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    The interbreeding of satirical consciousness and the dumb and angry instinct is as powerful a source of poetic feeling today as ever it was.
            -John Collier

John Collier is one of those writers who has to just scare the pants off of any current author concerned about his or her reputation.  More than likely you just asked yourself. "John Who?"  And that, of course, is the point.  Because John Collier was a justly celebrated poet, novelist and most of all macabre short story writer, sometimes compared to Poe, O. Henry, Saki, or Roald Dahl.  The version of this story collection that I read is from the TIME-LIFE series of Reading Program books, specially selected by the editors for their high quality.  You can find handfuls of them at book sales and it must have been widely read when it came out, fifty years ago now.  But despite the exceptional enjoyment to be found in the stories, despite his then popularity, and despite critical recognition, we little remember Mr. Collier today and his stories aren't even in print.

If you can find this book of ironic tales of the supernatural though we highly recommend it.  The other comparison I'd make is that the stories--which exploit human foibles and feature twist endings--are reminiscent of Twilight Zone episodes.  My favorite, and it's fairly representative, is The Chaser, in which a mysterious old man proves surprisingly eager to sell a potion, for just $1, that will make a woman not merely fall in love with you but become obsessed with you and your every move.  The love struck suitor in the tale seems oblivious to the fact that this potion is so cheap because the potion that customers always come back for a few years later costs $5000.  This subsequent treatment  is, as you may have guessed, a quite lethal and impossible to detect poison.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Short Stories
Book-related and General Links:
    -FILMOGRAPHY: John Collier (
    -BOOK SITE: His Monkey Wife by John Collier (Paul Dry Books)
    -SHORT STORY: The Chaser (John Collier)
    -BIBLIO: John Collier (1901 - 1980) (Fantastic Fiction)
    -BIO & COLLECTION: John Collier:  An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center