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Review: ‘Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol. 14’

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018 in Arsene Lupin, Black Coat Press, English Pulp, Fantomas, Foreign Pulps, French pulp, Fu Manchu, Harry Dickson, Judex, Madame Atomos, New Pulp, Nyctalope, Occult Detective, Review, Rocambole, Roulatabille, Sar Dubnotal, The Black Coats
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Review: ‘Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol. 14’

'Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol. 14: Coup de Grace'The end of 2017 meant that there’s another volume of Tales of the Shadowmen out. The Black Coat Press series is now up to 14 volumes. This one is subtitled “Coup de Grace,” which means final blow or death blow. But is it for good or evil?

As noted previously, this annual series makes use of Philip José Farmer‘s “Wold Newton” concept, mixing in a variety of literary characters, with a focus on the various pulp and pulpish characters of France and Europe, such as Arsene Lupin, Fantômas, The Nyctalope, Rouletabille, and many others, as well as those from other countries. Several authors will come back with further stories of the same characters, creating loose series within the volumes.

The latest volume gives us:

• Matthew Baugh: “The Lights on Haint Mountain” is, as far as I know, the first story to use John the Balladeer, though there is none of Manly Wade Wellman‘s use of bizarre creatures or folk magic. Instead, John gets pulled into a situation where agents of Madame Atomos are trying to capture members of “The People” and make use of their technology. They are an extraterrestrial race of humanoids who have fled to Earth after their world is destroyed. Zenna Henderson wrote many stories of these secretive people in the ’50s and ’60s, which were the basis for a TV movie. Here, they are also shown to be the same race that appeared in the Escape to Witch Mountain book, which is the basis for the Disney movies.

• Adam Mudman Bezecny: While I have heard of the movie The Hands of Orlac (or its several remakes), I had never seen it and was not aware it was based on a work by Maurice Renard, of which Black Coat has done a five-volume collection of works, except for The Hands of Orlac as its available elsewhere. I think they should have include it for completeness. In “The Curse of Orlac,” we get a strange tale of another Orlac who has had his hands transplanted, and learns of his vast family tree from Sar Dubnotal who is trying to free him from the Curse. Will he succeed?

• Nathan Cabaniss: A somewhat strange tale (even for this series) is “Hero of Two Worlds,” which as has the 68-year-old Marquis de Lafayette being transported, though briefly, to Barsoom, where he has an encounter with a Green Martian.

• Matthew Dennion: The very short “A Case of Mistaken Identity” makes interesting use of Colonel Bozzo-Corona of the Black Coats in a story that brings in characters from Phantasm and Highlander. There can be only one!

• Brian Gallagher: “The Death of Von Bork” provides the latest in Gallagher’s series of stories about Boris Liatoukine, Captain Vampire, now bringing the sequence up to 1979. I guess I’m not giving anything away, but his KGB master, the former German spy Von Bork, is finally killed. As we seem to be moving forward in time with this series and are approaching the fall of the Soviet Union. It will be interesting to see where this series goes.

• John Gallagher: In an earlier volume of the series, a group of adventurers team up to attack Selene, the City of Vampires. This tale tells what happened to one of those adventurers, Solomon Kane, shortly after, as he recalls a encounter with a certain Highlander and what he revealed about Kane. The title, “Princes of the Universe,” should be obvious.

• Martin Gately: “Rouletabille at the Old Bailey” is another of his stories dealing with Rouletabille, the journalist sleuth. This one is set earlier than the prior ones, and brings Rouletabille to London, where he will team up with a very young Harry Dickson, and together prove the guilt of a German spy. There is a very nice scene at the end with several other London detectives.

• Micah S. Harris: In “Beneath the Mount of Divination,” Brom Cromwell of the Barbusquin Order (from Jean Ray‘s horror novel Malpertuis) teams up with Aramis and the mysterious Francoise de Bretigny on a mission to destroy a tentacle of Baal. They are both successful and not. I suspect this will setup things for future stories.

• Travis Hiltz: He gives us another mystery to be solved by the strange group that includes Spiridon, the human-size ant (from the French sf novel reprinted by Black Coat), and the Selenite Stella Astarte in “The Case of the Remains to Be Seen,” which is a different “locked room” mystery. And, yes, the butler did it. But who or what is the butler?

• Paul Hugli: In “The Night of the Dazzling Sun,” sleuth Honey West is recruited by Harry Dickson’s now-older assistant Tom Wills to investigate a UFO cult in the Mohave Desert and finds that it is led by an old foe that one of Honey’s ancestor’s dealt with. (Maybe the title of the story will give a hint.) Things don’t go well, but thankfully The Nyctalope is there to lend a hand.

• Matthew Ilseman: A group of folks are taken on a “Guided Tours of Famous Secret Places” in the city of Paris, taken from a variety of sources such as Robert W. Chambers, Poe, Gaston Leroux, and others. Things don’t go quite as planned from some of the tour group. Nor the guide.

• Rick Lai: I keep hoping Rick will provide us another in his series of the “Shadows of the Opera,” but until then we have “Phantom Masquerade.” This is another in his stories about the early days of Fantômas, at the time using the alias of “The Pallid Mask.” But this name has connections to The King in Yellow, and that is the focus here, as the play and its purpose are illustrated in a story that has ties to occult detective Thomas Carnacki. I wonder what works were the sources for all the characters and items from Robert W. Chambers, as I’m not familiar with them all.

• Nigel Malcolm: Set in the near future after his return from re-visiting the planetoid Rhea, “Tomorrow Belongs to The Nyctalope” provides us the next tale of The Nyctalope. Here The Nyctalope visits the bizarre world of The Zone, from a strange Soviet sf film, The Stalker. I also look forward to the new Nyctalope book coming from Black Coat in early this year.

• Christofer Nigro: Here provides another tale about Felifax the Tigerman‘s brother Felanthus, who meets up with the Werewolf of Paris in “Kindred Beasts” until Judex comes along.

• Frank Schildiner: Instead of making use of the characters he normally does, Schildiner provides a new tale of Rocambole that involves the blind swordman Zatoichi in “Dice, Pearl, and Sword.” Be sure to check out Schildiner’s other novels from Black Coat.

• Michel Stéphan: In “The Odyssey of Madame Atomos,” we get another new story of Madame Atomos, set in the near (?) future of the world of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sort of.

• Artikel Unbekannt: Then in “The Yellow Peril,” we get yet another new story of Madame Atomos, here she is teaming up with another “yellow peril” character, Monsieur Ming (aka The Yellow Shadow) from the Bob Morane series.

• David L. Vineyard: We get a new Arsene Lupin story in “The Third Eye of Osiris,” set in set very late in his career, where he is using a different identity. Lupin gets involved with characters from Sax Rohmer, such as Nayland Smith, Fu Manchu, and others. I am intrigued by this new Lupin novel mentioned and wonder if we’ll see an English translation.

They have already set down the title and cover art for this year’s volume, which will be the 15th one. Pretty impressive for the series to last 15 years.

What do you think?