Surreal Books of Southwestern Gothic Horror

Article by Sam Reader for the Tor Nightfire blog and including books by Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen Graham Jones, and The Silverberg Business.

“Wexler uses the history of Texas (in particular the 1900 Galveston flood) and a series of repeated images and motifs to build his own original mythos, one where the eldritch forces of chaos and decay attempt shady land grabs and the wrong door can send you into a bizarre alternate dimension.” 

I haven’t read any of these other books but will get started soon. The article is here.


Locus Review #1

Locus is a combination trade journal and fanzine for the fantasy/horror/science fiction community. It presents publishing industry news, personal items, convention reports, book and magazine reviews, lengthy interviews, etc.

I renewed my subscription a couple of years ago, after letting it lapse for many years. Even without a subscription, I was able to read reviews online. Book reviews run in the monthly print (or e-book) edition and later are added to their website, for free.

At first, I subscribed to the print edition but switched to e-book. Print is more convenient, for me, a non-smart phone non-e-reading device person, but I would rather not have all the paper piles.

I hadn’t realized until recently that the magazine is having difficulties. The editor, Liza Groen Trombi, explains the situation in more detail than I can here, in her editorials from July and August.

If you go to the Locus website, to read the occasional review or obituary, consider making the occasional contribution to help keep the place going.

Below are quotes from one of Trombi‘s editorials, with more information on how to help.

If you have the means, please consider making a charitable contribution to Locus this year, whether a one-time or monthly contribution, we really want to keep making the magazine, and we are under the gun right now. We also have a Locus Legacy Society for people who would like to name Locus Science Fiction Foundation in their will, you can find out more information about that on our donate page.

Subscribe, or renew your subscription, today.

Please consider donating to the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Donations support Locus magazine as well as a variety of related SFnal projects. For more information, and to make donations through Paypal, please visit our website.

Arthur Machen’s The Chronicle of Clemendy

“Rubrican’s First Tale,” facsimile edition of 35 numbered and signed prints. 11.5” x 8.25” on heavy, acid-free paper, available from Yard Dog, along with other prints from the edition.

Tomorrow (August 23, 2022) is the official release day of The Silverberg Business. Today, I’m writing about some of the book’s interconnected underpinnings.

My main character is a Jewish detective named Shannon (family name originally Chanun, Americanized by immigration). He’s from Galveston, Texas and lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. Most of the book takes place in Texas.

Allan Pinkerton founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago in the 1850s. I chose Chicago as Shannon’s home and made Shannon’s boss a former Pinkerton agent.

The writer Dashiell Hammet worked for a time as a Pinkerton agent; I used Hammet’s Continental Op character as a base when I began formulating Shannon.

I love the weird fiction writing of Welsh author Arthur Llewellyn Jones, who wrote as Arthur Machen. I decided to name Shannon’s boss Arthur Llewellyn.

Scottish-born Pinkerton was a Chartist. Before reading about Pinkerton, I hadn’t known about Chartism, which was a working-class political reform movement in Britain from around 1838 to 1857. In 1839, the Newport Rising occurred, in Newport, Wales. Police arrested Chartists, protests followed, soldiers shot miners. (This is an oversimplification; for more information on the Newport Rising, please look elsewhere, including the book listed a few paragraphs down.)

I decided that my Llewellyn was a former Chartist who moved to the U.S. after the uprising. As fellow Chartists, it would make sense for him to have worked with Pinkerton.

Jon Langford is Welsh, from Newport, and lives in Chicago. His skull-head art was one of the formative elements for the novel and he created the Silverberg cover art.

Bringing more elements together, Three Impostors, a small publisher based in Newport, Wales, has been publishing special illustrated editions of Arthur Machen’s work. In March 2022, they released The Chronicle of Clemendy, first published in 1888, with ten illustrations by Langford.

Lovely editions of many Machen books are also available from Tartarus Press.

Three Imposters also published a book, Render the Chartists Defenceless: John Frost’s Voyage with Dr McKechnie to Van Diemen’s Land in 1840, by Les James, about the transportation to Tasmania of the leaders of the 1839 Newport Rising.

Is it coincidence that The Chronicle of Clemendy came out the year that The Silverberg Business is set? I doubt it.

Reading Schedule

Here are the happenings for The Silverberg Business, Ohio, Texas, and Illinois.

Emporium reading, August 2021.

Books by the Banks, Saturday, November 19, Cincinnati, OH. I’ll be there at a table 10-4, with a break for a panel at 1pm, with Roger Collins, Jay Kalagayan, Christopher Rowe, and Laura Maylene Walter. Free admission.

Past Events

August 23 8pm, Two Dollar Radio Headquarters, Columbus, OH, reading with Jeffrey Ford

August 27 7pm, Emporium Wines/Underdog Cafe, Yellow Springs, OH, reading and conversation with Rebecca Kuder.

August 29, 7pm, Joseph-Beth Books, Cincinnati, OH, reading and conversation with Rebecca Kuder

August 30, 7pm, Book People, Austin, TX.

August 31, 6:30pm Brazos Books, Houston, TX.

September 13, 7pm, Book Cellar, Chicago, IL with Jon Langford.

October 13th, 6pm, Yellow Springs Library, Yellow Springs, OH, with guitar accompaniment by Brady Burkett of Stark Folk Band.

Audio of me, reading with Victor LaValle at KGB, NYC, April 20, 2022.

Novel Gets a Name

I figured out the title early on, borrowing from Dashiell Hammett’s story “This King Business.” But who’s business would it be? The answer to that came from the story, and the name of the character for whom Shannon is searching.

Gary K. Wolfe, who reviewed The Silverberg Business in the August issue of Locus magazine said: “Probably the first thing SFF readers need to know about Robert Freeman Wexler’s The Silverberg Business is that it has nothing to do with any legendary grand masters of the field.” This is true, in that the content of the novel has nothing to do with Robert Silverberg. However, it also does.

During my senior year of high school we had to take various placement tests for college; apparently I did well enough to place out of my first college English class. The first semester of my freshman year, I took the class required for students who had placed out of first semester English. The only thing I remember from the class was the week that the teaching assistant took over. He assigned us a paper/story in which we introduce a new character.

At the time, I was reading Robert Silverberg’s novel, Lord Valentine’s Castle, serialized in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. In the current issue (probably the one shown here, from December 1979), Silverberg introduced a new character. I realized I could study how he did it to help me write my piece for the class. This was when I discovered that writers learn from studying (and copying) other writers. I’ve been copying ever since.

I don’t remember the name of the teaching assistant. He must have been a creative writing graduate student (as a freshman, I didn’t know there was such a thing). Whoever you are, thanks for the assignment. I didn’t know how important it would be.