Wilson & Alroy on High Fantasy Novels  

Hannes Bok

A very widely known illustrator of science fiction magazine covers, primarily during the 40s and 50s - think Weird Tales. Bok's literary output was small. His novel Beyond The Golden Stair was published posthumously in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1970. In 1946 he completed A. Merritt's novella "The Fox Woman" and published it along with one of his own, "The Blue Pagoda." The former became the nucleus of 1949's The Fox Woman & Other Stories, which included some stories finished by Bok. In 1947 he completed an unfinished novel of Merritt's called The Black Wheel. "Hannes Bok" is a pseudonym that plays on Johann Sebastian Bach; his real name was Wayne Woodard.

The Sorcerer's Ship (1942)
Back in the good old days, an illustrator could switch genres and write his own pulp fiction fantasy novel. And back in the good old days, you could publish a book with thin characterization, an implausible plot, and grade-school English and not only get away with it, but get your book republished in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series as if you were some kind of legendary, lost literary figure. At least Bok knew how to tell an entertaining story. The plotline might be routine, but it is fun, and quickly, efficiently told: an average Joe New Yorker is transported to a watery swords and sorcery world, wins the princess, explores a weird abandoned city, survives some clumsy palace scheming and a couple of battles, and hooks up with a goofy, kind-hearted alien creature of a sorcerer who saves the day. Bok relies on a literal deus ex machina to tie things up, but the way he does it is interestingly weird, and the democratic socialist politics that seem to come out of nowhere at the very end make the book an interesting relic - most fantasy espouses a macho right-wing philosophy if it takes sides at all. Harmless and shallow stuff, but amusingly idiosyncratic. (JA)