Rediscovered: A Willeford Blurb — For Haefele?!?


Image above — Haefele’s Heretics rolling into Lovecraft Town on a convoy of Shermans. Locked and loaded.

Yep, every time I pick up the new trade paperback of John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos all I can think of is how this thick tome is like some kind of little tank, engine rumbling, and a quote from Charles Willeford jumps instantly to mind.

In case you don’t know, Willeford was a tank platoon commander with the 10th Armored Division of Patton’s Third Army. Participated in the capture of Trier. One of the longest nights of his life, he said, was “the night I spent in a tank turret in Bergdorf, Luxembourg, during the Battle of the Bulge.” Once he ordered his Sherman to plow into an encircled village, loaded on twenty-three stranded GIs and then got the hell out of Dodge without losing one passenger.

I cover that part of his life in the chapter “Tank Command” in my book Willeford, and that’s where you’ll find him detailing what tanks can’t do — and what tanks can. Tanks, he wrote with some authority,

can knock out machine guns, cut down opposing infantry, make with a non-persistent screening smoke, give excellent covering fire, and create havoc in a small town. They also raise fear in opposing forces, and have been known to use crushing power on men who couldn’t run faster than twenty-four miles per hour.

I notice that the townsfolk of “elite” Lovecraft fandom, based on initial social media reaction, are so inbred they don’t even know a little panic would serve them well, much less that they might want to start jumping into ditches.

Nope, these guys are standing around pontificating that it would have been nicer if Haefele had taken a “more objective approach” to the subject — which is to say that Haefele should be agreeing with all the misinformation about August Derleth that has been circulating for decades, and that these poor saps have accepted as truthful.

Hey, villagers! — you’re wrong. Haefele is the objective historian and you’ve bought into propaganda. A new review by Thomas Krabacher — Professor Tom Krabacher — on the Amazon page for the revised trade paperback explains the scenario quite well.

And one guy seems to have decided that he prefers — for scholarly purposes — the original hardcover edition of Haefele’s book, after I mentioned that I persuaded Haefele to drop a lot of the mock-academic apparatus (page numbers for quotes in the text, etc) from the new paperback.

The new edition has An Index. Enough said. You want to do serious research, an index gives you excellent covering fire.

But may I add that the hardcover publisher didn’t even bother to input the last two or three rounds of proofing we did for that edition. (In a way I can’t blame him — he wasn’t geared up for how much work a book like this involves. Still, really irritating.) And that this new one has much tougher MLA strictures on the cites in back (not something I care about, but the new publisher insisted).

Apparently this guy would prefer having an errata list for the hardback — instead of realizing that the new one is completely redone, improved, polished, from the style to the cites. Jeez, the new info on how Frank Belknap Long influenced “The Whisperer in Darkness” is worth twenty bucks, if you’re a true devotee of H.P. Lovecraft.

(By the way, I noticed surfing around on the serious scholar’s site that he has some posts up done in collaboration with Randy Everts — I wonder if he knows that the first day the Derleth Papers were made public in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin archives that I went in with Everts and Scott Connors to scope out the holdings? That was circa 1975 or 76, so I’ve been involved in this sphere for a long time. I did mention that research plunge to Connors at a party last month, and he didn’t remember that I was there — so I don’t think I’d hire Scott to write my biography. He is supposed to be writing a bio of Clark Ashton Smith, but I’m not holding my breath on that one, either.)

Now, I can see how someone who popped around $60 for the hardback might not want to lay out another $20 or so, just on general economic principles. But I’m pretty sure you can just keep the hardback, which isn’t going to be in print forever, and sell it for even bigger bucks later — at the moment on Amazon the price for the hardback has jumped from the $60 range to over $90. Get the new edition and sell the original on eBay someday for mucho pazoors. The fans who are eager to disprove Haefele’s research will need the hardcover to search for quotes they can quibble and grouse over, and they’ll get to pay through the nose for the privilege.

Meanwhile, I wonder if we could say that Haefele’s book is a bestseller? On Amazon, it sometimes hovers in the 100,000s but sudden sales drop it down into the 10,000s — highest sales rank I noticed was 27,749. Out of all the books in all the world, I think that’s pretty hot for a volume of litcrit/lit history. (I thought to check today, and found that my book Willeford had a sales rank of 1,429,047 — and that title has been out of print for over four years, and the publisher Dennis McMillan has quit the book game and is roaming America getting his cars and vintage neckwear stolen. Man, I have to feel sorry for books that are still in print that have a worse sales rank than Willeford.)

I do think the Look Inside feature on Amazon could have been a lot better — they don’t even include the full Contents pages. Probably the best plug for the book would have been to sample a complete chapter, such as the one — just classic — on the Black Magic Quote. You get a much better look inside on The Cimmerian Press site, if you’re still thinking about it.

That little tank is guaranteed to create havoc, and it’s going to be fun to watch.

“But, but. . . it’s not objective. . . .”

It’s a tank, inbred village idiot. Put on your running shoes.

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