October has always been a favorite month for this weird scrivener, and this year it has been enhanced tenfold with the release of Jack Koblas’ exceptional Ghost Stories and Other Dark Tales. Winner of the 2012 Minnesota Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievment, Mr. Koblas is no stranger to us North Country folk. In fact, he is a bit of a local legend. And while he is perhaps best known as a writer of historical non-fiction, it is his influence in the dark fantasy scene of the 70s and 80s which is beyond compare, co-founding no less a publication than Etchings & Odysseys, as well as being the core architect (with Eric J. Carlson) of MinnCon, an annual convention begun in 1971 and which continues to this day under the name Arcana.
Reading through the forty-seven offerings in Ghost Stories, I was struck first and foremost by the absolute command of language, and second by the sheer diversity of the tales. While there are numerous Lovecraftian nightmares, here too you will find history, sci-fi, outlaw fiction, and a few gems that would make Rod Serling proud. Mr. Koblas’ range is utterly astonishing. Here is an author who has studied and learned well from past masters, and who has fashioned tales which can stand right alongside the masterworks of the last century. Mr. Koblas knows his craft inside and out, and in addition to this he is an exceptional poet. One particular tale, “The Pond”, contains a line which I find, in context, absolutely haunting: “It [the pond] was like an eye of the earth, lined with lashes of dark dead stands of wavering birch and pine…”
But not only is the writing stylistically exceptional, the command of material is second-to-none. Whether the tale be centered in the Wisconsin backwoods, a movie theater with John Dillinger, the Himalayas, an observatory in Anoka, a cavern in New Mexico, an elevator in the Empire State Building, or on some distant inhospitable planet, Mr. Koblas has done his research. We not only receive terror-inducing chills, but a history lesson as well. Not many writers have the ability to both terrify and edify, but we find these qualities in spades in the dark and inimitable fiction of Jack Koblas.
Ghost Stories and Other Dark Tales is available from George A. Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, a Canadian small press which has also released another Koblas gem — the enticingly titled The Lovecraft Circle and Others.
Both of these titles are available locally at DreamHaven Books.