Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: While Zombies Walked - Thorp McCluskey

I don't know anything about Thorp McCluskey except that he wrote several stories for WEIRD TALES, some of which have been anthologized over the years. And here's another one, "While Zombies Walked", which was cover-featured on the September 1939 issue of the magazine. This one features a stalwart protagonist who wants to find out why his girlfriend wrote to him breaking up with him soon after she went to take care of her elderly uncle, who had suffered a stroke. When he arrives in the area he finds men working in the cotton fields in a sinister, dazed state. Some of them even appear to have suffered fatal injuries.

No surprise there, but McCluskey provides a nice twist by setting his story in the rural South and making these apparent walking dead poor white trash. In many ways, "While Zombies Walked" is as much a backwoods tale reminiscent of Erskine Caldwell as it is a horror yarn, although make no mistake, it winds up pretty horrific (in a good way). There's even an evil, bombastic preacher who's been tempted by dark forces and given in to them.

Like the Bruno Fischer story that precedes it in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS!, "While Zombies Walked" is well-written and a little more restrained in tone than some of the other stories in this anthology. But it's very entertaining and makes me think I ought to keep my eyes open for more stories by Thorp McCluskey.


David Cranmer said...

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, James.

Anonymous said...

Need to get back in this collection, this sounds good.

Juri Nummelin said...

I remember reading some weird stuff about Thorp McClusky and his early horror novels that he supposedly wrote in the 1930's, but in the end it seemed like it was a fabrication. I don't know why anybody would've come up with the idea that McClusky wrote novels that he didn't write (and that don't even exist), but weirder things have happened. I'll try to look up whether I can find the piece on him - I seem to remember I saved it, but where it is, that's another story.

James Reasoner said...

Interesting stuff, Juri. I hope you can find that article on McCluskey.