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Manly Wade Wellman

The Weird Tradition

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Edited: Aug 9, 2007, 11:20am Top

Manly Wade Wellman first grabbed my attention with a series of new paperbacks in the early 1980's, such as THE OLD GODS WAKEN, AFTER DARK, and THE LOST AND THE LURKING. They were set in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and centered on a character called John, who with his silver-stringed guitar wandered though harrowing adventures involving folk magic and music, monsters, witches, and the sometimes treacherous, sometimes honorable but always memorable mountain folk of the Carolinas.

Later, I found out that these novels were based on a series of short stories featured in the 30s through the 50s in such magazines as WEIRD TALES, ASTOUNDING, and WONDER STORIES.

There is an amazing sense of place and character in these stories, not to mention a high-grade Weird factor. Also integral is a sense of moral fortitude that isn't preachy and which provides a great deal of power and momentum to the plot. And the characters... whether human or inhuman, who can forget the Behinder, the Gardinel, or the beautiful Evadare!

Wellman also wrote a number of weird tales about the playboy occultist John Thunstone and the Van Helsing-like Judge Pursuivant. He also wrote a much, much more on a variety of topics, ranging from historical non-fiction to young adult novels.

Quite an amazing writer! Night Shade Books has released a beautiful 5-volume hardcover set of his weird fiction that is worth every penny.

TRIVIA: Wellman also wrote the first issue of the original CAPTAIN MARVEL comic book, and was a ghost writer for Will Eisner's groundbreaking THE SPIRIT weekly comic strip.

Aug 9, 2007, 8:37pm Top

I had a conversation once with Fred Chappell, where he admitted to being a fan of Manly Wade Wellman. Both men have Carolina roots.

The closest Chappell ever came to the Weird tradition is Dagon, a fairly disturbing and creepy novel.

He also wrote a book of fantastic tales, More Shapes Than One, which remains one of my favorites.

Aug 10, 2007, 10:41am Top

I'm not familiar with Chappell, but I'll keep an eye out for those two books. Thanks.

4NoirSeanF First Message
Aug 10, 2007, 5:39pm Top

Hello, I'm new here and to the site overall. I wondered if any of you Wellman fans know precicely what "White Mountain or Mountain White Folklore" is? I know Wellman drew from local folklore as well as built some of his own to write the Silver John stories. Does it come from R.M. Skinner's book at all?

Aug 11, 2007, 1:31pm Top

Hello! I'm not familiar with White Mountain, but I can say that Wellman eventually came to settle in Chapel Hill, NC, where he became extremely well-versed in the folk music, traditions, and legends of the mountain folk. This is certaily reflected in his stories. Perhaps someone else here can provide some more insight?

Every time I read Wellman, I want to delve further into American folk legends myself, but I don't know where to begin!

Aug 12, 2007, 5:45pm Top

Libraries usually have some great foklore/myth references. American Myths and Legends by Charles M. Skinner, not "R.M. Skinner" sorry, is a great resource, if you can find it.

Aug 12, 2007, 8:07pm Top

That's interesting. Chappell lives in Greensboro. Seems likely they would've met.

Sep 25, 2007, 9:59pm Top

A nice collection of MWW's work is available at Night Shade Books.


Sep 24, 2008, 4:28pm Top

Hi folks. This is my first time barging into your interesting group. I'm a Wellman fan too. In answer to the questions about Wellman's inspirations, there's a lot of good info at this web site:


Also a good list of works, weird and otherwise, and some other odds and ends. Note that some of the links don't look like links until your cursor hovers over them. Although it looks like one newsletter out of a series, I think this is just the chosen appearance of the web page; as far as I can tell, all the info is there.

Sep 27, 2008, 3:56pm Top

Hi rtttt01! Welcome, and thanks for posting that Wellman link. Very nice site - I'll be picking through that for some time to come...

Oct 6, 2008, 5:50pm Top

Hey, just wanted to mention I picked up The Old Gods Waken after your collective discussion here. I don't think I'll get to it till next year, but thanks for the recommend, I look forward!

Jun 14, 2009, 5:58pm Top

Has anyone read 'Who Fears the Devil' ?

Edited: Jun 15, 2009, 12:09pm Top

unorna, I've never owned a copy, although I own most of the stories that are in it in other volumes, such as Owls Hoot in the Daytime from Night Shade Books, which I think contains all of the Silver John short stories.

I'm often tempted to track down a copy of the Arkham House edition of WFtD, with that gorgeous cover by Lee Brown Coye. Speaking of tracking things down, 'Who Fears the Devil' was also adapted for the screen in 1972 by John ('One Step Beyond') Newland, and musician Joe Bethancourt has released a CD of covers of the traditional ballads that Silver John sang in the stories:


Jun 15, 2009, 3:40pm Top

#13. I found my copy on a tiny second - hand book stall about 13 years ago and I was hooked. The Internet was the best thing that ever happened to me since I now know that there are reprints of his works to be had!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks so much for the link, it was really interesting!
P.S I think my two favourite stories are 'The Desrick on Yandro', and 'Old Devlins'.

Feb 18, 2010, 1:25am Top

I was just looking ahead in my Planet Stories issues, there are 2 coming out sometime this year of MMW:

Who Fears the Devil?—The Complete Silver John

Battle in the Dawn: The Complete Hok the Mighty

I'm looking forward to both of these, since I have yet to read these tales.

Feb 18, 2010, 10:33am Top

Thanks very much for the Planet Stories links, NightHawk. I had no idea that they were publishing Wellman. Just reserved a copy of WFtD - I think it's due in early March. And Hok the Mighty? Never even heard of this character. Can't wait to read it!

I've seen some of these issues, such as Robert E. Howard's Almuric. I'll have to keep a closer eye on what's upcoming.

Feb 19, 2010, 2:17am Top

I actually just got the remaining 5 back issues that I was missing from Amazon. Now I have a complete collection.

Edited: May 26, 2011, 8:44am Top

There is a new Manly Wade Wellman Planet Stories release collecting all of the 1930's Hok the Mighty tales from Amazing Stories:


I expect that Hok won't even be in the same ballpark as the classic "John" tales found in Who Fears the Devil?, but I think I'll pick this up anyway, just for the sake of completeness.

Oct 24, 2011, 9:13am Top

Great news (I hope)!

Sequential Pulp comics has gained the rights to produce a Silver John series:


They're also doing Frederic Brown's classic Martians Go Home!

Apr 5, 2013, 9:22am Top

Manly Wade Wellman died today in 1986.

Springtime always makes me want to explore haunted Appalachian trails with Wandering John. I'm also very much looking forward to the Haffner Press limited edition of The Complete John Thunstone!

Let's raise a virtual glass of bald-faced whiskey to Manly!

Apr 5, 2013, 10:44am Top

I saw the note of Wellman's death anniversary on my home screen, as well. It prompted me to add The Old Gods Waken to my wishlist, not sure why I didn't when I first read through this thread, since I found it compelling enough to star. In any case, I won't get to it soon but I'm convinced I need to read it eventually.

Apr 5, 2013, 3:00pm Top

Coincidentally, this evening I came to one of Wellman's Judge Pursuivant stories ("The Half-Haunted") in Kurt Singer's Second Ghost Omnibus.

Edited: Apr 15, 2013, 7:15am Top

20 KentonSem

I was speaking with Stephen Haffner at Windy City Pulp and Paper this weekend. The John Thunstone limited edition is getting closer he showed me a proof of the additional book that will be slipcased with the main collection. He is also still considering doing a Leatherbound Lettered Edition, but isn't sure yet. I was suggesting to him he might want to give Silver John the Haffner treatment as well :-) Since the novels have been out of print since the 80s.

Wow Windy City Pulp and Paper, I think everyone on this list would be right at home there :-)

Edited: Apr 15, 2013, 1:41pm Top

>23 cosmicdolphin:

Thanks for the Thunstone update. I pre-ordered that ages ago, and it's good to hear that it's getting close to publication. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait. It would be great if Haffner did those later Silver John novels - I'm surprised that they haven't been tapped for special editions since they were first published back in the 1980's.

Windy City Pulp and Paper sounds like a blast!

Apr 15, 2013, 1:14pm Top

Apparently the Silver John Graphic Novel is delayed as the artist is no longer working on the project, they are switching to a new artist.

May 21, 2013, 9:33am Top

Happy 110th birthday Manly!

May 21, 2018, 12:33pm Top

Happy 115th birthday, Manly!

Might have to read a Wandering John tale tonight!

Edited: Dec 4, 2018, 1:44pm Top

Haffner Press has announced a 2-volume "The Complete John the Balladeer". What I find really enticing here is that the 5 novels are included! I have two Haffner books on the shelf, both of which are very nicely produced.


Dec 4, 2018, 2:25pm Top

I like that cover art!

Group: The Weird Tradition

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