I first met John “Jack” Koblas in the Tripp Museum in Prairie du Sac two years ago now. We were both visiting a display of Jim Kirchstein’s hand puppets and marionettes all created by Ken Vogel on the weekend in October celebrating The Walden West Festival by The August Derleth Society. The following year Jack was the Guest Speaker at Walden West Festival. We sat together and discussed books at the Sunday evening dinner at Green Acres after the Walden West weekend.
In the month that followed Jack assembled an impressive list of titles for publication:
1. Ghost Stories and Other Dark Tales. This collection of stories is illustrated by John Stevens, and John also designed the cover. Many of these stories were written many years ago now, and a couple of them were rejected for publication by August Derleth when Jack submitted them for consideration when he was a teenager.
2. The Lovecraft Circle and Others as I Knew Them This is non-fiction book, and includes Jack memories of many of the admirers of H.P. Lovecraft. Two of the high points are Mary Elizabeth Counselman and Donald Wandrei.
3. Abe Lincoln’s Graveyard Ghouls. This is the history of what happened to the body of the President after his assassination at the end of the Civil War. Lincoln’s body was disinterred twice and finally came to rest in Illinois in 1905.
4. The Portage Experiment. this is the History of Zona Gale, Margery Latimer, Jean Toomer and Gurdjieff movement in Portage Wisconsin in the 1930s. It is a bizarre one including standing in trees without cloths, and communal and group sex, and master Gurdjieff doing short arm inspections on the men, before festivities began, presumably to avoid the spread of Venereal Disease.
5. The Invasions of America (1941-1945). This recounts the various and frequent invasions of both The United States of America and Canada by air and by sea during and before the commencement of WWII.
6. Jesse James and Jack Chinn: A Shadow over Northfield. This is Jack’s controversial thesis that Chinn had a serious hand in the robbery at Northfield Minnesota.
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Jack Koblas is one of the most dynamic, interesting and prolific writers you’ll find in print today. Many of his readers are aware that when it comes to the outlaw genre, Jack is the foremost authority on the James-Younger Gang’s exploits in Minnesota. With over 70 books to his credit, his name is recognized in many fields—Western nonfiction as well as fiction, with other titles on Ma Barker and the gangster era, the U. S.-Dakota War, American Civil War, literary figures, politicians, nature, poetry, and many more.
Others know him through his work as a consultant and script writer for various television documentaries including Discovery Channel, History Channel, PBS American Experience, as well as independent film companies. One of his own books, Jesse James Northfield Raid: Confessions of the Ninth Man, was made into a documentary film.
Still others hail him for his musical skills as founder of The Magpies— one of the first doo wop groups to bring rock music to the Twin Cities in the 1950s. His vocals and keyboards are still heard today on many oldies recordings, and in 2007, he and The Magpies were inducted into the Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame.
But how many people remember his works in the horror/fantasy field when he cofounded Etchings & Odysseys and learned to write from authors such as Donald Wandrei, Carl Jacobi, and Charles DeVet? Here are 47 horror stories penned by Jack Koblas, some of which we hope may jog your memory. May we have the lights, please?
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John Stevens graduated from Daytona State College with a Graphic Arts and Advertising Design degree. His career in illustration blossomed as he won a prestigious award from L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators Of The Future contest, an international competition for science fiction illustrators. His professional talent came to the attention of Dell Magazine where he illustrated stories for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and many others. This talented artist’s work has been noted in Bride Publication, North Star Press and National Examiner as well as in several books.
John Stevens has worked with companies such as Ladies Professional Golf Association, Wacky World Studios, International Speedway Corporation Publications, Hot Action Sportswear, Jiloty Communications Incorporated advertising agency and many others. He has produced illustration for Art Against Aids, a non-profit organization established to raise funds for children living with aids. John also took time to teach portrait drawing for ArtQuest School Of Art & Design of Florida.
John Stevens’ work adorns the collections of Florida’s U.S. Senator Bob Graham, Louise M. Kleba (Systems Engineer at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace), Lee Aperson (Mr America), Debbie Kruck (MS Fitness USA), Kim Hartt of the Nevada Hot Dice RollerJam TV series, Barbara Leigh (actress) and many others.
To see more of John Stevens art visit his website at http://www.imagesofwonder.com and http://www.johnstevensart.com
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During one of our late night talk session, Donald Wandrei told me he sold his first story, “The Red Brain,” to Weird Tales magazine in 1927. Although it was rejected the first time by Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales, fellow pulp author H. P. Lovecraft had advised the younger writer to wait five or six months and submit it again. HPL added Wright’s memory was poor, probably from the Parkinson’s that plagued him, and a second submission would probably do the trick. Wright apparently did not remember the initial attempt, and upon reading this submission was so impressed, he published the story.
“Tomorrow, Tao Fa [E. Hoffmann Price] hits town,” Mary Elizabeth Counselman wrote me 40 years ago. Ed Price made several what he called “safaris,” to visit fellow pulp authors all over the U. S. and I was always lucky to be included by visits from both these masters of the macabre. MEC (Miss Counselman) continued her epistle: “I’m following his progress from New Orleans by sound—women screaming, or squealing as the case may be: men yelling and cursing and firing shotguns… Will let you know about his visit, unless my husband gets him first!”
I was fortunate to have known so many of the “pulpsters” and each through unusual channels: Robert Bloch because Wandrei called him every week and made me play “Rhapsody in Blue” on the piano for him; Carl Jacobi whom I first met while tricks or treating at his house on a long ago Halloween night; August Derleth because he rejected my story and called it “the worst story I’ve ever read (I was 15);” and Charles DeVet because Andy Decker and I found a geographical error in one of his novels. And most of the pulpsters followed because of similar reasons over a long period of time.
Come share these memories with me. The subjects are some of the finest people I’ve ever met.—Jack Koblas
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“Anyway here it is. As I told [Jack Koblas] over the phone I got a laugh out of THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WEIRD and thought it nicely written to boot.” —Carl Jacobi
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“When it comes to twentieth-century pulp writers, especially those connected with H. P. Lovecraft, Jack (“Count”) Koblas has “been there and done that.” From an alligator chase in the environs of R. H. Barlow’s erstwhile Florida home to the sighting of an albino squirrel in Don Wandrei’s backyard, Jack tells all in The Lovecraft Circle. His accounts of writers like Bloch, Counselman, Wandrei, Brackett and many others range from the informative, to the moving, to the simply amazing. No one interested in twentieth-century pulp fiction, and the Lovecraft Circle in particular, will want to be without Jack’s book.”
— Ken Faig, Jr., editor, The Fossil
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“John Koblas’s hallmark has always been exhaustive research. Koblas is a bulldog of a researcher.” —Dave Wood, former books editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune;
former vice president, National Books Critics Circle
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John “Jack” Koblas has met the Great Old Ones and survived to tell the tale. Fortunately, these Antient Beings were authors and artists associated with the luridly enjoyable pulp magazines. Here are reminiscences and research to fill many a dark and stormy night for casual or dedicated fan. I was present during some of the meetings described in this entertaining volume and can only regret that my misspent life did not include more of these fascinating discussions.
Scott F. Wyatt
Northern Representative Fedogan & Bremer (Publishers)
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The “Old Ones” of fantasy stories and of the Lovecraft Circle inspired the ghostly path for these haunting tales, a feat that would surely please them all. The circles under my eyes and my night light blazing are proof of Koblas’s awesome skill in keeping you up all night. Compelling, gripping and most of all fun, don’t miss this interesting journey.
— Kay Price, Sauk City, Wisconsin
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Jack Koblas was my point of entry into the literary world of Donald Wandrei and Carl Jacobi. I’m certain that both old masters would be proud to see their young acolyte following so successfully in their foot-steps. — Dwayne Olson, Minneapolis, Minnesota