March 20, 2016
Abraham Merritt is one the lesser known writers of Appendix N. An example of the fickle hand of fortune, I suppose, since during his life A. Merritt (as his work was credited) was rather famous, at least so far as journalists can be famous. Big fish, small pond, let’s say.
Normally I’d accompany one of these Appendix N posts with a picture from my library. But my books and bookshelves are in storage for the next few months. So no picture of my A. Merritt paperbacks. Sorry.
Fiction represented a sideline for A. Merritt. A labor of love rather than of financial necessity. Maybe writing about the fantastic provided a needed break from the grim realities he faced in journalism. I think his journalistic background informs his style to some extent. Where Clark Ashton Smith produced lyrical fiction, A.Merritt’s output was more prosaic. Not dull, not inferior, simply less poetic. He produced descriptive, engaging stories. Workmanlike and entertaining. Though he also wrote some thought provoking tales, like Ship of Ishtar, that weren’t afraid to delve into darker, more tragic spaces than the more adventure-focused tales such as Dwellers in the Mirage.
A. Merritt is perhaps best known for The Moon Pool, which can be read as a sort of literary bridge between H. Rider Haggard and H.P. Lovecraft. I can see how the exoctic locales, quest, lost world, non-human races, and adventuring party aspects would appeal to Gary Gygax. Some or all of these elements crop up in all of Merritt’s work. Thus, A. Merritt does deserve his position in Appendix N. If you haven’t given him a chance yet, consider it. You could do worse than spend a few hours in his pulp worlds.