Today is Manly Wade Wellman’s birthday. I’ve spoken of my regard for Wellman before, so rather than rehash it here, I’ll simply direct you to the post in question. I still mean every word of it. Wellman and his world still have the power to see me through the dark days and rough patches, even after all these years. I regularly re-read the adventures of John Thunstone and wise old Judge Pursuivant. I still like to imagine a man called John, striding along a mountain trail, strumming his silver-stringed guitar. 

Wellman’s work has influenced my own to a massive degree. Without Wellman, I wouldn’t have been a writer–or at least not the writer I am. Without Wellman, I never would have made my first fumbling attempt at storytelling, and certainly not my second. I never would have created the backwoods ghostbreaker, John Bass.

So, in honor of Manly Wade Wellman, I’d like to direct you to two stories of mine, set solidly in Wellman-country. In the hollers and hills of the North Carolina mountains, where strange beasts slink just out of sight, and something new is always around the next bend.

“Rattlesnake Eyes”

“How dead is he?” John Bass said around a mouthful of sunflower seeds. “Is he sort of dead or real dead?”

“He ain’t dancing, if that’s what you’re asking,” Cestus Clay said. Clay looked at Bass from the corner of his eye, taking in the lean, bent shape that sat on the hood of the battered Ford pick-up. Bass was old, but like a tree he just got harder with age and tougher. Short-clipped iron-gray hair and round shoulders that strained at the flannel shirt he wore beneath his suspenders. Scarred fingers dug into the bag of sunflower seeds as he spat out the chewed hulls…

“Seven Heart Beats”

Isaac Clay hauled in a rattling, wheezy breath. His chest pouched jerkily beneath the bed-covers and his thin, tight flesh looked like wax paper in the lantern light. His eyes were closed and turned inward, lost in old times and foggy dreams. He hadn’t said nary a word in a week, and likely wouldn’t in what little time he had left. The breath he’d just dragged in slid out from between his thin lips in a shrill whistle, as if eager to escape the confines of his worn-out body…

And, if that’s not enough, why not check out artist Michael Bukowski’s week-long tribute to Wellman, over at his site, Yog-Blogsoth?