Russell Kirk was born in Michigan in 1918. He gained much notoriety as a political theorist with the publication of his book, THE CONSERVATIVE MIND (1953). His career took several paths including that of writer, editor and keynote speaker. Lesser known to most is his fiction writing, which encompassed both novels and short stories. His gothic horror tales, which are always rich with atmosphere, are true classics. Here’s look at a few of them.
1. “Balgrummo’s Hell” (1967) – A thief breaks into a secluded, dilapidated mansion to steal valuable artwork from its walls. The owner of the house is an ancient nobleman who was sentenced many years ago to remain inside the house for the rest of his life due to his diabolical black arts practices. The house is rotting away around him, but he refuses to part with his valuable art collection. The house isn’t well guarded, so the thief enters with ease. The visit turns out to be far more damning than the art-thief could possibly have imagined in this atmospheric tale.
2. “There’s a Long, Long Trail A-Winding” (1976) – A gentle giant of a man, who’s been homeless a long time, comes upon a deserted town during a heavy snow storm. He takes shelter in a house there and reflects on the vagabond life he’s led with regret. Now in his 60’s, after having spent time in prison and owing money to a lot of people, he wonders where his soul is headed after he dies. He begins to see things in the house. Long forgotten memories and strange dreams tell him of a connection he has with it and its former inhabitants. This is a powerful tale of regret, love and perhaps redemption.
3. “The Peculiar Demesne” (1980) – Manfred Arcane, a recurring character in some of Kirk’s fiction, tells a group of colleagues about a bizarre encounter he had years before with an Arch-vicar accused of killing a group of beggars after testing a new alchemical concoction of his on them. The man has a dark history in many places under different names, so Arcane has no real alternative than to sentence the Arch-vicar to death, despite their long talks during his incarceration. The evil Arch-vicar has a secret, unconventional escape plan however, that involves utilizing his knowledge of dark magic. Soon Arcane finds himself in strange places pursued by a mysterious glowing entity.