. Page and the late Hank Reinhardt. My primary interest in the book was the one Kardios story by Manly Wade Wellman that I needed to complete the series. See the post below for more on Kardios.
Anyway, I was reading through a bunch of the other stories in the book late Saturday evening and I read one called Demonsong by F. Paul Wilson. It was a well done story featuring a stalwart hero named Glaeken fighting an evil sorcerer named Rasalom. Well plotted and skillfully written, I enjoyed it a lot. So of course I immediately went to the internet to see if there were any more stories about Wilson's sword & sorcery hero. First hit I got was from one of the Robert E. Howard forums noting that the 'hero' of Wilson's novel The Keep had first appeared in the short story Demonsong.
The Keep? Hadn't there been a movie in the early 1980s with that title? Seemed like I had seen bits of it on television a couple of times. After a bit more web surfing I learned three things. There had been a movie and it was based on Wilson's novel. There were other novels in the series. Wilson was the creator of Repairman Jack. I was vaguely familiar with RJ, having seen a display of the series at Borders, but I had the impression they were espionage books of some sort. Nope. As it turns out, Jack is sort of a supernatural Travis McGee, handling problems and repairing situations beyond the average person. And he first appears in 'The Tomb' the second novel in the series begun by 'The Keep'.
Now I learned all this at almost 11:00 on Saturday night, so it was a bit too late to head for the bookstore. Sunday morning though I was at Borders when they opened and headed straight for the horror section where I picked up The Keep and The Tomb.
The Keep is another one of those 'something different' books I mentioned a few posts earlier. I had a vague notion of the plot from seeing parts of the movie. During World War Two a group of German soldiers is sent to occupy an old castle in the Transylvanian Alps in order to guard a mountain pass against a possible incursion by the Russian army. One of the soldiers, looking for hidden treasure in the Keep, unleashes a terrible supernatural force. Violence and chaos ensues.
Now of course I wondered what all this had to do with Glaeken, a Conan stand in from a single sword & sorcery story. Without giving away too much, it turns out that the supernatural entity within the keep is called Molasar, which is Rasalom spelled backwards...
The Keep is the first in what would become known as The Adversary series, so even though the book seems to have a definite ending, things apparently aren't settled. The conflict between Rasalom and Glaeken spills over into the present day, though since I've only read the one book, I don't know exactly how things play out, but it seems that the rest of the series is set in contemporary times. There is a very nice bit of dialogue right at the end of The Keep that would make any Conan fan proud, however.
Sword & sorcery fan that I am, I wondered if Wilson would ever go back and write a story set in the same time period as Demonsong. On his website he says if he has time he'd definitely like to go back and write another S&S style story with Glaeken. So fingers crossed. In the meantime, I've got plenty of Repairman Jack and Adversary books to read.

P.S. Wilson says the film version of The Keep sucks and you should stay well away from it. Of course now I'm curious...


Gail, aka Dogma said...

Oh yeah, gotta love Repairman Jack.

I'm surprised that you haven't crossed paths with him before. He seemed to be quite the rage during your FM years.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Yeah, I must have missed all that somehow. I was probably hanging from the chandelier again.