A Marvel Unexpected

On Sunday morning I was (and still am) fighting a nasty little virus. I rose early, feeling quite under the weather, and sat at the kitchen table nursing a cold Pepsi and lazily poring over the paper when I noticed something in the classifieds: an estate sale, south of Marion, with books… lots of books, in fact. My wallet was thin and my spirit week, but I mustered up some strength and marshaled the troops for the nearly half hour drive.

When we first pulled into the driveway and walked into the sparse garage my hopes were far from high. Yes, there were several stacks of books along the back wall, but they were used and abused titles for the most part — some King, Koontz, Crichton, Cussler, and even some Forgotten Realms paperbacks. Nothing to get too excited about.

The owner of the house, a little old lady — 89 years young — came out and invited me inside to see the rest of her wares. Within was a veritable library. Shelves were in every room and overflowing, covering every conceivable subject, but mostly religion, history, and the occult.

I could have spent hours in there, and spent hundreds. At a dollar apiece it was like stumbling onto an untapped vein of pure gold without a pick to chip at it. I did snatch up a couple of items — a Michael Moorcock hardcover and an odd, oversized book titled Encyclopedia of White Magic, unique in that its accompanying photos did not regale you with visions of robed wizards and arcane sigils, but instead pictures of trees and brooks and snow covered fields.

But the most interesting find was a 1989 first edition printing of Witches & Warlocks Tales of Black Magic, Old & New Selected by Marvin Kaye. The cover art alone had me digging a George Washington out of my billfold, but the table of contents turned out to be filled with some of the greatest authors one could assemble between the pages of a single book.

Isaac Singer, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, W.B. Yeats, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Bloch, Oscar Wilde, Isaac Asimov, Algernon Blackwood, Edward Hoch, H.P. Lovecraft & August Derleth, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Fritz Lieber, to name but a few… but the real treat was finding Manly Wade Wellman’s Ever the Faith Endures listed.

One of my favorite short stories, this is Wellman at his best and I’ve hoped to reread this tale for more than a few years. To stumble upon it as I did, in this sweet little old ladies’ house, was a tad short of miraculous. I’ll regret for quite some time that I didn’t have the funds to buy the lion’s share of her collection, but cradling this copy of Witches & Warlocks will sooth that pain as the winter months loom and long nights in front of the fireplace call out.

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