Today is the birthday of one of the most unique writers in the horror genre. Manly Wade Wellman was born in a village in Africa on May 21, 1903; later in life, after many travels through the Ozark mountains, he moved to North Carolina. It was this path that transformed him into a writer of Appalachian short stories and novels. His connection to the Ozark folklorist Vance Randolph, and through him, to the oldtime Banjo player Obray Ramsey, changed his life. Their stories and music took his already-established career, penning science fiction for the pulp magazines, in a rustic and imaginative new direction.
Although he wrote a variety of this type of story, it was his regular characters that made his stories special; they were colourful forces of good in a world of dark hollers and bewitched places. There was the scholarly man-about-town John Thunstone, the Supernatural Detective, Judge Keith Hillary Pursuivant, Civil War Sergeant "Bible" Jaeger (with his book, 'The Long Lost Friend'), as well as Hal Stryker, and perhaps the best of all, the hillbilly guitarist John, called 'Silver John" for the silver strings on his instrument. There is so much imagination in these stories, and inspired by Randolph's knowledge of the occult folklore of the southern mountains, he weaved magical webs of words.
That's not to say that Wellman was only a pulp writer. He had a degree in English, as well as a law degree, and he wrote a pile of scholarly non-fiction books and articles about the history of the south, particularly of the Civil War. Tolkien-like, this academic side of him certainly gave depth to his supernatural tales. In my opinion, only H. P. Lovecraft is his equal in this sort of thing. His stuff is amazing.
Wellman died on April 5, 1986. An incredible loss to the fanatical reader!