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The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich
Fritz Leiber
Tor Books, 125 pages

The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich
Fritz Leiber
Best known as the author of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, Fritz Leiber married Margo Skinner in 1992 (he had just been diagnosed as having cancer). He died later that year but is still remembered as one of the most respected authors that SF, fantasy and horror ever produced.

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Fritz Leiber Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

This is a real treat. For those of you who don't know the story here it is: The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich: A Study of the Mass-Insanity at Smithville was written by Fritz Leiber in 1936 while he was in correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft. The manuscript was lost for many years, was rediscovered only recently and was published posthumously this past spring for the first time ever. It's a novella of extradimensional horror in the style of Lovecraft.

As Lovecraftian horror goes, it's a well-constructed tale that's neither too gruesome for the weak-stomached, nor too tame for the warp-minded. It's told from the perspective of one George Kramer, a former college chum of the reclusive genius Daniel Kesserich. When Kramer goes to visit Kesserich after a 10-year absence, he's not sure what to expect. What he finds, however, is nothing like what he might have guessed.

Kramer finds himself following a highly unusual trail of clues in an effort to locate his suddenly mysteriously missing friend. The townspeople are looking for Kesserich too -- but they're also looking for a piece of rope and a tree. The whole town, Kramer discovers, has seemingly gone mad. Perhaps Kramer has too. It's almost as if people's very memories are somehow being tampered with...

The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich has got a bit of grave robbing, a bit of an unfortunate love triangle, a bit of mad scientist experiment gone wrong, and, of course, the ever-popular angry mob. Overall, it's a jaunty little mystery that takes us to the brink of chaos and madness.

Truthfully, it's hardly more than a long short story in length. But Jason Van Hollander's wonderful illustrations fill out this little tome disturbingly. Although you don't get to see this contrast on the cover art, throughout the interior illustrations people are depicted in a realistic style, whereas the backgrounds are rather surreal. The effect is alluringly disquieting.

I'm not sure what the print run was on this edition, but I'm sure glad I got my copy. This is truly a collectors' treat.

Copyright © 1997 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

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