Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mandrake, (Medusa Press), by Oliver Sherrt

Mandrake, originally published in 1929, tells the story of an American occult detective, Tom Annelsey, investigating evils perpetrated in the English villages of Haddeston and Grayden. Soon after arriving in Haddeston, he makes the acquaintance of a young woman, Ethel Derrington, and the local priest, Hamilton Sturt. During the course of his investigation, and his association with the Derrington family and Mr. Sturt, Annesley uncovers a terrible occult plot crafted by the sinister, and purportedly immortal, Baron Habdymos.

The story of Annesley’s struggle to thwart Habdymos’ black magic brings to mind horror classics more familiar with the average reader: Dracula (with its dark, ageless occult antagonist) and Frankenstein (with the Baron’s mad experiments at the forefront of the novel; in fact, Mandrake begins with Habdymos creating a monster to do his bidding).

The simplest description of the story and its quality is that it’s something Dean Koontz would have written had he been alive and writing in the 1920’s. Mandrake has an intrepid hero who quickly falls in love with the female lead (who is dealing with problems of her own), a small cast of secondary characters integral to the resolution of the plot, a chilling villain and an exciting and satisfactory climax. If one can get past the slight difference in writing style and some of the minor chronological quirks (Annesley and Ethel fall in love so fast it’s practically ridiculous by today’s standards!), it’s hard to believe Mandrake managed to slip through the cracks for so long.

Mandrake was originally published in 1929 and was reprinted this year by Medusa Press after languishing in obscurity for about eighty years. Oliver Sherry was a pseudonym used by Irish poet George Edmund Lobo. According to the brief introduction by scholar Richard Dalby, Lobo may have published as many as four horror novels under the Sherry pen name.

Medusa Press has done an inarguably good deed to the horror community by bringing an heretofore unknown piece of literary history to a group of readers who may be jaded by some of the ‘dark fiction’ coming out of the modern literary machine. The book itself, limited to 350 copies, will look great on any reader’s shelf with its hardcover wrapped in a matte dustcover decorated with a stark rendering of Habdymos threatening his victims.

Visit http://medusapress.com/ and buy it today.

Lincoln Crisler is a United States Army combat veteran and non-commissioned officer and the author of two collections of dark stories, Magick & Misery (2009, Black Bed Sheet) and Despairs & Delights (2008, Arctic Wolf). He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife and two of his three children. You can visit his website at www.lincolncrisler.info.

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