"Roads" by Seabury Quinn

Seabury Quinn was the most popular author amongst the readers of Weird Tales magazine during its original run. Robert E. Howard called Quinn "the king-favorite of Weird Tales fans," and with good reason. Quinn's stories--usually featuring his occult detective, Jules de Grandin--appeared in about every other issue of WT for years and years. Weird Tales scholar, Terence Hanley, puts the count at one hundred forty-six tales over roughly thirty years. Quinn was the flagship author of 'The Unique Magazine,' overshadowing both REH and Lovecraft and fighting off competition from upstarts like Ed Hamilton and CL Moore. 



Quinn doesn't possess that great of a reputation amongs pulp fans nowadays. He is looked upon by many as a hack author. When it comes to his de Grandin tales, I have to agree. However, his other work tends to be of somewhat higher quality and some of it is great. His early tale, "The Phantom Farmhouse," has earned praise from many pulp horror aficionados. Another standout story from Quinn is "Roads."

"Roads" was first published in the January 1938 issue of Weird Tales. As I understand the arcane workings of Weird Tales issue dates, that means it actually hit the stands in December, 1937--eighty years ago this month. It's understandable that WT editor, Farnsworth Wright, would want Quinn's tale in that issue, because "Roads" is a Christmas story. In fact, it remains the greatest sword and sorcery Christmas yarn ever written, in my opinion.

Pulphound Morgan Holmes first alerted me to this story several years ago, telling me, no, really, I should check it out. I put off doing so partly because it isn't easy to find. Another reason was I figured that it had to be kinda lame. However, last year I received a copy of Worlds of Weird (1965) from a friend. I read the story and was very pleasantly surprised. The story had a cool protagonist, well-written action scenes and was just overall quite good. It almost made me wonder if Quinn--an acknowledged admirer of Howard--had intended it as a kind of tribute to REH, who had died a year and a half earlier. Another Morgan Holmes recommendation had panned out.

Morgan isn't the only one who has admired "Roads" over the last eighty years. Pulp historian, Sam Moskowitz, once wrote that "Roads" is "a saga that may well prove to be the greatest adult Christmas story written by an American." As Terence Hanley pointed out, "Roads" was "the fourth most popular story printed between 1924 and 1939, the years for which records were kept. Only "The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt, "Shambleau" by C.L. Moore, and "The Outsider" by H.P. Lovecraft were more popular." In 1948, August Derleth chose "Roads" as the first illustrated volume to be published by Arkham House and had the legendary Virgil Finalay do the art. You can read more here:


All of this brings us to December, 2017. The eightieth anniversary of "Roads" being published in Weird Tales. Robert Barr, the publisher at Shadowridge Press, decided to do an edition of "Roads" as a Christmas gift for friends and family. For a time, it looked as if the project would fall through, but the Quinn literary estate gave permission and Barr pulled it off. He got such a good response that he decided to put copies up for sale on Amazon. It uses the Arkham House text and art, and is done with the usual quality I've come to expect from Shadowridge. You can order it here.

This is a cool book. Big print for easy reading. I could see pulp S&S dads giving this to their sons or reading it to them before Christmas. Don't dally ordering, though. I have no idea how long it will stay in print. I've read it two years running for Christmas and I plan to keep up the tradition into the future.

Seabury Quinn died on Christmas Eve, 1969, by the way.