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The Boss in the Wall, A Treatise on the House Devil
A Short Novel by Avram Davidson and Grania Davis
With introductions by Peter S. Beagle and Michael Swanwick
122 pages (paperback)
1459 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
URL: http://www.tachyonpubl ications.com
Set in a milieu of small-town colleges and big-time scholarly egos,
Boss in the Wall, A Treatise on the House Devil is a brief and unsettling
novel that unleashes a previously unreported terror into the horror genre.
Ed Bagnell of Sumner Public College makes an unusual request of the curator
of the collections of the Carolina Coast Museum: to see the "Paper-Man"
or "Rustler." He is taken to see some mummified remains in filthy clothes;
fragments of Horace Greeley's "special election supplement of the New
York Herald of November whatever-it-was, 1864." Not surprisingly, this
item is locked away from ordinary visitors, and Bagnell must say a shibboleth
to convince the curator of his bona fides: "Boss in the Wall." The head
of this particular relic is preserved elsewhere -- in the General Museum
of the Province of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Just a few
pages later, his friend Vlad Smith (of Bewdley College) has encountered
a Paper-Man with tragic consequences.
The "Paper-Man" is a monster that lurks in the walls or wallpaper of those older houses one finds at the fringes of almost any town (I have even located several likely sites within the sedate, suburban and orderly confines of Montclair). In outward form, the Boss in the Wall resembles desiccated wreck of a human being, "horribly bony and filthy," a bum with newspapers stuffed into his ragged clothes.
As Vlad Smith seeks to solve the mystery of what killed his wife's uncle and rendered his young daughter mute with shock, he encounters a varied cast of eccentrics. He also uncovers the paper trail of the unexplained phenomenon in odd pamphlets -- The Treatise on the House Devil, stray articles with such titles as "A True Account Prepared from the Original Testimony of the Capture and Death of a Paper-Man on the Lands and Domains of Jim Oglethorpe . . ." and cranky letters to amateur historical society newsletters. Smith comes across evidence of a conspiracy of scholars to keep this information from the light of day, and survives his own encounter with a Paper-Man. Ed Bagnell is meanwhile pursuing his efforts to identify the Carolina Coast Museum's Paper-Man, with th