Robert W. Chambers' "The King in Yellow"

Robert W. Chambers' "The King in Yellow" (Fall River Press, 2014 ed.) is a classic of the "weird fiction" genre that, thanks to a red-herring subplot in HBO's "True Detective", has recently seen renewed attention.

Chambers' short stories span an array of settings and periods, ranging from a futuristic NYC (as imagined in 1895) to a medieval French manor. What links them all is a diffuse sense of menace that is improbably heightened by Chambers' precise, almost clinical, prose. And his unsettling tales themselves focus an odd sort of warped - and crazily accurate - lens on life in COVID-time.

As my imagination tried to construct an image of his fictional "Lethal Chamber" (which the book's opening story situates just south of NYC's Washington Square), my mind's eye recalled recent news reports to pencil in an additional disturbing detail: a long line of refrigerated morgue trucks waiting out back. It's easy to see why Chambers has so well withstood the test of time - as an author AND a visionary. - S.M.

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