Sunday, November 16, 2014
Crossover of the Week
THE SIGN OF THE SALAMANDER
The introduction to this reprint of Curtiss Stryker’s first story featuring occult detective John Chance is written by Kent Allard, the well-known author of Drive-Thru Fiction and The Futility of Awareness. Among the occult matters studied by Chance are the secrets of Carsultyal and Carcosa. Chance, seeking help against his archenemy Dr. Gerhard Modred (aka Dread), sends a message to another well-known occult investigator, de Grandin, but he cannot be reached. Dread plans to raid the lost mines of the Ancients in the Appalachian Mountains.
Short story by Karl Edward Wagner in the collection Why Not You and I, 1987. Curtiss Stryker also appears as a major character in Wagner’s “Blue Lady Come Back,” also included in Why Not You and I. Stryker is based on author Manly Wade Wellman. Kent Allard is neither the Shadow nor H. Kenneth “Kent” Allard from Wagner’s Cthulhu Mythos story “Sticks”; however, he does make a brief appearance in “At First Just Ghostly,” a Kane story found in the collection Exorcisms and Ecstasies. Allard’s Drive-Thru Fiction is also quoted in Wagner’s story “Plan 10 from Inner Space,” also found in Exorcisms and Ecstasies. Carsultyal is from the Kane story “Undertow,” while Carcosa is from Ambrose Bierce’s “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” and Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow. Chambers’ version of Carcosa was heavily utilized in Wagner’s “The River of Night’s Dreaming,” found in In a Lonely Place. De Grandin is Seabury Quinn’s occult detective Dr. Jules de Grandin; the reference to him in Wagner’s tale is a nod to Manly Wade Wellman’s references to de Grandin in his own stories. The lost mines of the Ancients are from Wellman’s John the Balladeer story “Shiver in the Pines.” We can infer that Curtiss Stryker was actually the biographer of John Chance, who was a real person in the Crossover Universe. Regarding the dating of this story, Chance’s adventure was supposedly originally published in the January 1934 issue of the non-existent pulp Black Circle Mystery, while references to the National Recovery Administration place the story’s events in 1933.