Written By: Seabury Quinn
Published by: Night Shade Books/Skyhorse Publishing
Weird Tales wasn’t the longest running pulp magazine and wasn’t even the most influential. Yet whereas most pulp magazines have faded from view over the decades, Weird Tales still remains largely in the public eye due to the many writers of weird fiction introduced in its pages such as Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, and H.P. Lovecraft. Their stories and characters continue in print today and have been turned into major Hollywood films, comic books, TV shows, board games, and more. And yet, none of these men were Weird Tales’ most popular writer. That honor goes to Seabury Quinn.
Quinn was an attorney who practiced mortuary law and began dabbling in writing. In 1925 he introduced the supernatural detective, Jules de Grandin. He quickly became the publications most popular character, appearing in some 90 stories over the course of the next 25 years. Unlike Howard and Lovecraft, the Jules de Grandin stories have been sparsely reprinted over the years and Quinn has been forgotten by many.
Thankfully, Night Shade Books has come to the rescue. Earlier this year they began releasing a five volume, hardcover set called The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin which is reprinting all of the detective’s tales in chronological order. Volume Two, “The Devil’s Rosary” is now out and features 19 more stories which ran from January 1929 to December 1930. As you can tell, Quinn’s popularity was such that hardly a month went by that Weird Tales did not feature one of his tales.
The Jules de Grandin stories are unfailingly formulaic. Almost without exception the stories all bear a similar outline of de Grandin being caught up in some sort of bizarre mystery and then solving that mystery if often bizarre ways. Yet before we criticize Quinn we must again remember that he was enormously popular for many years and gave his fans exactly what they wanted.
The diminutive French doctor and detective encounters a series of strange supernatural foes from werewolves to death cults, all who are behind whatever assaults, thefts, murders or hauntings that de Grandin finds himself up against. The title story, “The Devil’s Rosary” finds de Grandin trying to help a family who is under a curse by a mysterious Asian cult. One by one the family members die in mysterious fashion and each is found with a prayer bead in their possession when their bodies are found.
Quinn uses a strange combination of broken English and French colloquialisms in de Grandin’s dialogue, seemingly for some presumed level of realism but it comes off a little hacky but grows on you a few stories in.
The Jules de Grandin stories are not going to be confused with great American literature but for fans of the weird and supernatural they are must reads and an interesting peek into what captivated readers nearly 90 years ago.