How did you meet August Derleth?

29 Mar

I’ll met everyone who reads this entry will have their own answer to this question. I first encountered his writing in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel back in January 1991 at around 6:00 p.m. on a Thursday during the BSI weekend. I was standing in a group listening in on the conversation, trying desperately to learn Dr. Watson’s middle name? How many wives he actually had? Whether a goose really does have a crop? and What Sherlock Hoolmes actually did when he visited Tibet during the Great Hiatus.

David Galerstein, engaged me in conversation, and invited me to go for dinner later that evening. He asked me if I had ever read a Solar Pons story? I replied no; and he then recommended them to me. They were written by a fellow in Wisconsin, by the name of August Derleth. I visited Otto Penzler’s bookshop the next day for the first time, and purchased the two volume slip-cased, shrink-wrapped edition of “The Solar Pons Omnibus” along with some other Sherlockian items including a reading copy of the three volume Heritage Club edition of the Canon. Now that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

But I suspect I am not in the majority, far from it. I suspect the majority of Derleth’s readers today are either fans of H.P. Lovecraft; readers of his “Sac Prairie Saga” including fiction, poetry and journals; readers of the anthologies he compiled in Science Fictionand the Macabre; or encountered one of his columns in the newspaper; read one of his many book reviews; or read his many short stories in Weird Tales; or his fiction in Redbook Magazine; or one of his biographies about Zona Gale, or Emerson or Thoreau; or one of juvenile volumes as a child.

Like a diamond, August Derleth had many facets as a writer, that I have only discovered after I followed up on the advise of David Galerstein. When David was going through his collection many years later to divest himself of stuff preparing to meet Sherlock under the Reichenbach, he sent me the original PSI pin that he had received from Luther Norris, as a token of his esteem. I shall always treasure it, and wear it with pride.


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