I melded my mind on the SF Signal blog again. My contribution re: underrated fantasy series:
Ok, I’m going to cheat a little here, because there was once a time when if you were talking a fantasy series, you were not talking “novels.” From the pulps up through the 1970s, if you were talking a series of anything, you were likely talking about short stories published in the genre magazines. And, if you’re talking overlooked work today, that whole class of fiction — from Jirel of Joiry, to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — is probably almost unknown to most of today’s readers. Which is a shame, because much of what appears in print today draws its inspiration from this early stuff, directly or indirectly. And I’d like to draw attention to someone who may be to gritty noir urban fantasy what Tolkien is to the grand high-fantasy epic, and probably no one reading this knows who he is.
The author is Seabury Quinn, and the series is about occult detective Jules de Grandin. These stories, which began appearing in Weird Tales in the mid 1920s, featured an investigator who’s been called “the occult Hercule Poirot,” and were incredibly popular at the time. Popular enough that reader polls consistently had him beating such now-better-known notables as H.P.Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and C.L.Moore. And, throughout the pulp era, Quinn had more stories published than any other contributor. One-hundred-forty-nine stories between 1925 and 1951. (At least in words, more than enough to fulfill the three “novel” requirement.) While he may not have been as stellar an author as his contemporaries, his pair of occult detectives presages the X-Files, the Dresden Books, and any number of modern titles where we find the mixture of genre mystery or police procedural tropes with the supernatural in a modern setting.