The Edge of Running Water (William Sloane)

71TLF-IsLdL._SL1500_What a damn shame William Sloane only wrote two novels (his only other written work appears to be a single short story, otherwise his literary career seems to have mainly amounted to editing and publishing), and how amazing that neither has been adapted for film in decades (this one as a B-movie, The Devil Commands, in 1941, the other as an episode of a TV drama anthology in 1951). I’m glad to have belatedly discovered these two books, though. Edge is a pretty remarkable read, which to a certain degree revisits the territory To Walk the Night covered, but which has a certain edge (sorry) over the earlier book. In this case, we have two university associates again, two professors, one of whom, Julian, has been working on a mysterious project for a number of years at an isolated house near a remote pissant village in Maine, and he summons Richard, the other, younger one, to assist him with it. As in To Walk the Night, this research involves Things Man Might Be Better Off Not Knowing—in this case, the construction of a machine to communicate with the dead. Richard naturally assumes Julian has gone kind of mad with grief after the death of his wife a few years earlier, but when he finally sees the device in action he’s forced to conclude that Julian may not have made contact with the dead as such, but he’s contacted something; and the otherwise not exactly minor complication caused by a mysterious death in the house is probably not the worst thing they’re facing. This is terrific stuff, maybe not the highest of literature but still noticeably above the common pulp level of the period. Like I said, a damn shame we only have these two books by him; then again, maybe better writing just two really good books than a whole shelf-ful of them that are mostly kind of ordinary…

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