In the 1940s, Gerald G. Swan purchased the rights to tons of stories, paying on acceptance. His files were loaded with unused material that languished throughout the 1950s. Come 1960-1961, the outfit finally issued much of this languishing material in a variety of genre-specific editions. Here, I will be dealing exclusively with the first issue of the Weird and Occult 1/- Library digest-sized paperbacks (and in January 2017, two more blog entries will follow, covering the other two issues).
The books are 64-pages each, measure 5 x 7 inches, and are stapled with glued wraps.
- (1-13) Vashtarin by Kay Hammond
- (14-15) Twenty-five Years by Herbert J. Brandon
- (16-22) Cause or Effect by Maurice Grove
- (22-30) Dr. Kranzer’s Masterpiece by S. G. J. Ousley (sic)
- (30-39) The Horsehair Chair by Winifred M. Carnegie
- (40-46) The Case of Eva Gardiner by A. M. Burrage
- (46-49) In the Dark Temple by Noman C. Jallant (sic)
- (49-56) Green Eyes for Evil by Leslie Bussey
- (56-58) Scuttled by Christine Douglas
- (59-63) The Sins of the Fathers by Tom Lawrence
- (63-64) So Near – So Far by Philip Glyde
Quite easily this lead story by Kay Hammond-Davies is the best out of the whole lot. Equally so, Vashtarin is the only story within the whole volume worth reading. Taking place during World War Two, the Royal Air Force are interested in investigating a downed plane in the Himalayas. Rumor has it that the valley holds a lost race. The scene switches, and the lost race is given to us in typical Oriental-fiction style, complete with the evil leader possessing magical abilities. Complete with a virgin that falls for the downed airman, we are introduced to a wonderfully exotic lost realm, a pilot whom is struck down after his flights of fancy, and a magically-enhanced world is bombed out of existence by the RAF in retaliation. A story that is more Oriental adventure than weird, with slightly fantastic tones throughout. If only the rest of the stories retained such interest….
Herbert J. Brandon doesn’t break new ground in Twenty-five Years. A few college chums going their own way after graduation vow to meet 25 years hence. Usual snap ending, they all arrive, sans one, whom at the midnight hour, arrives, as a ghostly form, then vanishes, and one of the other older lads notes that he hung that very morning, for a crime!
In Maurice Grove’s Cause or Effect, a wife is convinced that her husband is causing the untimely deaths of people that they once knew or famous persons that haven’t made the news in a while. However, she’s informed she is interpreting his proclamations wrongly. He is attuned to the occult and picking up on their death vibrations, which suddenly makes him call out their name, etc. Convincing her to return to her estranged husband, he later learns that she has died, while attempting to return home. Ironically, only that very day, the husband, whom had long since given up on her returning home, and just uttered that her name, making the doctor wonder…was he wrong?
In Dr. Kranzer’s Masterpiece, S. G. J. Ouseley writes a truly weird tale. Kranzer has gone missing, and Dr. Arnold is brought in to investigate matters. He eventually discovers a secret chamber underground and the doctor, dead, with an uncanny thing, a creation of his own doing, that led, ultimately, to his own undoing!
Winifred M. Carnegie delivers a creepy tale when a dead man bequeaths The Horsehair Chair to a non-believer in the occult. However, when a friend visits and stays the night, reading by the fire, he ends up sitting in the chair (while his friend is drawn away for the night). He’s soon unable to extricate himself from the chair, and is visited by a frightening thing. A demon? The next night, his friend returns and the pair retire to the same room and he takes to the seat. Unable to warn him without being scoffed at, his friend soon suffers the same fate. They later break apart the chair, find a note within, from the original owner, noting that he had murdered another person in that very chair….
A. M. Burrage handles the murder of a young girl in The Case of Eva Gardiner. The police have their man but no evidence. Angered that the murderer has escaped Justice, Mr. Ransome, an older gentleman bachelor nightly coerces himself to focus mentally on the girl, whom was a regular visitor at his home. One night, she ethereally visits while he dreams, and discloses the identity of her killer, and other details. Unable to obtain the police’s assistance in his arrest, Mr. Ransome obtains a gun and shoots the killer dead, turns himself over to the police.
In the Dark Temple, by Norman C. Pallant (erroneously credited as “Jallant” on the page), a man is in the jungle seeking a lost temple. Securing its whereabouts, he alone enters and steals a rare gem off a temple gods face. Despite the gleaming stones removal, he hears a ferociously evil roar from the god and a baleful, evilly bright gleaming eye glares down at him. Scared out of his wits, he is assaulted by some being. Whipping out his knife, he fights for his life…. Mentally deranged, the locals find the treasure hunter, with the gem, and it is learned that a locally infamous one-eyed tiger assaulted him.
Leslie Bussey delivers a somewhat chilling account in Green Eyes for Evil. Alan is fixated on his brother’s fiance, and proclaims his love to her. Failing to secure her affections, he gives her a green stone ring. Time passes, and he receives a letter to meet his brother. In reaching the home, he learns that the brother murdered his wife, after discovering the bejeweled ring. He knows the gem was stolen from a specific location, and intends to exact his revenge upon his deceitful brother. His plans misfire, and Alan murders his brother in quasi-self-defense. Fearing that, if caught, he’ll hang for murder, he cleans the scene of his presence, and slips the dead man his gun. His brother gets the last laugh…his finger contracts and drills Alan, dead.
Christine Douglas delivers a weakly constructed tale in Scuttled. The protagonist annually plans various luxurious vacations, but in fact, never leaves his home. On returning from his “vacation,” he boasts about how enjoyable it was and provides relevant details to enhance the experience, by reading up on each locale. His plans go vastly awry, when on returning to work this time, his workmates leave a newspaper on his desk noting that HIS SHIP NEVER MADE IT to its final destination.
In The Sins of the Fathers, Tom Lawrence writes a typically dated weird tale in which a dead man visits a young man as a ghost in his dreams, and informs him that he shall die for the sins of his father. While a young boy, his father had caught the dead man stealing from the cash drawer. In protecting his property, he inadvertently strikes the man a death blow and sent to the penitentiary, where, he himself dies, succumbing to an illness. Feeling cheated, the ghost is determined to take the son’s life, instead. If only he can stay away long enough to escape the ghost’s intentions….
In Philip Glyde’s So Near – So Far, a romantic couple are hiking up a mountain when he accidentally slips, knocking their pack off the edge, and damaging his watch. Continuing the ascent, they are met by a thickening mist. Realizing they may become stranded, they begin a rapid, but cautious descent. The mist becomes impenetrably dangerous. Realizing further efforts may result in their death(s), the pair hole-up for the night. On awakening, they find that, in looking over the edge, they were only three feet from completing their downward journey. (NOTE: This is not a weird story in the least)