The Devilish World of John Sinclair


Note: Some of you probably know that I have been studying German.  (a rather wise thing to do if one is living in Germany)    I wanted  to chronicle the books I was reading during this linguistic journey,  but since such posts would be somewhat OT for this blog, I resorted to making The German Book  List Page, that my friends and readers could click on if they desired.  Well, now it’s nearly June, and that page has become rather long with all the updates and comments.  So rather than have those interested wade through that bog, I decided it made more sense just to write normal posts.

My adventures in Deutsch began with Agatha Christie.    After learning terms for all things related to murder, death, suicide, poisonings, stabbings, and confessions, I segued into various authors ranging from Charles de Lint to Steinbeck.

For all the different genres I read- the authors had one thing in common:  their native language was English.

Being familiar with their work had been a great starting point.   At least I knew what the gist of the story entailed.  But this April, I decided it was time to discover all the native German language authors that I’d been missing out on.

Having decided to hold off on the luminous, classic German authors until I could more fully appreciate the beauty and power of their prose,  I began my venture with the popular horror pulps.

Thus, for two months I have been curled up, devouring the devilish world of John Sinclair.

Who?  Most of my fellow Americans are probably asking right now.

Ah, John Sinclair is the main protagonist (a Scotland Yard inspector of supernatural crimes) in a series of  best- selling novellas by Jason Dark.  The series which began in 1973 and continues to this day, are slightly creepy but without gore, and may be likened to the 19th century penny dreadful.   To date,   Mr. Dark has penned nearly 2,000 of these gruselromane featuring witches, vampires, demons, and werewolves.

Mr. Dark (pseudonym of Helmut Rellergerd)  writes three to four novellas per month on an old-fashioned manual typewriter, and has been quoted as saying as soon as he finishes one, he sticks in another sheet of paper and begins the next.

Needless to say, the stories contain little literary merit.   Oftentimes, they are even unintentionally hilarious, sprinkled with such lovelies as:  “Du verdammte Hexe wirst sterben.  Ich werde dich zu Tode quälen.”   (“You damn witch will die.  I will torture you to death.”) .  Lady Laduga war auch fast eine Katze.  Manchmal sanft, dann wieder leidenschaftlich, zügellos.  (Lady Laduga was also almost like a cat.  Sometimes soft, then again passionate, unbridled. )  Not to mention a penchant for exclamation points:  Ein Totenhemd! (a burial tomb!),  Er wandte den Kopf…und sah in das Gesicht seiner ersten Frau!  (He turned the head… and saw the face of his first wife!)

So what is Mr. Dark’s secret for such successful longevity?  Simple.   There’s no pretense.  There is a sense that the author is winking at his readers,  and that  he,  himself, accepts the stories for what they are:  a quick, easy, enjoyable read.  

*excerpts from, Das Leichenhaus der Lady L ( The Mortuary of Lady L)


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21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m glad you decided to post about your adventures in German literature here. I don’t always remember to check the other page.

    And wow, that’s some bad stuff 🙂 Puts me in mind of some of the old gothic novels, the kind of stuff Catherine Morland would read in “Northanger Abbey.” But eh, sometimes that’s exactly what you need: something light that doesn’t overtax the brain. I wonder why he chose such an Anglo-sounding pen name?

  2. Heya DD!

    Glad to hear that I made the right decision to post this here rather than on the other page. 🙂

    You’d have to read a full story to get the full extent of JUST HOW wonderfully bad they are! But then, that’s part of their charm. They’re like the book equivalent of, “bad movies you love”.

    And I would recommend them to people studying German. After some of the much heavier text I’d been reading, this gave my brain a rest, yet I was still learning new vocabulary and such. So I can see myself returning to them from time to time.

    As for his name, this is from Wiki: “The name of “Jason Dark” has humorous origins: Rellergerd’s wife had a particular dislike for the fictitious English private investigator, Jason King, of the TV series of that name, and as a slightly malicious joke, Rellergerd decided to give his central character precisely the name of “Jason”. The surname, “Dark”, suggested itself quite naturally, as his hero constantly does battle against dark forces.”

    Also, a lot of the German horror pulps that started at that time featured characters that were supposed to be English. Evidently, they considered Scotland Yard to be cool and all that.

  3. Sounds like Herr Rellergerd has quite the sense of humor 😉

  4. Wish we could all write without such pretensions. Just letting go of the literary baggage and diving right into the kitsch.

    It kind of reminds me of those old “choose-your-adventure” books I read when I was a kid, at least the front cover does.

  5. There is so much to discover in Literature in any language

  6. Hey Ralfast,

    Yes. I think while people study the craft of writing, it can be easy to forget to have fun at the same time.

    And I loved those “choose-your-own adventure” books. 🙂

  7. Hey Chazz,

    So true! That’s one of the great parts about learning a foreign language. Discovering all these things that were once closed to you.

  8. German would have some good literature too.

  9. Goethe, Schiller, Kafka, Hesse, and Grass to name only a few. 🙂

  10. that is a few

  11. Ooh, these stories sound cool and creepy!!

  12. Hi Pink!

    Nice to see you over here. 🙂

    They have been translated into many languages. If I remember correctly, they are sold in England, but not the US. But they’d be easy enough to order online if one was interested.

  13. Oh, I love penny dreadfuls! I would love these. Especially the unbridled cat. Mwahahaha!

  14. Hooray for easy reads. Sometimes you need something breezy!

  15. “Lady Laduga was also almost like a cat. Sometimes soft, then again passionate, unbridled.”

    A passionate… cat? So she yowled and attracted all the toms in the neighborhood? And I think the last time I read the word “unbridled” was in a bodice-ripper.

    Thanks for the entertainment! 🙂

  16. Hi Margauerite,

    You might want to check online to see where you could order the English language versions.

  17. Hey Colby,

    Very true!

  18. You’re very welcome, Marian! 😉

  19. Ooh, I’m looking for the English versions right now. This is exactly my cup o’ tea!

  20. I can’t even tell you how much I admire how much you’ve been reading in German!!! 🙂 Can’t wait to hear stories about how these penny-dreadfuls impact your everyday conversation 🙂 🙂 🙂

  21. Heya Sputsie,

    heh heh. Here I am reading tons- and my vocabulary is greatly increasing about such things as murder, methods of murder, vamps, werewolves and the like.

    There has to be some way to include this knowledge into everyday German conversation… 😉

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