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Who Fears The Devil? (Silver John)

4.41  ·  Rating Details ·  302 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
There's a traveling man the Carolina mountain folk call Silver John for the silver strings strung on his guitar. In his wanderings, John encounters a parade of benighted forest creatures, mountain spirits, and shapeless horrors from the void of history with only his enduring spirit, playful wit, and the magic of his guitar to preserve him. Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John ...more
Published May 1st 1975 by Star Books (first published 1963)
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Bill  Kerwin

In this innovative and unique cycle, Manly Wade Wellman became the first writer to use the legends and lore of the Appalachians to craft a body of weird tales. Wellman--already established as a successful author of genre fiction--traveled to North Carolina to teach writing at Chapel Hill, and fell in love with the music and culture of the Smokies. He bought himself a mountain cabin, and soon began to write stories about John the Balladeer--itinerant musician and collector of songs--who wars agai

***10 Mostly Important Facts about Who Fears the Devil***

1. Manly Wade Wellman is the greatest wrestler author name I have ever read.

2. Who Fears the Devils includes all 30 short stories and vignettes featuring Wellman’s most enduring character, Silver John.

3. All of the stories take place in the portion of the Appalachian Mountains in or around North Carolina and are set during the late 1950’s (though no exact date is ever given).

4. Silver John is a traveling singer who carries a guitar wit
Dan Schwent
Silver John travels the Appalachian mountains, encountering all manner of strangness, with only his silver-stringed guitar for a companion...

I have a confession to make: I think 95% of fantasy stories are derivative and unoriginal. This collection is neither. Who Fears the Devil is the complete collection of Silver John short stories, 30 in number, ranging for three or four paragraphs to fifteen pages. Silver John is a wandering balladeer, modeled after a young Johnny Cash, who wanders from one
Dirk Grobbelaar

The devil's afraid of music.

What a magnificent collection! What we have here is a curious marriage of folk and fairy tale, interspersed with local American mythology, the occult and religious parable. What’s more: Manly Wade Wellman’s lively language and colourful descriptions make it hard not to like his writing.

On the top rock of them stood something against the choking blackness.
It stood up the height of a man, that thing, but you couldn't make sure of its shape. Because it was strung and swa
Jul 14, 2011 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Within the a few sentences of the first Silver John story, I knew that I was in good hands. The dialog, the brief, yet rich description, the atmosphere created by this prose--everything that Wellman puts into these stories is excellent, and collectively his efforts amount to the kind of craft that I have come across only rarely in literature, whether genre or otherwise. Even if his other work does not stand alongside the Silver John stories--and from all account, it does so--I associate Wellman ...more
The complete tales of Silver John, by Manly Wade Wellman. These are all well-crafted, unique and eccentric fantasy/horror tales about a wandering traveler named John (apparently based on a young Johnny Cash) who carries around a silver-stringed guitar and stumbles into bizarre encounters with creatures and legends of American Southern folklore. Wellman himself was rather unique amongst genre writers, having been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He also beat out William Faulkner for a Mystery priz ...more
Nov 26, 2010 X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really grew to like Silver John, our hero, over the course of the book. It is a collection of short stories that are not really connected, but that occasionally reference earlier events. Rather than just being supernatural pulp fiction, they are also a glimpse of Appalachian culture written by someone who held this culture in high esteem. There are still plenty of monsters and witchcraft, and I especially liked how music had such a prominent place in all of the stories.
Aug 27, 2011 Marvin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
I used to have the entire collection of Manly Wade Wellman's short stories and novels about Silver John, a traveling folk minstrel that knew more than his fair share about battling evil magic and monsters. It was one of my great moving van tragedy that I lost these in a move from Bullhead City to Blythe. That move was in itself a folk tale of heroic proportions, but I digress. I do not know why these stories are not better known for Wellman manages to encompass everything memorable about America ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a stinker in the bunch. Wellman explores Appalachian myth and mythical reality with real love and honesty. There is a thrilling ernestness to these stories that is very endearing even when the plot is a little bit silly.
Kevin Lucia
Aug 10, 2011 Kevin Lucia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous. Will have to look up more of Silver John. Wonderful, spiritual renditions of mountain folklore. Silver John = Odd Thomas as a guitar-playing mountain man...
Aug 23, 2010 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read something about Manly Wade Wellman and the Silver John stories and really wanted to check them out. They are about a wanderer of the Appalachian South who battles an array of folklore-ish evils via songs and his silver-strung guitar. It sounded right up my alley.

Well, I'm glad to have read the stories, but I wasn't really blown away. They are awfully simple, especially by the standards of the 1960s when most of them were written. I've read lots of fantasy and horror short stories in my da
Mar 02, 2013 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Manly Wade Wellman should be celebrated as a national treasure for these stories steeped in American folklore. Why reread and regurgitate the same European legends over and over when we have such great lore from our own backyard? I am not surprised he beat William Faulkner in a short story contest. I kept expecting the stories to run out of creative gas, but every time they came to life, even when their destination is basically the same. (The 197 pages is misleading. It would be at least 300 pag ...more
Who Fears the Devil is an excellent collection of uncanny fantasy stories by Manly Wade Wellman, following the adventures of John, a wandering balladeer with a silver-stringed guitar, through the folklorish, spirit-haunted mountains of Appalachia. The stories have an authentic southern voice and are eerie and unforgettable, a sort of Woody Guthrie wanders through sorcerers and hedgewitches with a little bit of H. P. Lovecraft mixed in.
Keith Davis
Nov 29, 2009 Keith Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of stories featuring Silver John who travels the Appalachian Mountains fighting supernatural evil with his silver stringed guitar. A prime example of the fantasy genre escaping from its Medieval European straitjacket. Also, "Who Fears the Devil?" has got to be one of the greatest titles ever.
Jun 21, 2009 Charles rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Intersting stories, with a very interesting character. They are relatively subtle tales, without anything graphic. Good but I didn't like them as much as some folks seem to have.
John Marcinko
Jan 10, 2017 John Marcinko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Mountain Mythology

I first encountered this book in 1963 when I was a young man and an embryonic writer and read of John's rambles in the southern Appalachians. It rang true then, rings true now. These are tales that true, and, to me, captivating and utterly charming.
Riju Ganguly
Aug 06, 2011 Riju Ganguly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This slim volume of 197 pages contains treasures that exceed those offered by many of the recent door-stoppers that are being dished us “epic”-proportioned fantasies. The name of Manly Wade Wellman, as well as that of his creation: John the Balladeer, more commonly known as Silver John, needs no introduction to lovers of good stories. My review is aimed at praising Paizo books for doing these very story-lovers (old & new) a terrific service by offering the ‘Silver John’ stories in a truly af ...more
Jun 19, 2016 H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage-sf
Who Fears the Devil? is a wonderful collection of short stories by Wellman about “John,” known elsewhere but not in the stories as “Silver John” and “John the Balladeer.” The stories owe much to Appalachian folklore, people, and the place itself, Wellman’s setting. Wellman nails the voice of the region like only Ron Rash seemingly can. He doesn’t inexplicably pepper his dialogue with extraneous apostrophes. Nor does he condescend or reinvent the region’s people to reflect outsider stereotypes. T ...more
Trenton Hayes
Nov 03, 2013 Trenton Hayes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this collection of stories. The are simple gems; short sketches of good and evil, nestled in space in the North Carolina mountains and set in time in the middle decades of the last century. They are suffused with folklore and the hoodoo man and the humble Christian protagonist, John, square off again and again.

What really makes these stories sing is the voice. Wellman has a perfect ear for the dialog of the mountains, and the characters ring true, simplistic caricatures though they may be
Steve Johnson
Aug 03, 2011 Steve Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Me, Leighton, Carter, and the rest of the crew thought we were being at least somewhat original with the whole American Artifacts line of QAGS supplements, which mix American history, music, and magic. Turns out Wellman was doing the same kind of thing in the 50s. This book collects all the short stories of Silver John (a character possibly based on Johnny Cash), a musician who travels Appalachia fighting witches, haints, and other fearsome critters with his silver-strung guitar. As I said in my ...more
Deborah Replogle
The complete tales of Silver John. This is a compilation of stories that I read in a variety of scifi magazines while I was growing up. It was wonderful to find them now all in one book by Planet Stories. These stories are told by a man named John, or Silver John, who wanders the Appalachian Mountains with his silver stringed guitar. They are filled with folklore and old folk songs, and are tales of supernatural beings who live in the mountains, and other scary haunts. They are not quite like an ...more
Sep 19, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bathroom-buddy
super awesome. Manly Wade Wellman's first collection of stories about John, a wanderer in Appalachia with a silver-stringed guitar who sings songs and collects stories and generally manages to save teh day against all manner of supernatural and spooky beings. all the stories were great except one goofy jesus story. not sure how i managed to not read any Wellman up to this point. Going to read the first Silver John novel very soon.
I've been looking for the works of Manly Wade Wellman for a while now . . . . it seems his novels are all out of print, but some of his short stories are available in this neat collection from Paizo. Great stuff based on Appalachian folklore, and some of it not too dissimilar to some of the back-country folklore of the New England whence I hail . . . Anyway, great reading for fans of Gygax's famous "Appendix N" . . .
Aug 16, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Wellman's Appalachian fantasies still hold up, some after more than 50 years. In John, he has created an American folk hero in the vein of a Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, but melded him with the weird fantasies of the great pulp writers like Lovecraft or Howard, delivering it all in a distinctively regional voice. I can't think of anything quite like these stories (and I'm sure if I ever find any, they'll just be homages to Wellman).
Dominick J. Lo Conte
More than worth it...

As far eIther know, Mr. Wellman's stories are not available, except for expensive hard-bound collector's editions. And those are out of print. This relatively inexpensive collection of his signature "Silver John" stories are great entry point to his work. A thoroughly enjoyable book.
I'm going to finish reading this book another time. It has a nice folkloric feel to it, but some of the stories are very short and didn't compel me to keep going. To be fair, though, not too much has kept my attention lately.

Of what I've read I'd say my favorite was Walk Like a Mountain, which oddly enough wasn't one of the 'scary' ones.
Jun 13, 2011 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wellman is well worth exploring. He's like a combination of Alvin Schwartz and Alan Lomax. His stories, with their folksy writing style, are like a cross between tall tales and Southern Gothic, with liberal sprinklings of folk magic. But how many heroes who have taken on witches, wizards and monsters have used folk songs and a silver-stringed guitar as their weapon of choice?
May 17, 2012 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, americana
A delightful collection of short stories, all but the last two featuring Silver John the wandering guitar player with his guitar strung with silver strings. A wonderful and weird trip into the legends and mysteries of the American hill country. Well worth reading if tales of American folk magic and legends are of interest to you.
John Fiala
Oct 08, 2011 John Fiala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The compete collection of the Silver John short stories by Manly Wade Wellman, Who Fears the Devil is a fantastic presentation of classic stories based on the music and folklore of the Appalachians. There's no reason not to read these great stories, and at this price almost no reason not to own them as well.
Jul 16, 2011 Debra marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Stephen King recommended author. In 1981's Danse Macabre, King dedicated his book as follows: "It's easy enough - perhaps too easy - to memorialize the dead. This book is for the six great writers of the macabre who are still alive." The six listed were Robert Bloch, Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, Frank Belnap Long, Donald Wandrei, Manly Wade Wellman.
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Other Books in the Series

Silver John (5 books)
  • The Old Gods Waken (Silver John, #1)
  • After Dark (Silver John, #2)
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“I swear I’m licked before I start, trying to tell you all what Mr. Onselm looked like. Words give out — for instance, you’re frozen to death for fit words to tell the favor of the girl you love. And Mr. Onselm and I pure poison hated each other. That’s how love and hate are alike.” 3 likes
“Where I’ve been is places, and what I’ve seen is things, and there’ve been times I’ve run off from seeing them, off to other places and things. I keep moving, me and this guitar with the silver strings slung behind my shoulder. Sometimes I’ve got food with me, and an extra shirt maybe, but most times just the guitar, and trust to God for what I need else.” 2 likes
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