If you've ever been a fan of horror or fantasy writing, then you may have run across the works of one Karl Edward Wagner. A devotee of the original pulp writers of the '20s and '30s -- particularly Robert E. Howard -- the late Knoxvillian specialized in a very dark, gothic fantasy writing. He's probably best known for his series of stories about Kane, a more intellectual (and cursed) version of Conan's pre-historical anti-hero.
Keeping his memory and his works alive has been a cultish following of fans--in particular, his longtime friend John Mayer here in Knoxville. (I hope you've been following our weekly reprint of John's hard-boiled detective caper, Knoxville Confidential.) And next month, John is holding a meeting of the Wagner faithful to plan out a Karl Wagner Festival in Knoxville.
It will be Sat. Oct. 17, 7 p.m., at Patrick Sullivan's Saloon in the Old City.
"This actually began with the offer of an Australian editor, Ben Szumskyj, to start a subscription to fund a monument to Karl in his home town, an offer that city officials met with a cavernous yawn," says John. "Originally I had no idea where such a thing might go, but, after a gent from Abingdon who, apparently, had been here suggested Sullivan's I began to see the logic of concentrating the focus there. After all, that used to be a row of second-hand shops where Karl acquired many of the old pulps and paperbacks that helped inspire the direction his writing took."
It would be a great thing for Knoxville to finally recognize one its most revered writers. Maybe the fact that he was a genre writer has contributed to his lack of local recognition? Well, the fact that it took a huge amount of effort to finally establish James Agee Park is one clue that Knoxville still doesn't have much reverence for its authors, no matter how auspicious.