Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gulp! Merritt of the Pulps, I presume?

I met the ghost of the late Abraham Merritt on the Hornby Road pavement in 1954. I was 18 then and he had been dead and gone for 11 years. I used to go there frequently to hunt for bargain book buys. I distinctly remember picking up at least three of his novels: The Moon Pool, Burn Witch Witch! and Seven Footprints to Satan. All of them were paperbacks published by Avon Books, an imprint I don’t come across much these days. I was a total genre-illiterate then. (In fact, I doubt if I even knew the meaning of ‘genre’.) What probably attracted me to Merritt was the back cover blurb extravagantly promising weird and mind-blowing story lines in the comics/pulp novel style. In hindsight, I was a pulp junkie back then without quite knowing the name of my ailment. Recently when I saw the movies of The Shadow and The Phatom on the idiot box, I got a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Now I know why. I used to be a regular visitor to the pulp realm once upon a time, see? If memory serves, The Moon Pool is an expedition-into-a-lost-world fantasy in the best escapist tradition – contrary to the sci-fi genre tag on the back cover of its Collier Books edition which I subsequently purchased probably at the Strand Book Stall out of sheer nostalgia but haven’t so far read. Burn Witch Witch! is a horror novel about witchcraft while Seven Footprints to Satan combines horror with mystery and detection. At the time of reading Merritt, I used to be also a regular watcher of the B-Grade black and white sci-fi movies with flying saucers and alien invaders in them. I don’t think I ever thought they were in the same category as Merritt’s alternative worlds. Not having read H Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, I also did not make the connection between them and Merritt. Project Gutenberg considers The Moon Pool meritorious enough to deserve an inclusion. (The novel was written in 1919. Merritt’s second wife, Eleanor, renewed the copyright in 1947. Now it seems to be out of copyright – which explains the sudden upsurge of interest among publishers to bring out special editions such as the University of Nebraska Press's Bison Frontiers of the Imagination Edition, for example.) P.S.: Considering that I was a flying saucer flick fan, I should have been reading Ralph 124C 41+, the sci-fi novel by the so-called ‘father of science fiction’, Hugo Gernsback. It is said to contain predictions of wondrous inventions to come including electronic music, fluorescent lighting, glass skyscrapers, helicopter buses, jet planes, jukeboxes, liquid fertilizer, loud speakers, micro-film, night baseball, organ transplants, plastics, radar, radio directional-finder, radio and television networks, solar power, stainless steel, synthetic fabrics, tape recorders, tear gas, the word "television", tin foil, vending machines and voice prints. As things turned out, I could not have read Hugo Gernsback’s magnum opus. Its debut was in a serialized format in the world's first radio magazine, Modern Electrics in 1911 in the US and I guess it was never brought out as a solo novel except recently in tandem with a Merritt trio. .

1 comment:

lartronics said...


Book was printed as a book. and issues are available on e-bay and amazon.

More important, if Gernsback interests you, you'll want to read his new un-acknowledged autobiography. It;s ready to be printing in the next few weeks.
Title -- Hugo Gernsback.

Available from

More questions?

I've got most of the answers.