William Sloane wrote only two novels, but they were both doozies. The first, "To Walk the Night" (1937), is a combination sci-fi/horror/fantasy/mystery tale concerning a mysterious, otherworldly woman. Two years later, Mr. Sloane came out with "The Edge of Running Water," and this one, I feel, is even better. It concerns an electrophysicist, Dr. Julian Blair, who is attempting to construct an apparatus that will enable him to communicate with his dead wife. The book takes place on a promontory on the Kennebec River in a lonely part of Maine (hence, I suppose, the title). Like the first book, this one is beautifully written, with a few sharply drawn characters, great pacing and suspense, and a tremendous windup. Given the fantastic nature of the central premise, it may come as a surprise how realistic and believable the presentation is. The story is told by Richard Sayles, an ex-student of Dr. Blair's, who has come to visit the professor and assist him in his work. The gradually unfolding horror is seen through his eyes, and he makes for a very creditable eyewitness of the amazing events.
I really can't say enough about this terrific novel. It seems to have everything: an intriguing murder mystery; a great and well-described setting; appealing and interesting characters; suspenseful action; and a unique premise. In the book's terrific conclusion, all the characters get exactly what they deserve. It is an extremely satisfying denouement. Sloane, as I mentioned, writes wonderfully. What a pity that he only produced these two great books. There are so many passages that one will want to read over. For example, this one, in which Dr. Sayles reflects on his love for Blair's deceased wife: "A love that is true to living persons and existing realities is steadfast and fine. But I saw then, for the first time, that a love which has fastened upon the dead and true to nothing but a past that was finished, is not a good nor true emotion. If it went on too long, it could become an incubus, throttling a man from the real life of the present, which is the life that we were fashioned to meet and experience." This book, despite the horror theme and eerie developments, is nonetheless a quite literate experience. It was, incidentally, made into a Boris Karloff movie in 1941 called "The Devil Commands." I have not seen the film, but, despite its good reputation, I don't see how it could hope to compare to this fine novel. I would advise all Amazon.com readers to seek it out as a unique experience.