The Orishas, and Shango Unchained

There is an old man in Africa. You might find him interesting, especially as this is Black History Month. Today we’re talking African myth and lore. And we’re visiting the Yoruba and the Orishas, which means we have to mention Shango. We’re also joined by Ziki Nelson, who shares a media take on orishas later on below. And we throw in some black superhero thrills.

That old man’s name is Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, and he is said to be the traditional ruler of the Oyo Empire, in south-west Nigeria. As an alaafin, he is the inheritor of Oranmiyan, Great Prince of Ife, who found the Oyo Empire some time early in the 14th Century (CE).

What has this to do with the price of salt-cod? Hang in there…

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There are about 44 million Yoruba people(which is about the same as the population of Spain if you need a European reference point), most of them living in Nigeria. That might be enough to talk about in itself, but what catches the attention is way in which the Yoruba belief system spread much wider than that. During the transatlantic slave trade, some black peoples, including the Yoruba, managed to preserve something of their native religions and lore.

One aspect of this is the continued reverence of orishas (oricha or orixá in Brazil). Put simply, orishas are spirit beings who may be anywhere from intangible to fully manifest in the flesh. They represent facets of God, the Supreme Deity – manifestation of God’s many faces and natures, if you like.

To some they are demi-gods or gods in their own right. They are key in various religious movements, often worshipped or prayed to for their particular areas of patronage – war, justice, fertility, healing and so forth.

We’re not Yoruba experts here at greydogtales (in fact we know more about the Igbo, from eastern Nigeria, oddly enough). However, we do know that orisha worship continued across various parts of the United States, the Caribbean and South America, especially Brazil. Santeria and Candomblé are two variants, and as so often happened in and around the Caribbean, Roman Catholicism got mixed in there as well.

yansa, by eurico zimbres
yansa, by eurico zimbres

So who are the Orishas themselves? There are a lot  – anywhere from 401 to 17,000, and their exact names vary over time, and between Yorubaland and the branches of belief developed in the Americas. Different branches have slightly different interpretations. These are a few examples, to give you a taste:

  • Ellegua/Eshu is the male Orisha of roads and the crossroads, probably the basis of Legba in Haiitian vodu.
  • Oya/Yansa, female Orisha of winds and lightning, change and rebirth.
  • Oshosi/Oxóssi, male Orisha associated with the hunt, forests, animals, and wealth.
  • Oba, female Orisha of marriage and domesticity, supposedly once the wife of Shango.

Each orisha has an associated colour, an appropriate offering and other associations. Some have a number of secondary areas of power or concern. Oxóssi, for example, is associated with blue or green, and suitable sacrifices include goat and guinea-fowl. He’s also linked to contemplation and the arts.

Which brings us to maybe the most ‘popular’ of the Orishas, Shango or Shaango. If people know only one orisha, it’s usually him. And the reason we introduced you to Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III at the start is this – Shango was once the alaafin of the Oyo Kingdom, the third or fourth alaafin depending on who you read. We’re back in the 14th Century again, by the way.

Shango-Canva-Art
shango, canvas art from ifareo.com

more from ifareo here

A mortal man, he became an orisha because of his deeds. Shango rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums and dance. He’s a fighter, a warrior orisha with quick wits, a quick temper and is the epitomy of virility. In Santeria he is the master of dance and a sorcerer who spits fire. He is often depicted as a powerful young man with a double headed axe, or with two axes. He can also be called Sango (in Nigeria), Chango and Xango.

We’re mentioning the Orishas now because recently, along with a rise in the production of black speculative fiction, there’s been an upsurge of interest in the Orishas – incomic books, games and writing. Which is cool.

So now, not being black ourselves, we hand over to Ziki Nelson, who kindly put together a few examples of orishas in action for greydogtales (the section titles should give you extra links as well).


Five modern depictions of the Orishas you need to see

When it comes to African mythology, most writers and filmmakers never seem to look past Egypt. However, a group of Yoruba deities known as the Orishas are starting to give the likes of Set and Anubis a run for their money. The Orishas are a group of divine spirits that represent different aspects of reality and nature. From Brazil to Nigeria, the Orishas are loved and revered across the world and this has inspired a number of independent creators to reimagine these deities in a modern context.

1)Shaango

Shaango is an urban fantasy comic created by Los Brignoles, an indie comic book publisher based in France. The story is inspired by Shango, the Orisha of thunder and lighting. We follows Ishan Goran, a youth worker who discovers that he’s the modern incarnation of Shango. The story explores the blurry line between defending the innocent and punishing the wicked as Ishan fluctuates between being a hero to a vigilante. On a side note, Shango is by far the most popular Orisha, he has appeared in both DC and Marvel comics as well as a number of independent publications.

2) Besuoro

It’s not very often you hear African Martial Arts Fantasy in the same sentence but Besouro (aka The Assailant) is the rare (perhaps only) exception. Inspired by the real life exploits of of legendary capoeira fighter, Besouro Mangangá, this film spins a fantastic tale of an Afro-Brazilian fighter bestowed with mystical powers. One of the film’s main characters is Eshu, the Orisha of the crossroad who guides Besuoro on his spiritual journey.

3)Visionary

Created by Comic Republic Nigeria, Visionary is another urban fantasy centred on a blood feud between Shango and Oxossi, the Orisha of the forest. Not much has been revealed about the story yet however, last year Comic Republic released a prequel issue (#0). The prequel begins with an intense battle between Shango and Oxossi and then we’re transported to modern day Lagos.

4)Oya: Rise of the Orisha

Oya: Rise of the Orisha was probably one of the first attempts to reimagine the Orishas in a modern context. Created by Nosa Igbinedion, this short film follows Oya: orisha of the wind. Oya enters the modern world in human form and goes on a mission to stop Eshu, another orisha seeking to plunge the world into Chaos.

5)Yemoja: Rise of the Orisha

Because of the success of this initial Oya, Igbinedion was able to build enough traction to fund a follow up series Yemoja: Rise of the Orisha. This series is another urban fantasy that follows the story of Amina, a young doctor living in Brazil whose life turns upside down when she becomes possessed by Yemoja, the orisha of the sea.

While most of these projects have been relatively small scale productions one can’t help but feel this is just the beginning. Whether it’s comics, movies or books expect to see more of the Orishas. However, it’s also important to recognise that the Orishas are only a small part of a larger body of traditional African stories.

This article was brought to you by Kugali, a database for African narratives. If you want to discover more modern depictions of the Orishas or other African myths Kugali has curated dozens of films, TV shows and comic.


Our thanks to Ziki, who says of himself: “Ziki is a London based entrepreneur and one of the founders of Kugali. When he’s not stressing out about his company Ziki can be found flying across space and fighting crime … in his dreams of course. Actually, Ziki is working on his first comic book which is due for release later this year.”

You can find Kugali here:

http://www.blog.kugali.com/


We hope to bring you more in the future. In the meantime we should mention a new comics anthology put together by writer Balogun Ojetade. Balogun is deeply into Afro-retroism – film, fashion or fiction that combines African and/or African American culture with a blend of “retro” styles and futuristic technology.

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He’s worked with a number of other black creators, including Milton Davis, who we interviewed last year ( see  the rise of sword and soul), on a wide range of exciting projects. Black Power: The Superhero Anthology is just out. It’s over 300 pages of action, where twenty authors bring new perspectives to the superhero concept in original short superhero stories.

You can check it out for purchase here:

http://amzn.eu/5x6dFbg (UK)

http://a.co/hycG6WQ (US)

Ellegua orishas
ellegua – by Happycheetha32

See, that made a nice change from Edwardian supernatural stories, scary novels, detectives and lurchers, didn’t it? Never hurts to broaden your mind – unless you use a hammer. If you want to be warned  where we’re lurching next time, don’t forget to subscribe (top left). Then you can hide in time…

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Edith Wharton hears a Whooo!

Female writers are a bit like male ones, really. Some of them are outstanding, and some of them produce tosh. So one of the more sensible things to do during Women in Horror Month is to look at the actual works, and point out the many striking dark stories you can find by women. Today, we bring you Edith Wharton, Katharine Fullerton Gerould, and Mary E Wilkins Freeman. And some of what follows includes a serious look at the changing nature of supernatural fiction.

Yes, here we are with Part Three of The History of Women in Horror, exploring some scary writing by women in the early Twentieth Century…

edith wharton hears a whooo!
the history of women in horror

The first decades of the century were a difficult time for women (as opposed to all the laid back, easy times they’d had before). Men were busy making important political and military decisions, and killing each other. Women, meanwhile, idled away their time with such frivolities as keeping their children alive, repopulating devastated countries, nursing wounded men, and working in munitions factories.

“Definitions of femininity and of women’s social roles were in flux. During World War I, women had gained jobs that had hitherto been held only by men; afterward, women’s job options again narrowed. England’s two million “surplus women” were newly identified as a social problem, suffragettes were demonstrating, Freud’s works were in the bookshops, and hems were on the rise. “

Katherine Bischoping & Riley Olstead, The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies (2013)

Some women went all literary, and charged their writing with hidden meanings which could only be decoded by boys who knew the secret handshake. A few broke out in attacks of initials (see also Part 1) and pretended to be men for publishing purposes. But many female writers produced works of distinctive supernatural and weird fiction under their own names. We’ve picked three of the earlier writers, with illustrative stories, to show what you may be missing.

Mary E Wilkins Freeman

Mary E Wilkins Freeman is our first pick, because this allows us to mention stories which straddle the boundaries between Victoriana and the weird. The period up to the First World War was a transitional time, as shadows lurked behind those Edwardian summers. Society was changing, and the black crepe was gradually being shed. Gothic had gone, and weird was coming in, though there was still a place for straightforward ghost tales.

Freeman had an odd enough life. She had a strict religious upbringing, and lost both her parents by the age of 31, leaving her to try and make money by writing. At the age of fifty she married a chap with alcohol and drug problems, who ended up being admitted to a hospital for the insane. On his death she inherited $1.

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Sidenote: There is a detailed biography of Freeman which includes analysis of her writings overall, and which is relevant to the changes going on in writing and society. This is In a Hidden Closet: The Life and Work of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, by Leah Blatt Glasser (1996).

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It “explores the multiple tensions at the core of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s life and work. A prolific short story writer and novelist, Freeman (1852-1930) developed a reputation as a local colorist who depicted the peculiarities of her native New England… Freeman was one of the first American authors to write extensively about the relationships women form outside of marriage and motherhood, the role of work in women’s lives, the complexity of women’s sexuality, and the interior lives of women who rebel rather than conform to patriarchal strictures.”


She was a respected and prolific writer, and is still famous in ghostly circles for her story ‘Luella Miller’. This is notable for being a sort of vampire story, but more subtle and unusual than the old type (there’s a nice reading by our friend Morgan Scorpion on Librivox).

‘Shadows on the Wall’ is another good tale which might almost be called Jamesian (but this is an over-used adjective). Much of the story, seen from the point of view of three women in a household, is concerned with the building tension which follows a man’s death, seemingly from natural causes. It is a simple tale, reminiscent of the old style of ghost story, yet the way in which the women interact and develop their concerns is deftly handled.

Quite different is ‘The Hall Bedroom’ (1905), and we mention this one because it enters the weirder zone which was to follow in supernatural fiction. Rooms that are ‘different’, and hints of the fifth dimension, together with the way in which the story unfolds, gives hints of what would come with H P Lovecraft and others – stories which evoke sensations and suggest the possibility of science beyond our ken, without the standard resolutions. The writer and anthologist Dorothy Scarborough cited ‘The Hall Bedroom’ as

“One of the best illustrations of the use of dream imagery and impressions.”

The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction (1917)

All the above are in The Wind in the Rose Bush and Other Stories of the Supernatural (1903). Some time after Freeman’s death, Arkham House released a collection of all eleven of her known supernatural stories (Collected Ghost Stories, 1974).

Both of the stories are available on audio:

Shadows on the Wall

 

The Hall Bedroom

A somewhat altered version of ‘Shadows’ was made for TV as part of the Night Gallery series – “Certain Shadows on the Wall” December 30, 1970.

“The shadow of a recently deceased woman (Agnes Moorehead) remains cast on the parlor wall to haunt her sinister brother.”

They meant ‘parlour’, of course.


More trivia: Despite having been in Citizen Kane and other major films, Agnes Moorehead is remembered by many today for playing Endora in Bewitched, the sixties and seventies TV series. We assume that her character’s name was a play on the Witch of Endor, from the jolly old Bible.

Katharine E Fullerton Gerould

Next comes Katharine Elizabeth Fullerton Gerould (1879 – 1944), an American writer and essayist. Unlike Freeman, she was a noted writer by the time she reached her early twenties, highly educated and adept at essay and short story alike. From 1902 onwards she wrote regularly for major journals, and between 1911 and 1929, she published nearly fifty short stories. Her small number of novels didn’t go down so well.

Girlish Trivia: Although few know her 1931 novel The Light That Never Was, the classic SF writer Lloyd Biggle Jr wrote a novel of the same name in 1972. It’s an interesting book, dealing with non-human refugees on the human artist colony of Donov, and the nature of art and creativity. Worth looking out for. Bloody men, coming over here and stealing our titles…

Gerould’s essays are interesting as well. Given that we brushed against Lord Byron, very badly, in Part One, we liked her 1922 article on why people were so peculiar about Byron – ‘Men, Women, And The Byron-Complex’ (Atlantic Monthly):

“Ninety-eight years ago, in April, 1824, Lord Byron died at Missolonghi. But in the non-academic world of letters no one, apparently, either knows or cares whether Byron was a great poet. No one… either knows or cares, as we have said, whether he was a better or a worse letter-writer than we had thought. After a hundred years, the sole question that impassions people is: ‘Just how much of a cad was he?’”

Her stranger stories are hard to find, but she wrote tales such as ‘The Eighty Third’ (1916), which was collected in Tales of Dungeons and Dragons, edited by Peter Haining (1986). She was known at one time for her story ‘On the Staircase’ (1913), of which Dorothy Scarborough said:

“Warning spirits of futurity are seen [in this story], where each man beholds his own destiny,—one seeing the spectral snake that afterwards kills him in a hunting expedition, one the ghost of a Zulu, the savage that almost destroys him some time afterwards, and the last the ghost of a young woman in a blue dress, the woman whom he marries and who hounds him to his death. She presently sees her own fate, too, but what it is the author does not tell us. One curious incident in the story is the instantaneous appearance on the stairs of the woman herself and her ghostly double, one in a white dress, one in the fatal blue. This sort of spectral warning, this wireless service for the conveyance of bad news and hint of threatening danger, serves to link the ghost story of the present with those of the past.”

The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction (1917)

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Gerould is also worth noting because she had connections with our last author for today, Edith Wharton. Wharton helped Gerould to get published by Scribners, but the two writers got caught up in a romantic triangle involving Gerould’s promiscuous journalist cousin, William Morton Fullerton. Wharton, though married, had an affair with him on and off between 1906 and 1910, yet he also got engaged to Gerould at the same time – and was living with a French woman in Paris. Blimey.

Edith Wharton

Which leads us nicely onto the stories of the best known of our three, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) herself. A social whirl, novelist, Pulitzer Prize winner, Nobel nominee – and she worked in Paris during the First World War to protect French women and children. Rather impressive.

edith wharton

It would be a bit redundant to clog greydogtales with her biography, which is easily found, or details of The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth etc. We merely want to mention her contribution to supernatural and horror literature.

“Of particular interest are Wharton’s stories of the uncanny and the supernatural, like the grisly “A Bottle of Perrier,” set in the North African desert, and the chilling “All Souls’,” written just before her death. An unacknowledged master of American horror fiction, Wharton’s lucid prose makes all the more powerful her exploration of the irrational forces underlying ordinary life.”

Library of America

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Wharton tended to more subtle horrors. Much is suggested but not nailed down:

“When the reader’s confidence is gained the next rule of the game is to avoid distracting and splintering his attention. Many a would-be tale of horror becomes innocuous through the very multiplication and variety of its horrors. Above all, if they are multiplied they should be cumulative and not dispersed. But the fewer the better: once the preliminary horror is posited, it is the harping on the same string — the same nerve — that does the trick. Quiet iteration is far more racking than the diversified assaults; the expected is more frightful than the unforeseen.”

Edith Wharton, “The Writing of Fiction,” Scribner’s Magazine (1925)

We want to slip in three stories of hers before we go. ‘The Duchess at Prayer’ (1902) is a dark tale of love and ruin, concerning a Duke’s unwelcome gift of a statue to his wife, and its impact.

“I saw how admirably the sculptor had caught the poise of her head, the tender slope of the shoulder; then I crossed over and looked into her face — it was a frozen horror. Never have hate, revolt and agony so possessed a human countenance…”

It’s been suggested that Wharton was influenced by both Balzac and Edgar Allan Poe, with resemblances to aspects of Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’. There’s no doubt that it harks back to earlier eerie tales from the Victorian period, though it is still Wharton.

‘Triumph of Night’ (1914) is a different tale, one of implications rather than overt horror. It is a story of ‘doubles’, where more is revealed by the double of one John Lavington than can be seen in his human face. Doubt and failure pervade the story.

Best of all is ‘The Eyes’ (1910), from Edith Wharton’s collection Tales of Men and Ghosts. This stands out as a move beyond the classic ghost story. A seemingly convivial telling of tales develops into a confrontation with truths about life – our failures and our weaknesses. Without a Gothic skeleton, ominous shadow or white sheet in sight, Wharton introduces us to the unknown, and quite deliberately does not give us all the answers. The descriptive prose is fascinating:

“The orbits were sunk, and the thick red-lined lids hung over the eyeballs like blinds of which the cords are broken. One lid drooped a little lower than the other, with the effect of a crooked leer; and between these folds of flesh, with their scant bristle of lashes, the eyes themselves, small glassy disks with an agate-like rim, looked like sea pebbles in the grip of a starfish.”

And it is scary, but not in the usual way. For those who like a touch of style, all of Wharton’s supernatural stories are available from the rather nice Tartarus Press, either as a collector’s edition or in e-format:

whartontriumph3http://www.tartaruspress.com/wharton-the-triumph-of-night.html


Next week: Probably less about supernatural literature in the early Twentieth Century! We need a change for a few days…

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Mr Dry: The Workman and His Hire

For Valentine’s Day, a taste of Bad Love and its consequences. Not quite horror, and not quite whimsy, we offer you an original story – some period fiction concerning the Deptford Assassin, Mr Dry, from our Tales of the Last Edwardian series.

dryheart

The Workman and His Hire

When the door-handle turned, she was ready enough. She had expected it to end this way, and had wondered many nights how it would come about. Some hackster from the streets, half-cut on Holland gin and staggering as he raised the knife…

The man who entered the squalid room was not from her imaginings. His brown patent boots caught her attention above all else. They were perfectly polished, something that you never saw in this part of Spitalfields. It was common enough on Dorset Street to see men with no boots at all. Leather for drink, when all else was gone.

Neither tall nor short, he had a rounded face and pale blue eyes which watered slightly. Under other circumstances, she would have thought him a lawyer’s or a chandler’s clerk – a quiet, respectable sort of man.

“You are Miss Clara Smith,” he said. A statement, delivered in a soft voice.

He took off his bowler hat, but there was no convenient stand for it. Bending, he placed the bowler on the floor by his side. After some apparent thought, he moved it half an inch to the right.

She lifted herself up on her elbows, but that brought a fit of coughing, and more blood.

“I am Clara Smith,” she managed to say after the fit had died down. “And you… you are come from Charles Kebworth.” She spat into a bloody piece of cloth. She had no weapon, and no strength to use one. No strength to cling to this life.

“Yes.” He closed the door at his back.

Ragged ghosts of wallpaper clung to the walls, the laths showing through the plaster in many places. An enamel wash-basin, a crooked wardrobe and the bed were the only furnishings. It was a room much like many in the tenement lodging houses hereabouts, if not better than some. An actual, solid bed, rather than heaped blankets or a stale mattress on the floor, was considered a prize in some parts.

He glanced at the orange-box by the bed, a box in which a tired green blanket seemed to rise and fall. The faintest sound of breathing stirred the thick air.

“That will be his, I assume?”

“The boy is almost ten months old. He is called–”

A dismissive wave of the hand. “I know who you are, which is the point.”

The room stank of urine, sweat and sickness. The smells which came in through the broken window were little better. The screaming of drunks and whores rose from the streets, along with the fish-wife battles and the cry of the cat’s meat man. She had stayed at White’s Row Chamber for a while, but the porter had taken exception to the child’s crying, and her funds had run too low. This place, this stinking place, would be her last lodging.

“You are here to murder me,” she said, and coughed again. “I thought his thugs would come soon. That last note… I should not have threatened him. I wasn’t thinking. As it happens, I fear you need only wait. Another few days…”

“Consumption.” He looked closer. “And the fever well set in, I think.”

“Yes.”

She was almost unable to ask the question that had haunted her for weeks.

“Will you kill my boy as well? I know that Kebworth cares nothing for the child.”

A look that might have been mild surprise crossed the man’s face. “My client gave no instructions as to children, pets or sundries.”

Clara Smith fell back onto one arm, her chest banded with pain. “He merely wishes me dead and forgotten. An end to my demands, to my entreaties. An end to any risk to his position.”

“That would seem to be the case.”

“Who are you?” she asked. “Am I to be murdered by an unnamed stranger?”

He moved the bowler hat with one polished boot, and frowned at it. “This floor is none too clean.” He looked up. “My name is Edwin Dry.”

A gasp; a long, choking cough which spattered the cloth once more. She recovered herself.

“The Deptford Assassin. Are you sunk so low then, Mr Dry, that you pursue dying women.”

He seemed unaffected by her barb. “Mr Kebworth was having trouble finding you through the usual routes. I am not ‘usual’. I know the smell of these streets – and how to find a single bird within a rookery.”

Her smile was bitter. “But do you know your employer? Do you know what he does, to men and to women?”

Mr Dry pursed his lips, the slightest gesture. He came nearer. “I have a commission, and a fee to collect. Other people’s lives, whether joyous or tragic, are hardly my concern.

“So you do not know.” She sighed. “I loved him, once, and thought that love returned…”

Outside a woman shrieked her price, and a man laughed. Clara Smith wrung the rag between her fingers; the child slept on.

“I’m not the first he’s ruined, you understand. I’ll tell you the truth of Charlie Kebworth, of how his wife dines on roasts whilst I have sold the last buttons on my blouse for stale bread. Of how I loved him, and how he used me–”

Her breath gave out, and she coughed again into the rag.

“I would rather you did not. Time presses.” He slipped a long, slender knife from under his plain brown jacket. “It will be quick, if that concerns you.”

“Please.” She wiped bloody spittle from the corner of her mouth. She had been an actress, once, and tried to draw on what remained of her craft, her beauty. “Please listen, before you… put an end to me.”

This time the sigh came from the man. He lifted his half-hunter on its chain.

“Five minutes, then. No more.”

Clearing her lungs as best she could, Clara Smith began the last story she would tell.

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Charles Kebworth shuffled the folders on his grand, expensive desk, seeing opportunity in each and every one. Plans for another factory, a scheme of transport, even an arch perhaps – the Kebworth Arch. There would be tenements to tear down, and monies to a certain Member of Parliament. Perhaps two Members, if he wished to expand down to the river itself. It could be done, it could be done…

This was to be his year. He must be clear-headed. The coffee by his left hand was cold, and he reached behind him to ring for a fresh pot. His fingers encountered soft cloth. He drew his hand away sharply, turning in the chair.

“What the…”

“I am here for my remuneration,” said Mr Dry.

Beyond him the heavy main door, which had been open a moment ago, was closed. Kebworth had no idea how the killer had passed his manservant or the clerk in the outer office. He chose to cover shock with bluster.

“You have no right coming in here unbidden – and unannounced. I demand –”

“She is dead. My remuneration, as agreed?”

The businessman stared as a small revolver slid into Mr Dry’s hand, seemingly from nowhere.

“Yes, yes.” Kebworth unlocked the top drawer of his desk, and brought out a plain white envelope, unsealed. Enough could be seen of its contents to suggest a considerable number of bank notes lay within.

He passed it to the other man. “You didn’t need to bring a gun to ensure payment, you know.”

Mr Dry glanced down at the weapon, and blinked. “That? I have that with me for a later commission.”

Kebworth breathed out noisily. “I see. What misbegotten soul is next?” He forced a smile. “No, I’m sure you won’t tell me. You are, I suppose, a businessman in your own right. We are not so very different.”

There was no smile from Mr Dry.

“A line I have heard many times,” he said. “But it will not wash, dear me, no. It will not wash.” He looked around the well-appointed office, noting the crystal tantalus filled with whisky, the leather-bound books, hardly opened, which lined the walls. “I merely kill people.”

“You profit from your love of murder.”

Mr Dry’s pale eyes seemed cold, distant. “Love? And twice I hear that word in one day. I am indifferent to it, myself.” He placed the envelope into an inner pocket. “But you, Mr Kebworth, have had opportunities to know love and embrace it. You received, but did not give fair measure back. I deem that poor business practice indeed.”

Kebworth cried out as Mr Dry’s boot slammed into the oak-fronted drawer, trapping the seated man’s fingers.

Mr Dry tutted. “You were reaching for your own revolver, perhaps? The one you keep under the papers in that drawer?”

“Damn you, I paid up, didn’t I? Why are you still here?”

Mr Dry reached into his jacket with his free hand. Between thumb and forefinger he held a small silver coin.

Kebworth eased his fingers free, flexing them in pain. “What’s that for, then? I hardly need loose change in my line of —”

The single shot came before Kebworth could move from his chair. He might have felt the impact in the very centre of his forehead, but it was doubtful.

“I am modern in my outlook,” murmured the Deptford Assassin. “A woman’s money is as good as any man’s.”

The grand businessman was no longer listening. The Kebworth Arch, shattered by a few grains of lead, would never rise over Spitalfields. Mr Dry considered the corpse for a moment, then slipped the threepenny bit into his pocket.

That had been all she had left in the world, that and the boy.

“I give you this,” she said as he raised the knife to her neck. She pressed the coin into his hand. “You must know why, having heard me out, and you must know how it shall be earned.”

In the circumstances, he considered it adequate. He liked to think that his rates were nothing if not flexible.

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“It was most extraordinary,” said the Superintendent of the Christ Church Orphanage. “Never seen the man before, yet he walked in bold as day, into this very office.”

The clerk smiled at the turn of phrase, being fond of Wordsworth himself. “As bold as day, eh? Not another Sir Hubert, I hope. And he brought this child?”

The two men stared at the bundle on the Superintendent’s desk. One small hand was visible, clutching at the worn green blanket.

“Indeed. He passed this to me, with the boy.”

He held up a tarnished silver threepenny bit.

“ ‘The price of a life’, he said, ‘I shall know if you do not take good care’. And then he was gone, more swiftly than I would have thought a man could move.”

“Most extraordinary, as you say, sir.” The clerk reached for his pen. “I shall enter the babe as… Smith. A name that can serve for boatman or baron. Shall I give him a first name, for the books?”

The Superintendent tapped his lower lip.

“Hmm. We are up to the letter E, are we not? Edward? Edgar? No… I have a notion that I heard a name recently.”

He moved the blanket aside, and gazed into the infant’s almost colourless eyes.

“Write him in as… Edwin.”

END


An interview with the man himself is available here:

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And should you wish for stranger or darker tales which relate to Mr Dry, two are available for download at no charge.

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a loss of angels


We return in a couple of days with our usual medley of the weird and wonderful…

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One Last Sacrifice: James A Moore on the Altar

Had enough period and classic scares for a day or so? No, neither have we, but it’s time to be modern again. Join us now, dear listener, as we embrace 2017 and bring you grimdark, role-playing games and horror. It took some time to find the right chains, but at last we got that prolific fantasy author James A Moore at our mercy. We say fantasy author, but there’s much more to his work. As you will find out below…

An Interview with James A Moore

James A Moore

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, James. We’re partly here for your latest book, The Last Sacrifice, but we like to drift and potter about as well. So we’ll start with the broader nonsense. For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself, either as a writer, or as a mostly human being.

james: As a writer I focus on horror and grimdark, on supernatural crime fiction and weird westerns. In other words I write what ever strikes my fancy. I promised myself a long time ago that I would always aim to write the book I would like to read and I’ve stuck to that.

As a person, I am a comic book geek (I’ve written a few of those in my time, too) and I am a movie buff. I work at a local Starbucks so I don’t become a hermit and because I absolutely love medical benefits, having a 401K and stock options, you know, all of the stuff being a writer does not cover. I am a widower who lost his wife seven years ago.

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greydog: Although you’ve written all sorts, including horror, a lot of people probably know you as a fantasy author. Fantasy is an enormous genre which covers everything from icky tales of nice fairy-folk to large scale disembowellings and chaotic perversions. Is there such a thing as grimdark, and if so, do you write it?

james: I tend to think that there is such a thing and yes, I write it. I love high fantasy stories, I just don’t really write them. I want swords and anger and bloodshed and fear and humor and the occasional romance (even if it doesn’t work out) and I want to study the human condition in my writings. And I think that, really, the best way to know people is to see how they handle adversity.

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greydog: You caught attention with your epic fantasy series Seven Forges, which we think is now up to four books and several short stories. Is this a core work for you, or one that you were just passing through?

james: I love fantasy. I always have. I love horror, too. When it comes to Seven Forges I had an idea that simply would not leave me alone, which is what normally starts me on a book or a series. I loved the idea of seeing a massive, stagnating empire go up against a group that was smaller, but far more dedicated to winning. This is definitely a core for me. I have at least three more novels planned in the series, and likely several more short stories and novellas as well. It’s a big world and it’s going through some seriously violent changes. I love watching that happen.

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greydog: You also did an awful lot for White Wolf, on their World of Darkness role playing games and supplements. We remember buying Vampire: Masquerade when it first came out. Does that mean that you are, or once were, an RPGer yourself?

james: Oh my, yes. I used to play D&D and all of the WOD games, as well as Champions (remember, comic book geek). And I was the Storyteller on a lot of the adventures I wrote for White Wolf. My players were my sounding board (or, you know, victims. It’s all a matter of perspective). I ate those games like candy. I don’t have the time to play the games any more, much as I might like to.

greydog: No, those vast chunks of time needed for serious RPGing do seem to get fewer and fewer. So, you’ve worked with writers Christopher Golden and Charles R Rutledge, amongst others. Do you find co-authoring a pleasure, or harder work than being left along to do your own thing?

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james: Honestly, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. I have projects going with Charles and with Chris both, but it might take a while to get to them, priorities being what they are. BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND is coming out later this year with Chris, and A HELL WITHIN (A Griffin & Price novel) is coming out later this year with Charles.

For me those collaborations are like getting all of my favorite toys and having them get all of their favorite toys and then playing in the sandbox together. Only no sand in the underwear. Later this year I am also part of a mosaic novel with Christopher Golden, Cherie priest, Charlaine Harris, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Tim Lebbon, Mark Morris, Kelley Armstrong and Seanan McGuire…THAT is a damned big sandbox.

greydog: As an aside, are we likely to see any more stories in the unpleasant land of Bloodstained Oz, the Stoker-nominated limited edition you released some time ago?

james: Oh yes. BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND is finished. In the coming months Chris and I will be plotting out and then writing BLOODSTAINED NEVERLAND. They are light and cheerful stories, assuming your mind is a cesspool of violence and urban decay.

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greydog: Which piece of work has given you the most personal satisfaction?

james: All of them. But if I have to pick one, it’s the SEVEN FORGES series, because there’s a lot of world building going on there and I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. Or maybe DEEPER which was my first ever attempt at a first person novel. Possibly BLOOD RED, which was the fastest I’ve ever written a novel…the list goes on, seriously.

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greydog: And which of your works do you wish more people had read, or knew about?

james: That is definitely an ALL of them answer. I’m delighted with the attention SEVEN FORGES has gotten, but I’d love more people to know about it, and while I’m dreaming if HBO or Netflix wants to make a series… The one I think deserved more attention than it got was SUBJECT SEVEN, which is a Young Adult series I did there were plans for more books but the sales simply weren’t there. Lots of great reviews and even some fan mail, but at the end of the day it got lost in a sea of YA novels.

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James A Moore on The Last Sacrifice

greydog: On to your most recent novel, The Last Sacrifice, before we forget. It’s a dark and lively piece, with a lot of serious action and a number of key strands. What made you choose to pursue multiple characters, rather than, say, only following Brogan’s misfortunes?

james: I always prefer multiple characters and points of view, because I think it’s fun letting readers see and understand the things that a lot of the characters do not get to see. I’m writing the sequel right now and for a decent portion of the book Brogan is out of the conflict and on a quest. Meanwhile his companions are waist deep in trouble and blood.

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greydog: It’s possible to sympathise with the main protagonists of Last Sacrifice, but most of them aren’t exactly innocents. Moderately ‘good’ people do moderately ‘bad’ things, for starters. Is this a moral shadowland that you like your characters to tread?

james: I love shades of gray (not fifty of them mind you). I have seldom met anyone over the age of five who could be called all good or all bad. I think it’s important to show that. Brogan isn’t a bad man. He’s done bad things and he’s been paid for it, but he’s generally a good man who loves his family, he also has to deal with his anger and grief when things go wrong and he does not deal with it well.

We’re introduced to SOME of the 20 men with him in book one, but more of them are met in the second book and the same is true of the slavers who are after him. A lot of them are pretty much like the personnel on the Death Star. They’re just doing their jobs, you know? Is it morally wrong to be a slaver? Not to them. It’s a different world.

greydog: We don’t get time to read a lot of fantasy these days, but the Undying or He-Kisshi are a new one on us (having dubious tastes, we liked them more than some of the people). Their role and their physical nature are nicely brought out through the book. How did they come about?

james: I said before that I love high fantasy, but the thing is, I need to do something different. I love me some elves and dragons and dwarves but for now I want to stay away from the tropes and come up with new threats. The He-Kisshi are some tough characters, they have limitations but they really are undying. They are the messengers of the gods and in this case that means that have the ability to act on behalf of the gods.

One of the things I wanted to do with them is show that they are, in fact, connected deeply with the gods and when the gods start going off the rails, so do some of the He-Kisshi. They get a lot more play in the second book and we get to see some of the reasons that they are so deeply feared.

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greydog: We know that Last Sacrifice has only been released recently, but we assume you have many plans. Anything you’d share with us, or tease us with, on this series or other projects?

james: There will be two more books in the TIDES OF WAR series. The Last Sacrifice is only book one. Things in the works? I plan on finishing two horror novels this year, BOOM TOWN and FRESH KILLS, and I want to do a sci-fi horror story that will, hopefully, scare the crap out of people. So many books to write, so little time.

greydog: We look forward to those. Finally, dogs or cats? There is a wrong answer, but no actual penalty, though we do take notes on this sort of thing.

james: The actual answer is simple: Dogs or cats? May as well ask me if I prefer barbarian hordes or stealthy assassins. Both, of course. If given a choice of one and only one, I suppose dogs first.

greydog: What an excellent answer. Many thanks for joining us.

james: My absolute pleasure! Thanks for having me.

You can get hold of a copy of James A Moore’s The Last Sacrifice at the link below, and most of his work is easily available via one or other Amazon site. You’ll like the Undying.

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Coming during the next  couple of weeks: Christine Morgan’s collection of Viking tales, Lurchers for Beginners, more Women in Horror, and lots more goodies. Do join us…

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Literature, lurchers and life