Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Pickets", by Robert W. Chambers

Robert W. Chambers (1865-1933) was a very prolific author who wrote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  His work covered many genres: humor, stories of the civil war, romances, historical fiction, stories of the supernatural, and others.  His popularity and wide appeal gained him the epithet "the shopgirl scheherazade".

Chambers' supernatural fiction was a powerful influence on such later writers as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, all of whom incorporated the names of places and supernatural characters from Chambers' writing.  Chambers' best known writing in this genre is his collection of connected stories The King in Yellow, which tells of encounters with a book called (naturally) "The King in Yellow" that drives each of its readers mad.

Here's a beautiful cover from the "Neely's Prismatic Library" edition of The King in Yellow.  Several other Chambers books were published in equally lovely editions by Neely's.

Chambers is perhaps less well remembered for the charm and humor of some of his writing.  This is unfortunate, because works like his humorous short story "Enter the Queen" (about art students and musicians in Paris) are well-crafted and still entertaining today.

Cryptozoologists may enjoy his collection In Search of the Unknown, which chronicles the adventures of a young bachelor who works for the Bronx Park Zoological gardens.  In each adventure he's sent out to investigate (and capture) some strange creature for the zoo's collection.  He inevitably falls in love with a beautiful girl along the way, but by the end of each episode he's lost both the creature and the girl.  I find the first story in this collection particularly interesting because I wonder if it might have inspired one of my favorite movies, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon".  The plot of the Chambers story seems to have an unlikely number of parallels with the movie, and Chambers' "Harbor Master" looks very much like the Creature.

I'll write more about Robert W. Chambers in the future, but today I'd particularly like to call your attention to one of his Civil War stories, "Pickets", published in the collection "The Haunts of Men".    When I was preparing this article, I found that an Oscar-winning movie had been based on it in 1954.  The movie, "A Time Out of War" was the first student film to win the Academy Award.

It's the story of soldiers, Union and Confederate, stationed on opposite banks of a river, and the temporary truce they negotiate.  I hope you enjoy it.

Read Robert W. Chambers' story "Pickets", from his collection The Haunts of Men:
- Google Books
- The Internet Archive (

No comments:

Post a Comment