Sunday, June 30, 2013
The Voice of the Mountain
There he finds the strange "witch man" Ruel Harpe, a smooth mannered sociopath with dreams of being a god and just maybe has the power to make it happen. He wants John to join him as one of his disciples. Trapped in Ruels's rustic commune, John will have to use all his knowledge of backwoods magic to stop Ruel Harpe's scheme.
This was the last of Manly Wade Wellman's five novels about John the Balladeer. He planned one more, The Valley So Low, but a serious injury led to his death before that one could be completed. The Valley So Low came out as a collection of Wellman's mountain themed short stories edited by his friend Karl Edward Wagner.
I think that Wellman was more comfortable writing short stories about John than novels. In fact this one reads much like one of the shorts that has been padded out to novel length. Not that it's a bad book. Wellman was a good enough writer to hold my interest until the end. It has all the trademarks of classic John the Balladeer stories. Folksy background. True love. (not for John though) Weird supernatural goings on and dark magic that seems scarily authentic. In a short forward, Wellman mentions that all the grimores mentioned in the story are real books. I'm familiar with a couple of them from other Wellman stories, and yeah, they're for real. Wellman knew his stuff.
He mentions several real people in the book too. There's a funny bit where a woman mentions that she worked in the special collections section of the library at Miskatonic University, and among the seekers of arcane knowledge who came there were men named Fritz Leiber, Bob Bloch, and Frank Belknap Long. I think Wellman had fun with this one, throwing in references to earlier adventures and plenty of old mountain folk songs. Though this was the last John the Balladeer novel, Wellman wasn't quite though writing about John. There would still be a couple of short stories about what had become Manly Wade Wellman's signature character. All the stories, both short and long are worth your time.