Who Fears the Devil by Manly Wade Wellman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Silver John travels the Appalachian mountains, encountering all manner of strangness, with only his silver-stringed guitar for a companion...
I have a confession to make: I think 95% of fantasy stories are derivative and unoriginal. This collection is neither. Who Fears the Devil is the complete collection of Silver John short stories, 30 in number, ranging for three or four paragraphs to fifteen pages. Silver John is a wandering balladeer, modelled after a young Johnny Cash, who wanders from one strange event to the next.
The first thing I noticed about the stories were how skilled Manly Wade Wellman was at rendering Southern dialogue without making the speakers seem stupid. Once I dug in, the book was hard to set aside for too long and I'm not a big fan of short stories by any means.
The best way to describe the stories would be to call them American fantasy. The stories explore different aspects of Southern and mountain folklore, much having to do with witches, ghosts, demons, and other supernatural creatures. The line between fantasy and horror is blurred in some of them while others are pretty humorous. Silver John outwits supernatural beasties, encounters a giant, a house that's acutally a living organism, and other things too odd to mention, all the while playing songs on his guitar and singing.
If you like fantasy that isn't derived from Tolkien, you could do a lot worse than spending a few evenings with Silver John.
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