Whiskey Tales by Jean Ray, translated by Scott Nicolay
Trade Paperback – Wakefield Press – Feb 2019 – 191 pages
Originally published in French in 1925, Whiskey Tales immediately established the reputation of the Belgian master of the weird, Jean Ray (1887-1964), whose writings in the coming years would come to chart out a literary meeting ground between H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Dickens. A commercial success, the collection earned Ray the appellation of the “Belgian Poe.” A year later, however, the author would be arrested on charges of embezzlement and serve two years in prison, where he would write some of his best stories. Something of a prequel to later collections such as Cruise of Shadows or Circles of Terror (both forthcoming from Wakefield Press), Whiskey Tales finds Ray embracing the modes of adventure and horror fiction adopted by such contemporaries as Pierre Mac Orlan and Maurice Renard. Taking us from ship’s prow to port, from tavern to dead-end lane, these early tales are ruled by the spirits of whiskey and fog, each element blurring the borders between humor and horror, the sentimental and the sinister, the real and the imagined. A handful of these stories first appeared in English in Weird Tales in the 1930s, but the majority of this collection has never been translated.