HAVE YOU OVERLOOKED – Manly Wade Welman?

Manly Wade Welman was born in Angola on May 21st 1903. His parents were medical missionaries there and he was descended from colonial Virginia stock as well as having some Native American ancestry. While he wrote a wide variety of works from short stories to books, he is best known for his Appalachian Mountain fantasy/horror books and short stories. He had a life-long interest in folk music and songs and many of his stories reflect both that and his long time residency in North Carolina.

Like many writers he had a hugely varied career, working as a farmhand, bouncer, reporter, film critic, lumber-stacker, soldier, and a teacher of creative writing. Welman was very prolific, while below I have listed only his genre work, he also wrote; thirty-three young adult books between 1927 and 1971, seventeen non-fiction books between 1949 and 1976, and six other books ranging from mysteries to westerns between 1947 and 1986. Some half a dozen films or TV episodes were made from various of his works, and The Silver John stories were the inspiration for “Who Fears the Devil”, a 1994 recording by Joe Bethancourt that featured both traditional Appalachian mountain folk- songs “That Silver John would have known”and Manly’s original lyrics published in many of the Silver John stories – set to traditional melodies that Wellman had used as models. Later still, Bluegrass band, The Dixie Bee-Liners recorded an original song that was inspired by the Silver John stories and titled “Yellow-Haired Girl,” which appears on their 2008 album “RIPE.”

In my opinion his best work is his Silver John stories. many of them contain a verse or verses from folk-songs, (some genuine, some written by Wellman) many have a title taken from folk-songs, and many too have what I can only describe as a Christian atmosphere, and this adds verisimilitude to work set against a time when much of Appalachia no matter what was done the other six days spent part of each Sunday at church. There is no question that Wellman knew what he was talking about so far as folk-songs go. I belonged to the Wellington Folk Music Society for some years, and recognize a number of the songs quoted, as well as the author description (in Little Black Train) of how to make a mouth-harp sound like a train whistle approaching, then receding.) I once heard Arlo Guthrie do just that. Wellman managed both a sharp-edged reality in his stories as well as a sweetness and sometimes pathos. I particularly recommend his Silver John stories as well as his books featuring Appalachia such as The Beyonders.

  1.  Science fiction and fantasy books/collections:

The Invading Asteroid (1929)

Sojarr of Titan (1941)

The Devil’s Asteroid (1941)

Devil’s Planet (1951)

The Beasts from Beyond (1950) [also known as Strangers on the Heights]

Twice in Time (1957)

The Dark Destroyers (1959) [short version of Nuisance Value (1938/39)]

Giants from Eternity (1959)

Island in the Sky (1961)

The Solar Invasion (1968) (Captain Future novel)

Worse Things Waiting (1973) (collection) (Winner, World Fantasy Award for Best Collection, 1975)

Sherlock Holmes’s War of the Worlds [With Wade Wellman] (1975)

The Beyonders (1977)

The Valley So Low: Southern Mountain Stories (1987) (Ed. Karl E. Wagner, collection)


The Collected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman:

  1. The Third Cry to Legba and Other Invocations (2000) (John Thunstone and Lee Cobbett stories)
  2. The Devil is Not Mocked and Other Warnings (2001)
  3. Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales (2001) (Judge Pursuivant and Sergeant Jaeger stories)
  4. Sin’s Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances (2003)
  5. Owls Hoot in the Daytime and Other Omens (2003) (John the Balladeer stories)
  1.  Silver John anthologies and novels

Who Fears the Devil? (1963)

The Old Gods Waken (1979)

After Dark (1980)

The Lost and the Lurking (1981)

The Hanging Stones (1982)

The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

John the Balladeer (1988) (Ed. Karl E. Wagner, revised collection containing all Silver John short stories)

Owls Hoot In The Daytime And Other Omens (2003) (Ed. Night Shade Press, also contains all Silver John short stories)

  1.  John Thunstone anthologies and novels

Lonely Vigils (1981) (Thunstone and Judge Pursuivant short stories)

What Dreams May Come (1983)

The School of Darkness (1985)

  1.  AWARDS

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Award winner, Best Story, A Star for a Warrior (1946)

Mystery Writers of AmericaEdgar Award, Best Fact Crime Story, Dead and Gone (1956)

World Fantasy Award winner, Best Collection/Anthology, Worse Things Waiting (1975)

World Fantasy Award, Life Achievement (1980)

Locus Award, Best Fantasy Novel, After Dark (Place: 15) (1981)

British Fantasy Award winner, Special Award (1985)

Locus Award, Best Collection, John the Balladeer (Place: 5) (1989)

North Carolina Writers’ Network Literary Hall of Fame inductee (1996)


1 comment

  1. I’m so delighted to see Manly Wade Wellman in your spotlight. What a wonderful writer! I didn’t know anything about his history until I read your article. Thank you for telling us more about this great man and his outstanding works.

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