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28 May 2012

And yes, this is in real time. A friend just came racing in to say that our area is about to be swamped in police. Apparently a local man has locked himself into his house with firearms and the Armed Offenders Squad has been called out. But what is it with our tiny village? This is the second time in two years, of course, last time it wasn’t a local, but all the same…and it’s happening two streets away. Just sitting here on the computer I’d have been able to tell that something’s going on anyhow as there are far more cars than usual racing past.  I hope this has the sort of resolution that involves no one dead or injured but once guns are involved you can’t ever be certain of that.



Yes, Autumn of the Wild Pony is now available as print or download on  This is the sequel to Summer of Dreaming, and is the second in my ‘four seasons quartet.’ I’m eagerly waiting for the print copies – as is our local school which were promised a copy for the school library once they’re here.

Manly Wade Welman was born in Angola on May 21st 1903. His parents were medical missionaries there and he was descended from colonial Virginia stock as well as having some Native American ancestry. While he wrote a wide variety of works from short stories to books, he is best known for his Appalachian Mountain fantasy/horror books and short stories. He had a life-long interest in folk music and songs and many of his stories reflect both that and his long time residency in North Carolina.

Like many writers he had a hugely varied career, working as a farmhand, bouncer, reporter, film critic, lumber-stacker, soldier, and a teacher of creative writing. Welman was very prolific, while below I have listed only his genre work, he also wrote; thirty-three young adult books between 1927 and 1971, seventeen non-fiction books between 1949 and 1976, and six other books ranging from mysteries to westerns between 1947 and 1986. Some half a dozen films or TV episodes were made from various of his works, and The Silver John stories were the inspiration for “Who Fears the Devil”, a 1994 recording by Joe Bethancourt that featured both traditional Appalachian mountain folk- songs “That Silver John would have known”and Manly’s original lyrics published in many of the Silver John stories – set to traditional melodies that Wellman had used as models. Later still, Bluegrass band, The Dixie Bee-Liners recorded an original song that was inspired by the Silver John stories and titled “Yellow-Haired Girl,” which appears on their 2008 album “RIPE.”

In my opinion his best work is his Silver John stories. many of them contain a verse or verses from folk-songs, (some genuine, some written by Wellman) many have a title taken from folk-songs, and many too have what I can only describe as a Christian atmosphere, and this adds verisimilitude to work set against a time when much of Appalachia no matter what was done the other six days spent part of each Sunday at church. There is no question that Wellman knew what he was talking about so far as folk-songs go. I belonged to the Wellington Folk Music Society for some years, and recognize a number of the songs quoted, as well as the author description (in Little Black Train) of how to make a mouth-harp sound like a train whistle approaching, then receding.) I once heard Arlo Guthrie do just that. Wellman managed both a sharp-edged reality in his stories as well as a sweetness and sometimes pathos. I particularly recommend his Silver John stories as well as his books featuring Appalachia such as The Beyonders.

  1.  Science fiction and fantasy books/collections:

The Invading Asteroid (1929)

Sojarr of Titan (1941)

The Devil’s Asteroid (1941)

Devil’s Planet (1951)

The Beasts from Beyond (1950) [also known as Strangers on the Heights]

Twice in Time (1957)

The Dark Destroyers (1959) [short version of Nuisance Value (1938/39)]

Giants from Eternity (1959)

Island in the Sky (1961)

The Solar Invasion (1968) (Captain Future novel)

Worse Things Waiting (1973) (collection) (Winner, World Fantasy Award for Best Collection, 1975)

Sherlock Holmes’s War of the Worlds [With Wade Wellman] (1975)

The Beyonders (1977)

The Valley So Low: Southern Mountain Stories (1987) (Ed. Karl E. Wagner, collection)


The Collected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman:

  1. The Third Cry to Legba and Other Invocations (2000) (John Thunstone and Lee Cobbett stories)
  2. The Devil is Not Mocked and Other Warnings (2001)
  3. Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales (2001) (Judge Pursuivant and Sergeant Jaeger stories)
  4. Sin’s Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances (2003)
  5. Owls Hoot in the Daytime and Other Omens (2003) (John the Balladeer stories)
  1.  Silver John anthologies and novels

Who Fears the Devil? (1963)

The Old Gods Waken (1979)

After Dark (1980)

The Lost and the Lurking (1981)

The Hanging Stones (1982)

The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

John the Balladeer (1988) (Ed. Karl E. Wagner, revised collection containing all Silver John short stories)

Owls Hoot In The Daytime And Other Omens (2003) (Ed. Night Shade Press, also contains all Silver John short stories)

  1.  John Thunstone anthologies and novels

Lonely Vigils (1981) (Thunstone and Judge Pursuivant short stories)

What Dreams May Come (1983)

The School of Darkness (1985)

  1.  AWARDS

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Award winner, Best Story, A Star for a Warrior (1946)

Mystery Writers of AmericaEdgar Award, Best Fact Crime Story, Dead and Gone (1956)

World Fantasy Award winner, Best Collection/Anthology, Worse Things Waiting (1975)

World Fantasy Award, Life Achievement (1980)

Locus Award, Best Fantasy Novel, After Dark (Place: 15) (1981)

British Fantasy Award winner, Special Award (1985)

Locus Award, Best Collection, John the Balladeer (Place: 5) (1989)

North Carolina Writers’ Network Literary Hall of Fame inductee (1996)


17 May 2012

It occured to me recently – but doesn’t seem to have dawned on the major newspapers as yet – that if NZ post do as they say they are considering doing and drop postal deliveries to three days a week, this will massively impact on newspapers. Why buy a newspaper subscription to have the paper delivered 6 days a week when half of that time news in the paper will be stale because you’ll receive the papers for yesterday and today together? You’ll have already heard yesterday’s news on the radio, seen it several times on TV, and yet you’ll be paying for it too.  If this happens it’s likely that the only news in which you will be at all interested and won’t have seen is that which is limited to your immediate area. Major papers may have revert to the old format of genuinely local newspapers because that will be what people will pay for. If postal deliveries are dropped to three days a week, I for one will probably be cancelling my annual newspaper subscription – and how many other people will also cancel for similar reasons? If I was a major newspaper. I’d be hastily putting my back into convincing NZ Post not to do any such thing.

and it is. The impression given last month was that it wasn’t that damp – until I checked my records and discovered that April’s total had been 90mls, or some three and  a half inches of precipitation. We’re just past halfway through May, and I checked records again today to find that we’ve had 38mls this far. That may mean a drier month, then again, as it’s into winter, we could get several solidly wet days and top that 90mls. The happiest ones on the place about the unusual levels of rain we’ve had for months now, are the gaggle. Last time we had longer heavier rain I happened to look out and see them squabbling. When it’s very wet the water tank overflows, and fills a smallish dip beside it. It’s a two-goose dip, but with all five of the gaggle trying to get in at once it resembles one of those “how many people can you cram into a mini”‘ competitions.


Volume three, published by The Fiction Desk, April 2012. softcover.

Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

This was a damn good anthology. All the stories were a great read, and it was clear all of the writers knew what they were doing. The editor’s also been smart enough to go for quality over quantity and produce a slimish volume of good writing, rather than a fat volume of work where about half is mediocre, and kudos to him for that, too many other editors can’t resist the quantity/mediocre, as if a big fat volume with half of it poor stories is somehow to be preferred by readers. Here’s one reader who doesn’t.

The title story was a strong piece on the effects of age, imagination, the spirit of place, and loving your family. It ended on a solid note that tied up the story perfectly. The Man of the House is one of the neatest ghost tales I’ve read in the last five years, while Rocket Man hit every button as well, a child in danger, end of life as we know it, and the need we have as humans to not die alone but in the company of those you love. Automatic Pilot is a brutal, knowledgeable, look at a family coming apart at the seams, it has real impact. Exocet is another ‘family’ story, three generations of males relating to each other, often not in harmony but doing their best for each other, even if they don’t always understand. The Pest I simply enjoyed. It’s a quietly wicked mystery story, the author understands people and their motivations and what will drive someone to extremes and she’s done an excellent job. I’d like to read more of ‘her village’ and its inhabitants.

Trevor Gets Shot is a very clever look at kids, how they function, their friendships, and how far they’ll go for each other. And how in all that there’s a stack of other motivations mixed in that they themselves may not even recognise. Blind is odd, the ostensible story is that of a man who’s quite by chance found that he can make a good living pretending to be blind. But the underlying themes are those of someone who has found empowerment and is abruptly deprived of it leaving him bereft of what made him visible to others. It’s a strong story that hits home in a lot of areas. The final tale, Faith, deals with three Russian cosmonauts, and uses a sort of magic realism. It’s a powerful story, right down to the last line and it was a good choice on which to end the anthology. The editor certainly knows how to attract good writers and how to select good work. Take a look at anything else The Fiction Desk is producing, if this anthology is an indication, it’ll be worth your time.











An invitation to speak on my children’s ‘Troll books” at a local school saw the artist (Judy Giddens) who did those with me, collect me early afternoon and whisk me away to chat to some 30 small children at the South School. It was pleasant, kids often ask penetrating intelligent questions and it’s always a pleasure talking about my work. Judy, who did those five books with me, seemed to have the ability with the Troll series of getting into my head and seeing what the characters looked like. My Australian publisher (of the Daze books) also likes her work so we may continue together with her illustrating and my writing in happy harmony. I returned laden with parting gifts, (a lovely bouquet, pretty card, and a large iced cake) to find the gaggle waiting lined up at the gate. I had fed them before I departed, but ransom was demanded for my absense, so I gave them a smidgen more. They’re a bit above themselves at the moment. They were on the front page of the newspaper and it seems to have given them ideas…

3 May 2012

published St Martins, Minotaur Mysteries, 2003, paperback.

I was at Emoticon, the NZ National SF Convention in Auckland when this came out and Barbara Clenden of Barbara’s Books strongly recommended it. I bought it because Barbara had been selling books to me for years, and was very accurate in knowing what I might like. On this one she was dead on the money. I read it in one gulp that night, came downstairs in the morning, ordered the previous three, and have been buying them ever since. The first book won (I think) four different mystery awards, and the judges too were dead on the money. The series is great, the characters are hilariously believable, the background is authentic, and the plots are – er – to die for.

In Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, Meg Langslow, a blacksmith by trade,  is running the reception desk at her brother’s new company, Mutant Wizards, set up to sell his computer game:Lawyers From Hell. Rob (her brother) has the feeling that something isn’t right at the company and wants Meg (known to her family as their resident detective despite her protests) to see if she can find out what’s giving him that chill at the back of the neck. It’s almost impossible to explain the plot except to say that there is indeed something strange going on at the company. For a start it’s mostly staffed by young male geeks, all mad on RPGs, and playing practical jokes.

And that’s not counting company policy of taking your dog to work, sharing the company space with six mental health specialists who resent sharing the space and resent sharing it with a gaming company named Mutant Wizards even more. They add peculiar patients, their own affairs and ‘affirmative bears’ to the mix. Then there’s George the one-winged Buzzard in Meg’s reception area, (when she isn’t feeding him microwaved mice, she’s worrying about him vomiting on her), there”s Spike, her de-facto mother-in-law’s small evil dog in company residence, and a pregnant cat under her desk.  There’s the huge biker dude prowling the parking lot after dark, a rabid fan of the game constantly trying to get into the company area to find out about the next installment of Lawyers From hell, and, oh, yes, there’s the staff member who left and is now supposedly nursing his gun collection and a grudge. Not to mention a host of would-be bringers of law suits all of whom insist that Mutant Wizards stole their idea.

Then there is the automated mail cart that cruises constantly through the company area – and Ted, who is usually to be found lying on it in various poses, some of which suggest that he’s been murdered in transit. And then the mail cart cruises by Meg’s desk bearing Ted, who really has been murdered this time, and she’d better find out whodunnit because the local police chief thinks it’s her brother Rob and has just arrested him. So Meg begins to dig into what’s going on, to find that the staff are up to such a wide range of activities, some legal, some not, that searching out those alone  keeps Meg pretty busy. Meanwhile elsewhere, Michael ( currently on location for a TV series) Meg’s gorgeous actor boyfriend (when he isn’t being a professor at the local university) is getting worried about Meg’s activities. As is the murderer. And in a denouncement which reminds me very strongly of a British farce, the killer is unmasked, and Meg and Michael may finally have found a place to live where they’ll  finally have room for her work.

Frankly whenever I read this book I laugh, and that’s despite having now read it 4-5 times, the most recent being this week when I startled Thunder (asleep across my knees) with a howl of amusement as I got to the bit about the biker trying to ‘liberate’ George who didn’t in the least want to be liberated (for excellent reasons) and who was resisting violently.  Meg’s family are the perfect characters with whom to surround her. I read the books and think wistfully that it would have been nice had they been my family. The background is fairly real since the author lives there, and the plots, while I hope they aren’t real, are clever, funny, and very well worked out. This is one of the series where I am hoping vigorously that the author a) doesn’t die any time soon, that b) she doesn’t stop writing ditto, and that c) her publisher is smart enough to keep publishing the series – and d) that I can always afford them. Recommended to those mystery lovers with a sense of humour, and a liking for animals, family, a good murder, and witty repartee.












2 May 2012

Yup, Over My Dead Body liked my story, The Truant, and have accepted it. This mystery magazine is one with which I’ve had a l..o..n..g association. I sold them a story not long after I began writing professionally, (which appeared back in spring of 1994, a hard-boiled detective parody – The Good Old Days.) So it’s nice to see that unlike a lot of other mystery magazines of the ’90s, they’ve remained in print and even nicer that they still like my work.