Manly Wade Wellman


February 5, 2013 by Thomas Pluck

manly wade wellman

One of the lesser-known giants of the golden age of pulp is Manly Wade Wellman. He is best known for the “Silver John” tales of a folk singer with a pure heart and a silver-strung guitar who wanders the hills and hollers of Appalachia seeking “the old music,” who often runs into evil magics and “the old ones” instead.

The Silver John tales evoke the purely weird through an American folk lens, where creatures of the age before mankind leave their footprints through the hollers and hoodoo men hold sway. John has only his wits, his silver-stringed guitar and his powerful faith in good to wage battle with evil. The tales are laced with subtle humor and Wellman masterfully describes a character or a place with few sharp words, bringing you into his fantastic realm where the world may have waged two wars and split the atom, but somewhere in the mountains there still lurk creatures we cannot begin to comprehend.

There were a few movies based on them as well, but none seem to have captured the magic. Wellman’s fiction was a huge influence on my long short story “Black Shuck” in Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.

who fears the devil

Manly Wade Wellman was an American original, a stunning fabulist who painted haunted murals of the Appalachian mountains using the language of the people who live there as his handmade oils and brush. His books are mostly out of print, but Baen has graciously included a collection of Silver John stories in their free electronic library:

John the Balladeer

I highly recommend the entire collection, but especially  “O Ugly Bird,” “The Desrick on Yandro,” and “Nine Yards of Other Cloth.” They are set after the second World War, but feel timeless and ancient, like the mountains themselves. He wrote several novels starring Silver John, such as The Old Gods Waken, and I purchased some on eBay. My local used bookstore didn’t have any. I look forward to seeing what John does with some room to stretch his legs in a story.

john the balladeer

6 thoughts on “Manly Wade Wellman

  1. Les Edgerton says:

    Tom, have you checked on abebooks to see if they have copies?

  2. Thomas Pluck says:

    Yeah- I checked there first, but on ebay you can often buy author lots. I got the first 3 novels.

  3. lesedgerton says:

    BTW, he would have been very proud of your own story! It’s a truly masterful story.

  4. I ordered the recent paperback collection by Paizo. Just came today. Anxious to read since it looks like he lived not far from me.

Comments are closed.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. He is the author of Blade of Dishonor, Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime & Suspense, and Denny the Dent. He edits anthologies to benefit PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children, and serves as their social media editor. He hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan with Todd Robinson at Shade, and has been known to enjoy a pint of beer and a sloppy cheeseburger.

Noir at the Bar

I host Noir at the Bar NYC, in Manhattan. If you want to read, email me via the Contact form.

Join the mailing list to be notified of future events.

Visit the Noir at the Bar NYC page for directions and info.

The next event at Shade is June 7th 2015, at 6pm.

The Plucking News

Subscribe to The Plucking News to get plucked right in your inbox. You'll get blog posts and occasional premium newsletter-only content, and riches undreamed of.*
Click here to Subscribe.
*unless you dream of email updates. If so, you have my condolences
“You want interwoven plots running parallel between WWII and Right Now? You want violence mixed with romance? You want sacrifice, courage, and honor? Truth-based fable? Or maybe you just want hardcore-clean writing delivered at warp speed. Look no further—it’s all here.

-Andrew Vachss, author of Urban Renewal, Aftershock, and the Burke series.

Get some.



Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT


41 stories. One Cause: PROTECT. Andrew Vachss, Joe Lansdale, George Pelecanos, Ken Bruen, James Reasoner, Charles de Lint and more!

Proud supporter of PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children.

Pluck Around the World

On Goodreads
International Thriller Writers Profile
The Big Eat, at Devil Gourmet
Essays at The Good Men Project
Articles at Criminal Element
Me and three other people on Google+
My Instagram Photos
Like beer? Join me on Untappd!

I write using Scrivener.

It helps organize my jumbled brain.

Get Scrivener 2 for Mac
Get Scrivener for PC

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,471 other followers

%d bloggers like this: