This volume contains an eclectic mix of stories, including my first novel in several years.
The titular character, an evil wizard exiled from Dyrezan, craves the favor of mighty Xenophor, and will do anything to gain it. "Be careful what you wish for" was an old saying even then.
Zirinsky's Swamp (ss)
This tale, technically science fiction I suppose, is something of a departure for me. I might liken it to a futuristic fable about a man whose one simple desire comes to transcend himself and the whole world.
Published by The Fifth Di.
Professor Vorchek and Theresa are in Egypt excavating the tomb of the Princess Yardreela, of whom ghastly stories were told in ages past. It is claimed that she discovered the secret of eternal life, a boon that operated in a frightfully vicious fashion toward others not so lucky. Of course that is only legend, but why does Doctor Obermann want to halt the dig?
Xenophor's Children (ss)
I am extremely proud of this story, a study in unadulterated weirdness. A man with no name and no past finds himself on a city street, with the sole goal in mind of contacting an unknown person. He does so, meeting a young girl in the same boat as himself, save that she desires only to return to the city of her birth. The man is compelled to get her there-- although he has never heard of such a city-- although he dreads the results of his mysterious actions and the unknowable prime mover who is causing all this to happen.
The Cross of Xenophor (ss)
Jacob Bleek stars in this very short piece set in Rome. The wizard is eager to gain possession of a magical talisman lost since the declining days of the Empire. He finds it, but its previous owner has a lurid tale to tell.
In the Box (ss)
Properly classified as science fictional, this story is set in a remote future, incredibly so, when man has, so to speak, attained the heights of his existence, living a life of infantile contentment surrounded by hyper-intelligent machines catering to his every whim. The machines, the real brains of that future, want only to function in a state of perfection.
Published by Fantastic Frontiers.
Among the Hoodoos (ss)
A tough guy hired to convey a package to a house in a strange wilderness meets up with two weird cultists, as well as Vorchek and Theresa, all of whom have come together because of the ancient object that the man brings. Vorchek counsels caution, but no one listens. This tale, set within the geological wonderland of the Chiricahua Mountains of south-eastern Arizona, first presents the character who became the genesis of my anti-hero Sterk Fontaine.
Published in 9Tales Told in the Dark 3 by the Bride of Chaos.
An Ending, Orchestrated (ss)
This is my take on the recurrent "zombies on the rampage" theme. All of a sudden they're on the march, bloodthirsty like always, but in my version their irruption is merely a sign of bigger, even more mysterious events.
The Report of Colonel Lantham (ss)
The dead rise again, this time the gory remnants of a Civil War battle, who show no partiality, and take no prisoners. As a young boy I lived in the vicinity of several battlefields, and the War Between the States has long been a major interest, one which I haven't yet utilized much for literary purposes.
Published in Gone With the Dirt by Pill Hill Press.
The Journey Through the Black Book (n)
After several years of concentrating solely on writing short stories I embarked upon a new novel, and this complicated fantasy tale is the result. I poured everything into this one, incorporating all of my main recurring characters. It stars Professor Anton Vorchek and his lovely assistant Theresa Delaney, who with one of the Professor's graduate students embark upon a daring experiment to pierce the veils of time and investigate the ancient mysteries of the long forgotten past. This they undertake via the secret and sinister knowledge concealed within the shunned and treasured Black Book of Jacob Bleek, which tells them all they need to know of how to enter into extreme danger, but precious little of how to escape it. Quite unexpectedly Vorchek and his companions find themselves inhabitants of fabled sky-flung Dyrezan, trapped in the bodies of their contemporaneous incarnations, prey to the murderous intrigues that abound in that magic-haunted city eons before recorded history, desperately seeking a way back to their own age. During their escapades they meet up with the great noblemen and wizards who populate the many previous stories set in that glorious kingdom: King Skyrax, the Lords Morca, Nantrech, Albragon, and Kardowan, among others. In writing this novel I utilized plot elements from "Skyrax, Lord of Dyrezan", and actually cross history with two other stories, retelling from a different point of view some of the stirring events from "The Tale of Nantrech" and "The Adventure of Captain Morca". In addition to his book, Jacob Bleek makes a personal appearance as well.
Unlike my previous long effort, The Journey of Jacob Bleek, which was really a collection of closely linked short stories, The Journey Through the Black Book is a single large, coherent story, without anything like stand alone sections. It is divided into the following nineteen chapters:
I. Vorchek's Perusal
II. The Experiment of the Black Book
III. The Awakening of Vorselus
IV. A Gift From the Princess
V. Sinister Machinations
VI. The Flight From Dyrezan
VII. Among the Terrestrials
VIII. A Prisoner of Nantrech
IX. War On the Frontier
X. The Citadel of the Rhexellites
XI. The Wanderings of Vorselus
XII. The Castle of Kardowan
XIII. The Conspirators Strike
XIV. The Streets Run Red
XV. The Companions of Vorselus
XVI. The Return to the City
XVII. King Skyrax Changes His Mind
XVIII. Morca vs. Kardowan
XIX. The Awakening of Vorchek
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