Conjure Wife (aka Burn,Witch, Burn) Fritz Leiber 1953
I have always been a great fan of horror and supernatural novels since I started reading them as a boy in the early fifties and over the years have amassed a large collection, mainly paperback copies and I am now replacing those available as e-books with Kindle Editions. This re-organisation has also given me the chance to revisit books that I have not read for a while and add some that I have missed.
I bought my original copy of this novel in the US in the early sixties as it was almost impossible to find anywhere in Europe under either of the titles under which it was released in the 50's and 60s. As will all Fritz Leiber novels this is highly readable and entertaining with a real sense of developing menace. Considered a classic witchcraft story with the premise the witch's covens and the practice of the art are a common 'secret society' open to all women and much more widespread than men could ever realise. It is certainly one of the best supernatural novels ever written even if a bit dated today.
The novel was made into the equally difficult to obtain 1962 movie entitled Night of the Eagle in the UK (Burn, Witch, Burn in the US) starring Peter Wyngarde and Janet Blair and later the flop remake Witches' Brew of 1980 the only redeeming feature of which was the performance of Lana Turner.
An absolute must for the horror collector.
on 5 April 1997
Where to start?
Both Conjure Wife and Our Lady of Darkness are masterpeices of supernatural fiction. Conjure Wife, written by Fritz Leiber in the 1940's, is both frightening and thought-provoking, it is also suprisingly up to date. The proposition that all women are witches and utterly control their husbands lives is followed through in a very personal narrative. Don't be put off by the film versions (particularly Night of The Eage, aka Burn Witch Burn), this is a complex story which has an eerie power akin to his famous story 'Smoke Ghost'.
Our Lady of Darkness, was written by Fritz Leiber in the late seventies and is one of his finest novels. Autobiographical (the location, the alcoholism and the loss of his wife are all based on fact) and thus very upsetting in parts. It weaves a magical vision of modern urban horror, a theme that he used throughout his career.
At the centre of the book lies horror fiction itself in the form of Lovecraft and particularly Clark Ashton Smith (both of whom Fritz corresponded with). A lot of the book is a voyage of discovery, the central character is recovering from an alcaholic wake and is slowly waking up into reality again.
This volume brings together Fritz Leibers finest supernatural novels, something not to be missed.
on 21 December 2013
Like everything else I've read by Fritz Leiber, Conjure Wife is difficult to fault. An excellent central idea, interesting, well-rounded, and sympathetic characters and a pleasure to read, the writing is lean and the length of the book perfectly judged. Highly recommended.