This morning, at an ungodly hour, I began to read The Spectacles Of Mr Cagliostro by Harry Stephen Keeler. Almost five years ago, I wrote briefly on these pages about Keeler, so it behooves me to drag that postage out of the archives and draw it to your attention. This is what I had to say, including my rather shamefaced note at the end:
Reader Tim Drage has drawn my attention to the pulp novelist Harry Stephen Keeler, and I am smitten. I think you will be too. Go and visit the Harry Stephen Keeler Society, try to ignore the rather breathless tone (the site’s author is overfond of exclamation marks!!)*, and discover for yourself this writer who has already been given a posthumous Big Tin Medal by the Hooting Yard Sainthood Committee. Here is what to expect:
“In The Man With the Magic Eardrums (1939), a bookie and a safecracker run into each other in a house in Minneapolis and spend the night talking. Oh yes, there are two phone calls, and another character comes into the house and talks for a while. This takes hundreds of pages. The direct action of The Portrait of Jirjohn Cobb (1940), which has to be one of the most astoundingly unreadable novels ever written, consists of four characters, two of whom sport outrageous accents, sitting on an island in the middle of a river, talking and listening to a radio, again for hundreds of pages. And these novels were only the first volumes of two multi-novel sequences! … How about these chapter titles from The Bottle With the Green Wax Seal (1942): The Chromatic Whimsicalness of Avunculi Samuelis; Synthetic Mexican; and The Micro-Axially Condensed Typewriter.”
* NOTE : Richard Polt, author of the site [and of the above extracts], writes to say: “As for my use of exclamation marks, I can only plead corruption!–by Keeler!–himself!!” Having now spent a couple of days reading Keeler myself, this makes perfect sense!!!!