Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Man in the Black Hat

Years ago I found the first edition of a 1941 anthology, The Other Worlds, in a Salvation Army thrift store in California. It reprints stories from magazines like Weird Tales that just weren’t getting much attention in their day. Being published in pulp magazines was something of a stigma. The editor, Phil Stong, although relying heavily on those pulps, went beyond them for his collection, including “Aunt Cassie,” a charming and interesting ghost story by his wife, Virginia Swain, and a true classic of the macabre, “The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner. So he went from gentle fantasy to gruesome horror in one volume. Good show!

As good as many of the stories are, one of my favorites is “The Man in the Black Hat," by Michael Fessier, reprinted from the February, 1934 issue of Esquire. It has been anthologized several times, (also adapted for radio and television) and for good reason. It presents a situation that is unusual, with a premise difficult to fathom. It leaves the reader wondering how it happened. I love that in a short story. A good story should have a punch, and keep the reader’s mind engaged after the story ends.

Copyright  © 1941 Wilfred Funk, Inc.

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