The Collected Jorkens. Volume One . By Lord Dunsany. Edited by S. T. Joshi.
Night Shade Books. ISBN 1-892389-56-8. $35.

Reviewed by Henry Wessells

A brief taxonomy of the Club Story
O Best Beloved ! In the High and Far-Off Times, when people gathered and stories were told  . . .
The path from the Arabian Nights and the coffee houses of Cairo through “ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ” to the postprandial conversations of Edwardian clubmen and London yachtsmen is one that can be traced; by someone else. When I use the term “ club story ” I refer to a form in the literature of the English-speaking world that flourished from the late Victorian period to the middle of the twentieth century. These stories are incidents of story-telling, written works recording a narrative told  by another, generally at a small gathering. The Season of the club story is Edwardian autumn, rain and hideous palls of smog we can hardly imagine ; the setting is frequently but not exclusively indoors ; the narrators and audiences are almost invariably men (the Larger Question this raises is duly noted, to be considered below) ; there is, equally invariably, an element of the Exotic involved ; an important convention of the form is that paradox is involved — whether as part of the story or merely to prompt the story-teller's recollection and resolve. The club story is, finally, a particular species of the frame story : what is crucial is the central idea, the tale within the tale.
The club story attained its apotheosis early : Conrad’s “ Heart of Darkness ” (1899) and Lord Jim  (1900), tales of “ dark places of the earth ” and courage arising from cowardice, define and transcend the form. It quickly became a cornerstone of detective and thriller fiction : note In the Fog  by Richard Harding Davis (1904), The Man Who Knew Too Much  by G. K. Chesterton (1922), and The Runagates Club  by John Buchan (1928). P. G. Wodehouse’s stories of Mr. Mulliner and the Angler’s Rest or the Oldest Member’s golfing memories are humorous manifestations of the same form. Buchan includes tales with fantastical and supernatural elements, and there is a long line of club stories in science fiction. These are, however, chiefly successors to the tradition, set in bars and pubs : Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp’s Tales from Gavagan's Bar  (1953); Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart  (1957), and Spider Robinson’s Callahan stories. Sterling Lanier’s two volumes of Brigadier Ffellowes stories (1972 & 1986) are late but entirely in the voice and style of the club story.

Dunsany and the Club Story
The signal omission from the preceding overview of the club story is Lord Dunsany, a contemporary of Buchan w