Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Weird Tales Books

The Adventures of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn (1976)

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969) wrote more stories than anyone for Weird Tales and for a longer period of time, from 1923 to 1952, almost the entire run of the magazine. If my count is right, Quinn placed 146 stories in "The Unique Magazine" in those years. Ninety-three of them were in the continuing adventures of his occult detective, Jules de Grandin. Of those 146, seven were reprinted in The Adventures of Jules de Grandin in 1976. They include the first of the de Grandin stories, "The Horror on the Links," retitled for the book "Terror on the Links."

A dealer at PulpFest recommended the Jules de Grandin stories to me. I have just one of the five Popular Library reprint books of the 1970s. These books are hard to come by at a decent price. I was lucky enough to find one at Half Price Books, one of the world's greatest stores, for just two dollars. I finally finished it this weekend.

Here's what I think: Seabury Quinn set up his series seemingly with the Sherlock Holmes series in mind. Jules de Grandin is French rather than British. Nonetheless, he is, like his predecessor, eccentric and seemingly all-knowing. Eccentric is probably a kind word. I find him to be annoying as all get-out. His assistant, Dr. Trowbridge, plays the Dr. Watson role as recorder and narrator of de Grandin's adventures. Unlike Watson, Dr. Trowbridge is grouchy, obtuse, and practically useless. You can lay the blame at the author's feet.

Despite all that, Quinn was, over all, a good writer. Certain of his scenes are unforgettable, as in "The Man Who Cast No Shadow" when de Grandin destroys a vampire in her grave and discovers another in his underground lair. In short, I will keep looking for the Jules de Grandin books, but not at the prevailing price. One thing dealers should realize is that their clientele is probably beginning to disappear. The generations that first read pulp magazines and even paperback books are passing from the earth. I doubt that the prices they once paid will hold for very much longer.

The Adventures of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn
Edited by Robert Weinberg
(Popular Library, 1976)
Cover art by Vincent di Fate; illustrations by Steve Fabian, including a map of Harrisonville, New Jersey, and portrait drawings of Jules de Grandin and Dr. Trowbridge based on drawings by Virgil Finlay
"A Sherlock of the Supernatural" by Lin Carter
"By Way of Explanation" by Seabury Quinn (originally in The Phantom-Fighter [?] by Seabury Quinn, Mycroft & Moran, 1966)
"Terror on the Links" (originally "The Horror on the Links," Weird Tales, Oct. 1925; reprinted May 1937)
"The Tenants of Broussac" (Weird Tales, Dec. 1925)
"The Isle of Missing Ships" (Weird Tales, Feb. 1926)
"The Dead Hand" (Weird Tales, May 1926)
"The Man Who Cast No Shadow" (Weird Tales, Feb. 1927)
"The Blood Flower" (originally "The Blood-Flower," Weird Tales, Mar. 1927)
"The Curse of Everard Maundy" (Weird Tales, July 1927)
"Afterword" by Robert Weinberg

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I have managed to accumulate a set of the Popular Library Jules de Grandin over the years. The last title I had to wait for as it was priced too rich for my blood from sellers at the time. I occasionally return to them when I'm in the mood for reading a quaint "occult detective" tale or two. I agree that Mssr. de Grandin's character is very much in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes and that Dr. Trowbridge is an analogue to Dr. Watson. I also believe there is a good bit of Agatha Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot in de Grandin, as well. Christie was a contemporary of Quinn's so there is a strong argument for the comparison. In any event, any literary shortcomings that Quinn may have had, he most certainly made up for in adventurous plots and visceral scenes.

    1. John,

      I hadn't thought of Hercule Poirot as I have never read any of those stories or books. Thanks for the insight.

      Humor is not as easy as what people might think. Trying to make something light or amusing doesn't always work. I get the impression that Quinn was trying to inject humor in his stories by making Jules de Grandin so eccentric. In my opinion, it didn't work. Quinn would have been safer just writing a straight story and leaving out the attempts at humor or lightness.