at the opposite end of the spectrum: bar(/pub/club) tales

The ones I have seem to be largely science fiction and fantasy, because that’s what I’m more interested in; now I wonder…there must be mystery and mainstream bar tales.

1) Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens tales: This is properly a collection of club tales, as Jorkens tells his tales to other club goers in London. Jorkens’ tales are in essence unprovable, as he’s the only one available to recount them; as with many of Dunsany’s stories, they’re often fantastic literature–one is about a club in the afterlife for Great Poets–but some could be tall tales based in reality. I had only heard of these for years as they were long out of print; thankfully for fans, they’ve been reissued in three volumes by Nightshade press (though I suggest acting fast. who knows how long they’ll remain in print?)

2) P.G. Wodehouse’s Mr. Mulliner stories: Like the Jeeves and Wooster stories, these are lightweight amusing tales but the framing story is set in a pub in England, the Angler’s Rest, where Mr. Mulliner regales the other customers with many tales of his innumerable relatives, always getting in and out of scrapes. Not much drinking goes on in these stories, though most of the characters are known by their favorite libation rather than by their actual names.

3) Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart: Set in a literary pub in London, this short collection is, not surprisingly given the author, largely science fiction stories: a computer which plays the Ultimate Melody, a recorder which can capture sensory experience, and so on. Unlike Clarke’s other works, though typical of the other collections, this is lighthearted in tone.

4) L. Sprague de Camp/Fletcher Pratt’s Tales from Gavagan’s Bar: A collaboration written largely in the ’50s, this one is set in a bar somewhere in the northeastern portion of the United States (I’ve always thought Boston or New York, but the authors don’t specify). Many of the stories are based on folklore and supernatural events: in one, the bar is infested with a very real pink elephant the size of a bat, in another, a public speaker is pursued by zombie groupies, and in another, a woman’s husband is a were-daschund. The drinking’s a bit stiffer in this one–there are several stories describing what happens to characters who get tipsy (usually nothing like what usually happens!) and one which centers on a contest in which two regulars attempt to drink each other under the bar.

5) Spider Robinson’s Callahan stories: this one does have a much more specific location–Suffolk County in/on Long Island, New York, though (alas!) Callahan’s is as fictitious as the rest. Robinson’s stories are more science fiction than fantasy, closer in this regard to Clarke’s White Hart stories, though they concentrate on other tropes in the genre, such as aliens, time travel and telepathy. Again, more actual drinking in these than goes on in the three English collections, though not so much as in/at Gavagan’s Bar.

6) Larry Niven’s The Draco Tavern: Larry Niven’s been writing stories about the Draco Tavern for years, but in 2006 he published a collection of same. As with Clarke’s stories, these tend toward hard science fiction rather than fantasy/folklore, starting with the aliens who patronize the bar, and continuing with the stories they tell. As with many “vertical tasting” collections (same author, stories written over a span of years), the stories’ style and tone changes noticeably and their plots vary as well; hopefully, there will be something for all Niven fans, though.

7) (for good measure) George Scithers’ Tales from the Spaceport Bar: If Tales from the Draco Tavern is a vertical tasting of bar stories, this can only be described as a “horizontal tasting”; although the stories themselves were written over a longer span than Niven’s stories, the different authors’ varying styles are a stronger factor than the stories’ dates. Overall, the collection is amusing–I wonder if anyone has written a wholeheartedly serious collection of bar tales?–although there are some more thought provoking stories.

I can’t really end this with a typical readers’ advisory comment–if you liked this book, try these others–as the entry carries it’s own “for further reading” suggestions. All these authors have written other works which are, with the possible exception of Lord Dunsany, similar in style and tone to the works here, though not necessarily in content.


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