Let me take a moment and put down some of my thoughts about this great little occult detective series.
[S]ometimes there is just nothing better than indulging your weaker side and diving into a story that you know is just going to be a lowbrow delight. You know you’re not going to come away enlightened or smarter. No wisdom is going to really be imparted to you, just the enjoyment of the experience. As I picked up my Kindle last night I found myself doing just that, seeking out a treasure trove of entertainment simply for entertainment’s sake. So let’s take a look at this little gem, shall we?
If you’re interested in this book here are the notes from the publisher:
Today the names of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, and Clark Ashton Smith, all regular contributors to the pulp magazine Weird Tales during the first half of the twentieth century, are recognizable even to casual readers of the bizarre and fantastic. And yet despite being more popular than them all during the golden era of genre pulp fiction, there is another author whose name and work have fallen into obscurity: Seabury Quinn.
Quinn’s short stories were featured in well more than half of Weird Tales’s original publication run. His most famous character, the supernatural French detective Dr. Jules de Grandin, investigated cases involving monsters, devil worshippers, serial killers, and spirits from beyond the grave, often set in the small town of Harrisonville, New Jersey. In de Grandin there are familiar shades of both Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, and alongside his assistant, Dr. Samuel Trowbridge, de Grandin’s knack for solving mysteries—and his outbursts of peculiar French-isms (grand Dieu!)—captivated readers for nearly three decades.
Collected for the first time in trade editions, The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, edited by George Vanderburgh, presents all ninety-three published works featuring the supernatural detective. Presented in chronological order over five volumes, this is the definitive collection of an iconic pulp hero.
The first volume, The Horror on the Links, includes all of the Jules de Grandin stories from “The Horror on the Links” (1925) to “The Chapel of Mystic Horror” (1928), as well as an introduction by George Vanderburgh and Robert Weinberg.
The Horror On the Links
The Curse of Everard Maundy
Trowbridge and de Grandin notice that there seems to be a preponderance of suicides in Harrisonville. de Grandin, itching to sink his teeth into a new investigation starts looking into the deaths to see if there is a connection between those dead.
This story is one that has a lot more twists and turns than the usual de Grandin romp, and perhaps that is why I like it so much. The investigation into the suicides leads our heroes to a suspicious preacher, who then turns out to just be another victim in his own way. Trowbridge nearly succumbs to his own dark thoughts, empowered by an unknown evil. A beautiful ghost transforms into a malevolent hag, and we even get to see de Grandin go toe to toe with the walking dead! It definitely felt like Quinn put some more effort into making this one more action-packed, ratcheting up the tension with the ever-present and indefensible threat of suicide.
I’m not going to say that this (or any of the other de Grandin stories) is a great work of literature. But what I will eagerly say is that this story was a lot of fun to read and I think really showcases the characters in a great way. We get to see what Trowbridge brings to the table by way of his medical know-how and local geographical knowledge. We get to see the seemingly limitless ego of de Grandin and his compulsion to wage a crusade against supernatural evils. You know, often times this is not the case which helped to make the tale feel more rounded. Additionally, we seem to have departed from Quinn’s formulaic output and veered off into a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of story which I think made it more fast-paced and unpredictable. The hook felt fresh and unforced, and the investigation as a whole felt more or less organic, despite de Grandin’s habit of keeping the facts to himself until the big reveal at the end of the story.
Looking back now that I have read quite a few of these little stories I have to say that this one stands out. The supernatural entity is just foreign enough, and the solution to the problem is less of a write off than in other tales. I think that Quinn’s background working in funeral homes and around death may have inspired and informed aspects of this story. de Grandin is a Mary Sue to be sure, but once you can get behind him it’s a delight to see him cut his way through the plot. If I were to recommend a Jules de Grandin story to someone, I would say to start with this one.