Feaster from Afar and
Other Ghastly Inhabitants
by Joseph Payne Brennan
(Edited by S. Dziemianowicz, J. Pelan)
First collection? No
Joseph Payne Brennan (1918-1990) was an American writer
of fantasy and horror fiction as well as a poet.
Brennan's first professional sales of fiction were pulp
western stories. As a horror writer, he started out
writing stories for Weird Tales in
1952, and when the famous magazine folded he founded
his own magazine Macabre,
which ran from 1957 to 1976. Several of his short stories feature the
occult detective Lucius Leffing.
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"It was a great gray-black
hood of horror moving over the floor of the sea. It slid through the
soft ooze like a monstrous mantle of slime obscenely animated with
… It had prowled the black water endlessly. It had formed when the
earth and the seas were young; it was almost as old as the ocean itself…"
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Joseph Payne Brennan was one of the last big names associated with the
golden era of the mythical american magazine Weird Tales,
a horror and fantasy fiction magazine known for having hosted stories
by the likes of HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, Robert
Bloch, Robert E Howard, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon,
to mention only a few.
Poet, writer, editor and publisher
Brennan is virtually unknown to the younger generations of readers
because the bulk of his short stories has been out of print for almost
John Pelan’s small imprint Midnight
House is planning to collect and reprint all Brennan’s horror
stories and The Feaster From Afar
is the first volume in this publishing project.
Having been thrilled and spellbound by Brennan’s fiction in my
youth I was so pleased and excited to see his work available once again
that I immediately bought the book.
This first volume includes a number of classic, famous stories by this
prolific author, starting with Slime
one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of horror fiction, a
tale of sheer, primordial evil bound to scare and disquiet no matter
how many times you read it.
In the vivid, unsettling The Corpse
of Charlie Rull a dead body turns into a zombie-like killing
fury under the effect of electro-chemical waste, while in the
terrifying On the Elevator a
murderous, inhuman creature bursts into a hotel by the sea during a
first he thought that an unusually fierce gust of wind had somehow
blown the door open. As he closed it, however, he noticed a fresh
series of irregularly shaped muddy tracks which began inside the door
and continued into the lobby."
Canavan's Back Yard and Canavan Calling
(the sequel, written more than twenty-five years later) are mesmerizing
stories where a witch’s curse has transformed a neglected backyard in a
gateway to Hell and a book dealer into a wild, fierce dog.
crouched in all fours, like a beast about to spring. His glasses were
gone, his clothes were in shreds and his mouth was twisted into an
insane grimace, half smirk, half snarl"
Both The Seventh Incantation
and The Willow Platform
very effectively develop the time honoured theme of the na´ve
individual who, having found an old book of incantations, summons a
demon with dire consequences.
Monton is a powerful, although
not quite original story of revenge from the other side of the grave
and Long Hollow Swamp is a
superb horror tale about giant slugs infesting a desolate swamp located
in the middle of nowhere:
lay motionless literally covered by the huge back slugs. Tentacles
lifted and half a dozen pairs of the glassy globular eyes turned in my
On a similar note the graphic Extermination,
apparently set in a distant planet, depicts the terrible havoc wreaked
by mutant rats.
By contrast, in the splendid SF piece Vampires
from the Void alien beings from outer space unwittingly trigger
a series of apocalyptic events that make Earth an uninhabitable place.
The Feaster From Afar, The Keeper of the Dust and Forringer’s Fortune are strong,
horrific tales with a distinct Lovecraftian character.
Other remarkable stories in this volume are Zombique a splendid voodoo tale
with a "twilight zone" taste and The
House on Stillcroft Street, about a malignant, carnivorous ivy.
the green, glimmering half darkness, a thing which had once been human
slumped in an armchair a few feet from the front window. It was covered
with a great, fluttering, waving mass of the huge, five-lobed ivy
Brennan was a master of classic, pulp/horror fiction,
endowed with an extraordinary talent for storytelling and the ability
to create creepy atmospheres and gripping plots apt to indefinitely
suspend the readers' disbelief.
I’m looking forward to the next volumes.