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Harry Stephen Keeler
by George Alex Windish

I have a friend in Texas who tells me that I write "weird" stuff. I took it with a smile for a while, then I told her about Harry Stephen Keeler.

Keeler was a sort of "Weird Al" of fiction. Born in 1890, and an electrical engineer by trade, he was the inventor of the "webwork" novel. An avid collector of newspaper clippings, when the time came to write a new novel he would grab several of these at random and weave them together into a (for him) coherent plot. These novels made little rhyme or reason. So much so, that his early fans stopped buying his books and he was dropped by his American and English publishers. In fact, his last book was translated directly into Spanish and Portuguese.

Another favorite device of Keeler's was to recycle his old short stories by making them "chapters" in a novel, then writing a sequence that would connect them.

Eventually, his short story backlog ran out, and his books took a even stranger turn. They became L-O-N-G.

Perhaps his crowning achievement was a 135,000 word novel written in the first person whose narrator chases an escaped lunatic who just happens to be a millionaire. The narrator uses a variety of disguises and personalities, but, in the end, turns out to be the lunatic, himself.

Harry Stephen Keeler died in 1967.

Maybe my short stories aren't so weird after all.

George Alex Windish has been writing for many years, and has become a better typist, if nothing else. He has placed nearly a dozen short stories of horror and science fiction, has had a weekly column in a local Baltimore newspaper, and has written for and edited COUNTRY LINE, a small Pennsylvania magazine. He has also done ad copy and correspondence for businesses.  He has long been a fan of genre literature and truly tacky movies, as well as being a collector of vintage records.  Contact him at GeorgeWindish@aol.com

 

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