Bookshots: 'The Rim of Morning' by William Sloane

Bookshots: 'The Rim of Morning' by William Sloane

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

The Rim of Morning

Who wrote it?

The two novellas are not just cracking reads in their own right, they’re also wonderful period pieces, written for an age when local sheriffs could employ their spinster sister to take notes longhand while they interrogated suspects.

William Sloane, publisher and author. He wrote The Rim of Morning in 1937.

Plot in a Box:

The Rim of Morning consists of two novellas:

To Walk the Night – a young businessman attempts to explain the suicide of his best friend to the friend’s father, a tale which becomes more fantastic as the night progresses

The Edge of Running Water – a reclusive and recently bereaved inventor engages a spiritualist to help him create a mysterious device

Invent a new title for this book:

Very Weird Science

Read this if you like:

Slow burn creepy horror of the Jacksonian type

Meet the books’ leads:

(Night) Berkeley M. Jones – bluff young businessman

(Edge) Richard Sayles – bluff slightly older academic

Said leads would be portrayed in a movie by:

Jones: Bradley Cooper because I want to see him in a tweedy suit

Sayles: Jeff Daniels for his air of masculine repression

Setting: would you want to live there?

The stories take place in grand old mansions located off the beaten track.

Yes, yes, yes.

What was your favorite sentence?

She had seemed small lying there, like a bird that had run into a windowpane and stunned itself or broken its neck.

The Verdict:

In his introduction to The Rim of Morning Stephen King has this to say about these two reissued 1930s novellas:

The general reader will find much here to enthrall and entertain; those who have studied the horror genre but don’t know these books will find them a revelation for the way Sloane takes what he needs from multiple genres, an ability only well-read novelists possess, and makes something new and remarkable from them.

I’m not going to argue with Stephen King. The two books which make up The Rim of Morning are very fine works: creepy, erudite and atmospheric. The only reason I can come up with for their relative obscurity is that, apart from one short story, they comprise the entirety of Sloane’s work and as we all know, if you want to make it big as an author, output is crucial.

But before we all get morose about what this says about cultural standards and mass consumption, let’s note that someone somewhere knew about Sloane and decided the time was right to reissue his work. The two novellas are not just cracking reads in their own right, they’re also wonderful period pieces, written for an age when local sheriffs could employ their spinster sister to take notes longhand while they interrogated suspects, and well-to-do families had the means to employ manservants to help them dress for dinner. These details give the stories a gloriously cosy feel, which only helps to highlight the scary bits and the scary bits are scary. As King points out, Sloane doesn’t resort to low tactics like florid prose when the time comes to show the reader what lies behind the heavily padlocked and reinforced study door. He uses restraint and a slow build to make his revelations all the more horrible. His characters are so thoroughly decent and capable, that when nasty things happen, we sincerely regret it and feel for them, and there’s no better way to upset an audience than that.

Sloane is also a master of setting. Not content with spooky old houses as a framing device, he puts his characters under the cold and starry sky of a desert mesa for a key scene in ‘Night’, and his use of a nearby river in ‘Edge’ – which provides both gentle shores for bathing and mild flirtation and steep banks with deadly currents – is unnervingly brilliant.

As King says, these books are best enjoyed after dark, with a wind blowing though the leaves outside. Or perhaps on that desert mesa, where ancient people once worshipped strange and distant gods.

Image of The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror (New York Review Books Classics)
Author: William Sloane
Price: $14.53
Publisher: NYRB Classics (2015)
Binding: Paperback, 480 pages

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