Wednesday, February 20, 2002

James Stoddard: The High House

I recently came across a review of James Stoddard’s The High House (1989) by author Darrell Schweitzer, who notes Stoddard paid homage to Bellairs by way of The Face in the Frost. Stoddard pays tribute to many classic works of fantasy with references to such esteemed authors as Lord Dunsany, Mervyn Peake, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald. His nod to Bellairs comes on page 48 where the young protagonist, Carter Anderson, explores a magical house's library and is surprised at some of the titles shelved in its history collection:

Carter, who had moved farther down the aisle, gave a chuckle. "You should see the HISTORY section. Vathek by Beckford, The World's Desire, even the Orlando Furioso, fantastic books all. Why, here's even the dreaded Krankenhammer of Stefan Schimpf, the mad cobbler of Mainz, a book of magic outlawed in most countries. Bad filing, you think, or an odd sense of humor?"

This past December I reached out to Stoddard to get his perspective on Bellairs and his writing and he was kind enough to share his thoughts:
Darrell was referring to my reference to the Mad Cobbler of Mainz and his dreaded volume the ... oh, heck, I can't remember the name of the volume, but I stole it directly from Bellairs, who was, of course, making fun of Lovecraft's Necronomicon. I have this vague hope that some other writer will pick up on this and pass it along in another book.

The Face is the Frost is one of my all time favorite books, and Darrell nailed me in that review when he said I used suspense in High House the way Bellairs had done in Frost. Precisely what I had in mind - fun suspense, a little scary, but not too frightening. I've read several other of Bellairs' works, but haven't found anything quite as good as the adventures of Prospero and Roger Bacon.

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