Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: John Silence

Continuing on from my review of Thraxas, a detective in a fantasy world, we are now going to look at my second genre-crossing favourite detective, Dr. John Silence.

Written by Algernon Blackwood in 1908, the John Silence stories were six intriguing stories which focused on various interactions with the supernatural by “The Psychic Doctor,” Doctor John Silence. Portrayed as an incredibly calm, rational man with the knowledge of an Egon Splanger and the deductive abilities of Sherlock Holmes, the Doctor, along with his assistant (and our narrator), Mr. Hubbard, went up against spirits, elementals, demons and the like.

Silence has clearly traveled throughout the world studying paranormal phenomena and is definitely a psychic himself, although he sees no need to use cards, trances or automatic wrting at all. In his own words he states that “Systems of divination, from geomancy down to reading by tea-leaves, are merely so many methods of obscuring the outer vision, in order that the inner vision may become open. Once the method is mastered, no system is necessary at all.” (from Case I: A Psychical Invasion)

What I really admire about the character is his interest in the supernatural world, while at the same time saying that everything has an explanation if you only look for it. Like Sherlock Holmes, a lot of his best work is done via observation and gut instinct. “If you pay attention to impressions, and do not allow them to be confused by deductions of the intellect, you will often find them surprisingly, uncannily, accurate.” (from Case III: The Nemesis of Fire)

Like a lot of the things I read, I had been pointed at the series from multiple angles – first from Horror: The 100 Best books, next from the recommended reading list of the RPG Hunter the Reckoning and finally I had read that H.P. Lovecraft (1890 – 1937) considered the author as one of the Modern Masters of Supernatural Horror, so I definitely wanted to take a look at these stories.

If you can find these stories they are quite a treat – easy to read, full of horror and action, and a great way to introduce detective novel readers to horror and vice versa.

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