I went to a panel at the WorldCon in San Antonio a few years back on Texas Pulp SF. Apart from the 800-lb. gorilla in the room, Texans were grossly underrepresented in the pulps. The consensus was that they were writing speculative fiction, and good speculative fiction, but that it was getting published as folklore. That struck close to home. I sometimes say I didn’t discover speculative fiction until my mom forced The Hobbit on me, but that isn’t quite true. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I grew up with ghost stories. Much like that Texas “folklore.” The difference, of course, merely being one of perceptive.
You can imagine my interest then, when I discovered that an Appendix N and Weird Tales stalwart, Manly Wade Wellman, wrote an entire series of short stories very much rooted in the lore of my people. About John. At least that’s the only way his name is given in the stories. He is more usually known as John the Balladeer or Silver John. He may also be a parallel universe Johnny Cash. Or maybe John the Baptist. Or maybe both.
I picked up a copy of Paizo’s Hidden Worlds and Ancient Mysteries Planet Stories, The Complete Tales of Silver John, Who Fears the Devil?, presented by (and with an introduction from) Mike Resnick (2010). Unfortunately, it is now out of print and offered at an obscene price every time lately I’ve checked on Amazon. This is billed as a complete collection of the Silver John short stories, but Wellman also wrote five novels about John. Haffner Press’ upcoming The Complete John the Balladeer. The two-volume edition will contain all five novels and is available for pre-order now.