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WILLIAM SLOAN
To Walk the Night
and
The Edge of Running Water


click to enlarge

Panther, London, 1965
(price: 3/6; 192 pages)
(first published 1937)

click to enlarge

Panther, London, 1965
(price: 3/6; 208 pages)
(first published 1939)


The blurb on the back:

To Walk the Night
Parsons, the detective investigating the LeNormand murder, admitted that he was completely baffled. Baffled especially by Selina, the beautiful wife of the dead professor. Who was she? Where did she come from? And what was it about her that instilled a sudden chill of fear into everyone she met? Nobody knew. For the mystery of this woman, so deep, so inexplicable, brought death to all those who finally penetrated it ...

The Edge of Running Water
When Richard Sayles visits his old friend Julian Blair at his large, rambling mansion in Barsham Harbor, he finds a man who has changed terribly since their university days together. For years Julian has been obsessed by the memory of his dead wife Helen, an obsession that has finally brought him to the borders of insanity. Somehow he dreams of re-establishing contact with her Indeed he never mentions her as if she were dead at all. And now Julian, a brilliant electrophysicist , is certain that he is on the threshold of an enormous advance i human knowledge. He has constructed a machine by which he will be able to speak to the souls of the dead ...


William Sloane, otherwise known as Milligan Sloane III (1906-74), wrote - as far as I'm aware - only these two novels, but they're totally wonderful and need to be read, preferably as a pair.

Strictly speaking they're works of science fiction, since the explanations of the events they describe are ultimately not supernatural, but the building of atmosphere makes them closer to the horror tradition, and even to the classic English ghost story, than they are to, say, Amazing Stories. It comes as no surprise to discover that he was from Massachusetts, the state so closely associated with Poe and Lovecraft. Furthermore, while the books bounce ideas off Einstein's physics, the spurs to action are predominantly emotional rather than scientific. Both are first-person narratives that concern East Coast academics who come to grief when they fall in love: in To Walk the Night a brilliant young mathematician commits suicide after marrying a mysterious other-worldly woman, whilst in The Edge of Running Water an electrophysicist attempts to construct a machine for communicating with his dead wife.

It'll all end in tears, of course.

The narrative content and the cast-list are such as you might expect to find in a short story, but that's part of the charm. The simplicity and the single-mindedness of the tales allows for fully fleshed character studies, and is mirrored by the clarity and dryness of the prose:

Our senior year he published something entitled, as near as I can recall it, 'A Fundamental Critique of the Einstein Space-Time Continuum'. Maybe that isn't the exact wording, but it conveys the general idea. I found it unreadable, myself - out of the first fifty words I knew the meaning of only twenty-eight, and it turned out later that I was wrong about one of those. (To Walk the Night p.29)

Beautifully crafted stuff that still works.

The Edge of Running Water was filmed with Boris Karloff as The Devil Commands in 1941.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 5/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
5/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
3/5


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