El Coyote Gordo (supergee) wrote,
El Coyote Gordo


Ray Russell has returned from the dead, which is not inappropriate. Penguin Classics (!) has published Haunted Castles, a collection of seven of his Gothic novellas, with an intro by Guillermo del Toro. I’m in favor, but I’ve got to say that for me, treating Ray Russell as a Gothic writer is like saying Babe Ruth was a great dude to party with and didn’t he play some sort of sport?

Russell was an editor and writer at Playboy, where he wrote and published lots of science fiction. In 1961 he published Sardonicus and Other Stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the other stories: 50s social sf, skillfully done. He followed it with The Case against Satan (also now revived as a Penguin Classic), a brilliant novel about possession and exorcism, with much more theological pondering than one would expect from a Playboy editor, excellent characterization, and bits like the idea that age is a caricaturist (a concept I fear I am exemplifying) and my introduction to the classic dirty joke in which a dying priest tells a young lad, “I lied to you, son. I’m not your father. I’m your mother; the archbishop is your father,”* It sold like science fiction. Ten years later William Peter Blatty added showbiz and bestseller details and made millions. (Cf. Harry Harrison’s Plague from Space and The Andromeda Strain.)

Then there was The Colony, a funny showbiz novel with bits like “Tamburlaine, in two parts, like my ass” and “practicing the manly art of self-abuse.” I fear that the Suck Fairy may have gotten at it. I know that the Suck Fairy found another story Russell set in the same milieu, sodomized it to death, and continued to work on its corpse. “Xanadu” was a jolly little romp about a good guy who hypnotizes women into having sex with him and does no harm thereby.

He also did an enjoyable horror novel called Incubus. I don’t know if that’s coming back.

* That story turns out to be a classical theme. It can be traced back to the Norse Eddas, and Ezra Pound put a version of it in The Cantos. I still say it would be perfect as the last words of Anakin Skywalker.
Tags: reading
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