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Authors: Evangeline Walton

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She Walks in Darkness

BOOK: She Walks in Darkness
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Praise for Evangeline Walton for

She Walks in Darkness

“Driven by unceasing suspense and intriguing historical mysteries, this Gothic adventure simply won’t let you stop reading it.”

—Tim Powers, author of
The Bible Repairman and Other Stories

“For those of us who loved Evangeline Walton’s lyrical and energetic quartet retelling the Four Branches of The Mabinogion,
She Walks in Darkness
is a startling but quite gripping change. It begins with a mystery, shifts quickly into horror with Gothic overtones as the narrator fears for her life in an ancient, rambling villa built above a labyrinth of catacombs, then it reveals its background of romance, and resolves into a fast-paced art history thriller. The tale, set in a sere and lonely region of Italy, combines Walton’s detailed knowledge of art, mythology, and archeology. Her wonderful descriptions bring life to the underground paintings, statues, and bones that have been buried in the tombs and haunt the living as they stumble through buried history with flashlights and illuminate, one flash at a time, the immortal faces of myth.
She Walks in Darkness
is a remarkable gift from the past.”

—Patricia A. McKillip, author of
Wonders of the Invisible World

for
the Mabinogion tetralogy

“Based on the medieval Welsh epic, the Mabinogion, this series ranks with the best of 20th-century works of fantasy.”


Publishers Weekly

“[Walton] has achieved her own beautifully idiosyncratic blend of humor and heroism.”

—Ursula K. Le Guin

“Walton updates these ancient texts in a very 20th-century manner, without losing their sense of magic and otherworldliness.”


SF Site
, featured review

“Is Walton’s the Mabinogion [Tetralogy] worthy of being called a ‘Fantasy Masterwork’? In my opinion, yes.”


SFF Masterworks Reading Project

for
Above Ker-Is and Other Stories


Most of Walton’s short stories are, like her novels, seamless blends of history, myth, and local color.... Walton tantalizes the reader with the possibility that seemingly supernatural events have a perfectly logical explanation.”


Locus

“The book is a delightful collection of charming, stylish fiction probing the darker side of the human condition. Not to be missed.”


SFRevu

“...well worth reading, and re-reading.”


Mythprint

She Walks in Darkness

Copyright © 2013 by Debra L. Hammond as literary heir to Evangeline Walton.

This is a work of fiction. All events portrayed in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form without the express permission of the publisher.

Afterword copyright © 2013 by Douglas A. Anderson

Cover art and design copyright © 2013 by Thomas Canty

Interior design by Elizabeth Story

Tachyon Publications

1459 18th Street #139

San Francisco, CA 94107

(415) 285-5615

[email protected]

smart science fiction & fantasy

www.tachyonpublications.com

Series Editor: Jacob Weisman

Project Editor: Jill Roberts

Book ISBN 13: 978-1-61696-133-6

Printed in the United States of America by Worzalla

First Edition: 2013

BOOKS BY EVANGELINE WALTON

The Mabinogion Tetralogy

The Virgin and the Swine
(1936
)

 [retitled
The Island of the Mighty
(1970)
]

The Children of Llyr
(1971
)

The Song of Rhiannon
(1972
)

Prince of Annwn
(1974
)

Other Novels

Witch House
(1945
)

The Cross and the Sword
(1956
)

The Sword Is Forged
(1983
)

Above Ker-Is and Other Stories
(2012) [fantasy short stories
]

The Swan-Wife
(2013) [verse drama
]

For further information please visit evangelinewalton.com

TREASURES FROM ANTIQUITY

paul di filippo

eader, you hold in your hands something I myself have always longed for but never thought possible: heretofore unseen fiction from Evangeline Walton. In addition to a new book of her short stories—
Above Ker-Is and Other Stories
—and the reprinting by the prestigious Overlook Press of her entire Mabinogion quartet,
She Walks in Darkness
seems to point toward a new phase of Walton’s posthumous career, where she can finally receive some of her long-overdue accolades.

As a fan who has been enjoying her books for more than four decades, since Walton was revived in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of the early 1970s—the late-career break that introduced her to so many readers—I positively rejoice. This upsurge in her posthumous career is invigorating not only to Walton’s
literary reputation—which unfortunately has rested immovable on a too-low plateau for an inordinate number of years—but also to my deep pleasure and yours as well. 

Walton’s early life (she was born in 1907 and died in 1996, a good long span that happily allowed her to savor her own literary revival) strikes me as archetypical in its lineaments of lonely, sensitive, literate, home-schooled child (supported by an appreciative mother) who falls naturally into a writer’s life. One might almost cast her as the protagonist of the recent novel by Jo Walton (marvelous synchronicity of surnames),
Among Others
, which charts just such a biography. 

After completing a goodly number of trunk projects, Walton scored her first publication at the tender age of twenty-nine.
The Virgin and the Swine
appeared in 1936 and would later form the springboard for the second stage of her career, when it was reprinted by Ballantine as
The Island of the Mighty
.

Now at this point in history, female fantasists who could serve as role models and networking colleagues for the young Walton constituted a rare species indeed. Hope Mirrlees had given the world her
Lud-in-the-Mist
in 1926. E. Nesbit, of course, remained inspirational, but for “children’s books” only. In the pulps, C. L. Moore, partially invisible as female behind that initial-heavy byline, had appeared with “Shambleau” in 1933. And on various tables of contents, circa 1936 and prior, were to be discerned Clare Winger Harris, Leslie F. Stone, Francis Stevens, Lilith Lorraine, and a host of others, their pioneering efforts most notably charted in Justine Larbalestier’s great study of the era,
The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction
.

So at this point in the realm of might-have-been, Walton’s career could have received a lift and guidance from genre solidarity. But such a fate was not to be. Her dismal, go-it-alone track record with lame and unhelpful publishers had begun. Also, her chosen lifestyle—rather in the pattern of such other apron-string homebody authors as Robert E. Howard, Flannery O’Connor, and Eudora Welty—did not conduce toward collegiality.

Walton’s next big break came in 1945, when August Derleth printed her novel
Witch House
as part of the Arkham House catalogue. No one could have provided better entrée into the whole genre ecosystem than Derleth, whose roots extended everywhere. But for whatever reason, Walton was not instantly swept up by genre readers and writers. The female solidarity she might have availed herself of then could have come from such luminaries as Andre Norton and Leigh Brackett. But fate dictated otherwise.

Walton kept writing, but it would be another ten years until her next book appeared,
The Cross and the Sword
in 1956, and then another long slog until the Ballantine rediscovery began in 1970. So slight was Walton’s footprint on the field that publisher Betty Ballantine and her editorial consultant, Lin Carter, both thought
The Virgin and the Swine
had fallen into the public domain, its author deceased. Upon learning otherwise, they eagerly relaunched Walton’s career.

But previous novels consigned to her trunk remained unknown and unappreciated to the present, despite the Ballantine revival. The one we are lucky enough to hold in our hands now,
She Walks in Darkness
, constitutes one such (with others soon to follow its delayed entrance into print). It was apparently written in the early 1960s, marketed briefly, and then shelved.

Once again, had Walton developed any connections, she would have been supported, I am sure, by the largest clade of fully professional female genre writers yet extant: Kit Reed, Margaret St. Clair, Mildred Clingerman, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Katherine MacLean, Zenna Henderson, Sonya Dorman, Rosel George Brown, Joan Hunter Holly, C. C. MacApp, Andre Norton, Evelyn E. Smith. Bradley, who went on to write Gothics (the mode Walton employs here) might have been particularly helpful.

Certainly Walton would not have needed any assist from her peers on the actual writing.
She Walks in Darkness
is an utterly deft and competent production—no castoff, disposable item, but rather a thrilling blend of gothic and mystery, like Daphne du Maurier meets Cornell Woolrich. (We can imagine Walton’s counterfactual career as having a second track to it, akin to the CV of Patricia Highsmith.) Add in a soupçon of Thomas Burnett Swann’s fascination with the eerie lost ambiance of the classical Mediterranean, and you have a very enjoyable read. I will try to convey something of its ambiance without spoiling its plot.

The tale is narrated by Barbara Keyes, young and newly married to Richard Keyes, an archaeologist working in Italy. The American couple is planning to base themselves at the Villa Carenni, outside Volterra. But upon their arrival, Richard and Barbara are beset by dastardly villainy. Add in the fact that the Villa Carenni is built atop ancient Etruscan ruins, including a lost temple dedicated to Mania, Queen of the Dead, and you’re almost in A. Merritt territory.

She Walks in Darkness
is very much a product of its time. Barbara’s voice is that of the devoted housewife who’s just recently been tipped to the existence of Betty Friedan and is now considering the merits of Ms. Friedan’s thesis. Bright, lively, smart, Barbara is nonetheless a bit timid, prone to succumbing to male dominance. As for knowing her own libido—well, let’s just say she knows it better after this little adventure, especially the time spent in the arms of handsome local lad Floriano, who manifests at the Villa at a crucial moment and proves central to the mystery. Still, despite some dithering and indecision, Barbara does take vigorous action at several crucial moments and lifts off the page in breathing verisimilitude. Her husband’s loving appreciation of her solidifies our own estimation of her worth. And Walton captures her voice
unerringly. The first-person narration is always assured in its telling, even when Barbara teeters on the edge of panic. Given the nascent second-wave feminism of the early 1960s, with all its uncertain feints and pulse-takings and embryonic dialogues, Walton and Barbara stand out as on-the-tip harbingers of something big just down the pike.

The novel gets a bit expository at times, but such passages always constitute important and interesting backstory vividly recounted. The reader will greedily ingest engaging material about the Etruscans that will surely propel collateral investigations. And when the mood shifts to action sequences, they zip suspensefully along. No one can fault the long perfect set piece where Barbara is led to an obscene revelation in a manner that is positively Lovecraftian. In fact, at times this book reads like the best Roger Corman film never realized, with all these named actors used in their primes: Vincent Price as Count Carenni, Jack Nicholson as Floriano, John Agar as Richard Keyes, and Barbara Steele as Barbara. I can almost see this movie flickering on my parents’ B&W Sylvania set right now.

Players at the game of literary history enjoy indulging in counterfactual exercises, such as my speculations about how Evangeline Walton might have had a different, more successful, lucrative, and acclaimed career. But in the end, we are left with what actually happened. And in Walton’s case, the reality isn’t so bad after all: honest work appearing at longish intervals,
followed by a second efflorescence and a posthumous band of dedicated readers—Walton herself does not have to walk alone in the darkness ever again.

BOOK: She Walks in Darkness
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