Hey all, in writing for Star Wars I noticed a tendency for authors to post unofficial endnotes to their blogs about recently published pieces – basically just some fun behind the scene facts about their stories, things reader might have missed. I did this for my own Star Wars writing (the main character, a shockboxer named Lobar Aybock, is a portmanteau of Rocky Balboa, for instance), and I thought it might be a nifty thing to do for my Merkabah Rider series. I’m a big fan of western history and genre fiction, and I always include nods to some of my own favorites.
So, here’s a rundown of some of the more obscure references in books one and two of the Merkabah Rider series, by book and story. Think of it as a kind of ‘DVD commentary.’
Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter –
The Blood Libel:
The town in which this story takes place, Delirium Tremens, is fictional (though I’m positive I read the name in a book on American ghost towns which I can’t seem to locate now). It appears in some of my other stories (The Blood Bay, appearing in The Midnight Diner, for instance, and my indie film, Meaner Than Hell).
The town sign the Rider enounters reads ‘Drucker and Dobbs Mining Company Welcomes You To Delirium Tremens.’
The name Dobbs is a reference to the avaricious gold prospecter played by Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of The Sierra Madre, one of my all time favorite movies.
The girl kidnapped by Hayim Cardin’s cult, the Reverend Shallbetter’s daughter, is Carrie Shallbetter, the same reverend’s daughter who shows some romantic interest in Jonas Famous, the protagonist of my short story The Blood Bay (Editor’s Choice for The Midnight Diner #3).
The Dust Devils:
Hector Scarchili, the leader of the bandits who take control of Polvo Arrido, is named after Claudio Scarchilli, a prolific spaghetti western actor (one of Tuco’s gang in Good The Bad and The Ugly). The hoodoo/Vodoun bokor Kelly Le Malfacteur is based on Kelly The Conjure-Man, the titular powerful hoodoo man from a story written by Robert E. Howard.
Hell’s Hired Gun: A little Biblical trivia in this one. The dybbukim (angry condemned souls) possessing Medgar Tooms identify themselves as Gestas, Lamech, Nahash, and Zuleika.
Gestas was the unrepentant thief crucified beside Jesus, who called for him to prove his godhood by saving himself and them. Traditionally, Gestas was also supposedly one of a band of robbers who attacked the Holy Family during their flight to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution. Dismas, the thief to the right of Christ, chided Gestas and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Christ subsequently promised to reward Dismas. Presumably, Gestas did not fare so well.
Lamech is one of the descendants of Cain, invariously described in Jewish folklore as a culture hero of blacksmiths and as the accidental killer of Cain and Tubal-Cain, his own son. He was the first polygamist, and according to some sources, was partially responsible for the Flood of Noah’s time.
Nahash is intended to be the soul of Nahash of Ammon, a cruel king who opposed the first Hebrew king, Saul. Nahash famously besieged Jabesh-Gilead, and offered the populace a choice between death or having their right eyes gouged out. Magnanimous guy.
Zuleika was the name of the wayward wife of Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s palace guard, who tempted Joseph during his servitude in Egypt.
The Nightjar Women: There’s a good deal of western history in this novella, which I give a lot of credit to Jim Cornelius of The Cimmerian for actually picking up on.
First off the character of Josephine ‘Sadie’ Marcus is the Josie that lawman Wyatt Earp met in Tombstone and ultimately married. She later wrote a book about her husband.
Her shiftless paramour, Johnny Behan, later became the underhanded sheriff of Cochise County who issued an arrest warrant for the Earps and Doc Holiday following the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.
Both of them are documented as having been in Tip Top, Arizona around the time I describe.
Tip Top, the setting of this story, is an actual Arizona ghost town, and I did my best to describe it much as it originally stood and partially still stands today. Many of the names mentioned in the story, like Alph Gersten and Constable Wager, were actual residents.
In volume two of the Merkabah Rider series, elements of the Lovecraftian mythos come to the forefront.
The Infernal Napoleon: This story is for the most part original, though the scenario of the desert tanks being blown up was inspired by the John Wayne movie 3 Godfathers, in which a lazy traveler dynamites a desert watering hole to hurry the seepage, killing himself and indirectly, a lot of other people in the process.
I always take the names of actual demons for the demons in the series, including the shedim (half-human-half-demons). These come from various sources, both Jewish and Western Estoteric (like the Lesser Key of Solomon, for instance).
Ketev Meriri, the cannon-demon comes from Jewish folklore, and is desribed as a scaly demon who rolls about and whose gaze is instant death. I just turned him into one of the original cannons created by Lucifer for the rebellion against heaven, as described in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The villainous Dr. Amos Sheardown’s name comes from an individual briefly mentioned in a newspaper article about Minnesota’s Dakota War of 1862. Following the suppression of the Sioux Indians by the Army, 38 Indians were publicly hung in Mankato, Minnesota – the largest mass execution in US history. Prior to being slung into a mass grave, a ‘Dr. Sheardown’ is said to have removed pieces of the prisoners’ skin and later sold it. These ‘artifacts’ were only recently returned to the Dakota tribe by the Mayo Clinic.
Among Sheardown’s papers the Rider finds a rejection letter written by a Dr. Allen Halsey, turning down his application to teach anatomy at a new medical school opening up in Massachussetts. Halsey is the dean of medical department at the infamous Miskatonic University, as mentioned in Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator.
The Damned Dingus: The title and concept of this story come from Ambrose Bierce’s similarly titled short story ‘The Damned Thing.’
Lots of western personalities make an appearance in this one. The setting is Las Vegas, New Mexico, a town I’ve always wanted to set a story in. Billy The Kid purportedly dined with Jesse James here. Not long after the Santa Fe and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroads hired a slew of famous gunfighters like Doc Holiday and Bat Masterson to fight a guerrilla war over the Royal Gorge route in Colorado, the railroad made its way to the east end of Las Vegas, New Mexico. A brand new settlement sprang up around the tracks, East Las Vegas. A lot of those hired gunmen found themselves deposited there.
The law in East Las Vegas became the Dodge City gang, a band of Kansas gun hands led by Hyman Neill, AKA Hoodoo Brown. Elected Justice of the Peace and Coroner, Hoodoo Brown saw to it that any killings performed in the line of duty by his questionable police force were always ruled as justified. His crew included such luminaries as Dirty Dave Rudabaugh (who later rode with Billy The Kid), and Mysterious Dave Mather (all of whom make an appearance here). Most of the named gangmembers in this story (Bullshit Jack, Slap Jack Bill, etc) are derived from public record.
That gunfighter Dave Mather and his brother Sy (descended from Cotton Mather) went to sea for a little less
than a year in 1868 is fact, but that they sailed on The Hetty is my own devising. The Hetty is of course Captain Obed Marsh’s brig mentioned in Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The drunk who tattooed the brothers’ arms with the Elder Sign was likely old Zadok Allen.
William Wallace Spates, the excitable professor working on a ‘catalog’ of supernatural entities, is a nod to Ghostbusters and Ray Stanz’s reference to ‘Spates’ Catalog.’
The Outlaw Gods – Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat of The Woods are from the Mythos of course. Red House is an actual location in Arizona.
The extra-dimensional angelic beings Chaksusa refers to as Shar-rogs Pa and Mun Gsod are Tibetan approximations of the names ‘Darkness Slayer’ and ‘East-helper.’ Put their names together with the color blue (as Shar-rogs Pa is said to be the blue abbot of Shambahla) and some readers will have an ‘inkling’ of who they are and what world they came to the Rider’s from.
All the references the shade of Don de Arriagua makes to Tiguex and Estavanicio and the like are from history.
The Pandaemonium Ride – Most of my descriptions of Sheol or hell are intertwined with Milton and Dante. The description of Pandaemonium itself comes from John Martin’s 1825 painting of the subject.
The number of gates of hell and their locations, as well as descriptions of the angel Pariel and the demons depicted in Pandaemonium’s hall of statuary are from Jewish folklore, most of them culled from Geoffrey Dennis’ ‘Jewish Myth Magic and Mysticsm,’ which has been an indispensible resource throughout my writing of the Merkabah Rider series.
One of the paintings on the wall of Lucifer’s den moves, much to the dismay of the Rider and Kabede. The scene depicted is of a trio of people walking around a garden, and Lucifer and Belphegor take credit for it, stating their intent to introduce the technology to the human race and speculating as to the less than savory future of moving pictures. This was all sparked by a conversation with a friend, about how Lucifer is said to be the light bearer, and would probably find it ironic to corrupt mankind using paintings of light.
This moving painting described is intended to be Roundhay Garden Scene, a two second short film running at twelve frames per second first recorded on paper film with a single lens camera by French inventor Louis LePrince in 1888 (making it the first real motion picture, predating Edison’s patent).
What attracted me to the use of this particular clip of film were the dark events which surrounded it and its creator, Louis LePrince.
Firstly, ten days after filming Roundhay Garden Scene, Sarah Robinson Whitley, one of the actresses, died. Being 72, this was perhaps not so interesting.
But two years after filming, director LePrince boarded a train bound for London to exhibit the film showcasing his technique….and never debarked, disappearing without a trace.
Later, when LePrince’s son Adolphe (the gentlman featured in the film) testified in a trial which challenged Edison’s claim of invention, he was shortly thereafter found dead of a gunshot wound.
The hand of Edison or Lucifer’s agents?
Hope this has been illuminating, and happy new year.
Look for the third book in The Merkabah Rider series, ‘Have Glyphs Will Travel’ sometime in the latter half of this year.