Yes, postings here have been sparse lately. That should change in the next couple of weeks.
However, I did manage to read last week’s weird story being discussed over at LibraryThing’s Deep Ones discussion group.
Review: “The Letters of Cold Fire”, Manly Wade Wellman, 1934.
The story starts and takes place entirely in New York City with one Roderick Thorne showing up at a dump of an apartment building to ask about one Cavet Leslie whom he is told is sick and visited daily by a doctor. The landlord refuses to let Thorne see him.
So, Thorne sneaks back into the apartment building right away. We get some nice, if brief, background on the slums of New York City dating back to the warring gangs of the mid-19th century and the Civil War era draft riots.
Thorne finds Leslie in a bed, and his opening line is: “You were Cavet Leslie. . . . Try to remember.” Leslie says he’s forbidden to remember anything but his “lessons”. Thorne gives his name. Leslie certainly knows it. He says it will “be great in hell.”
Thorne tells him he’s come for Leslie’s book. “It’s worth both our lives, and more.” Leslie keeps protesting against his name being used. Thorne tells Leslie he knows he has the book. Leslie studied at the Deep School. Everybody who finished the school got the book. “Few finish”, says Leslie, “Many begin, few finish.”
Thorne reminds him the School was underground, in a place with no light. Light destroys what was taught. “Once there, the scholar remains until he has been taught, or – goes away into the dark.” Thorne knows the book has “letters of cold fire”. Leslie confirms that. They can only be read in the dark. Once a day a trapdoor opened in the Deep School, “and a hand shaggy with dark hair thrusts in food.” Leslie was at the School for seven years.
Thorne again demands the book. It’s in the room somewhere, he knows. “How do you know?”, asks Leslie. Thorne says it’s his business to know.
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