With a few exceptions I think we’ve lived beyond the time when a single name could spawn an industry. I used to watch re-runs (itself an arcane concept) of The Twilight Zone when I was a kid. These weird stories drew me in, and, it seems clear, not only me. Rod Serling’s brainchild led to an industry and “twilight zone” became a household concept. Lots of little books were written bearing Serling’s name in some way. One of those paperbacks was Rod Serling’s Triple W: Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves. I can’t remember where I picked it up, but it was a used book and it had Rod Serling’s name right there on the cover. Going over my books to find unread gems, I picked up Triple W and sat down to find out what it was like.
None of the stories are by Serling himself. He’s listed as the editor and he wrote a very nice little introduction. The tales here reflect, as the subtitle indicates, witches, warlocks, and werewolves. Some are old stories and some are fairly recent for a book published early in the 1960s. Descriptive writing does tend to evoke a scene, but I’m often amazed at just how dated it can make a story seem. What struck writers from the 1940s and ’50s as huge sums of money are likely less than we pay for our monthly internet bill. Men all try to act tough and the ladies prepare dinner. Stereotypes. That’s somehow appropriate for this collection since most of the stories have to do with witches. Serling was well aware of the tragedies of history, and these tales are told mostly for fun. The scariest characters are the witch hunters (generally men).
Serling’s famed conscience shows in the choice of the final piece. Not a story, not even fiction, Charles Mackay’s “Witch Trials and the Law” is an essay about the horrors of witch hunting. It’s a rather sober piece with which to end a book of speculative fiction, but then Serling was always known for his impatience with injustice. Also included is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” which I’ve been wanting to read for some time. Given his shame at the Salem trials and his own ancestor’s part in them, it was mildly surprising that Hawthorne’s story seems to presuppose the reality of witches. Of course, it condemns the respectable folk who, in reality, all participate in the ills of the society in which they find themselves. In all, this collection made me think. Not bad for an impulse purchase on what was probably a rainy afternoon.