Valerie by Jordan Park aka C.M. Kornbluth (Lion Books, 1953)

Jordan Park was one of the pen names of golden age SF writer C.M. Kornbluth, a New York member of the Futurians, who died at 34 of a heart attack and may have reached the ranks of Asimov, Silverberg, Pohl and Delany had he lived and continued. Many have compaered Barry Malzberg to him for the black humor of the future. Frederick Pohl would later finish some of his imcomplete manuscripts.

Valerie is a 30,000 word short novel with a misleading cover and cover copy, making it look contemporary. It is set in 1512 Scotland and deals with a witch cult and its leader, “The Black Man,” who seems to be Satan; the 12 witches in the coven dance and worship him in the woods on certain nights and they all have sex with him, for he is an entity of great stamina.

Valerie is a kitchen wench in a castle who once came from a family of wealth but now is poor and looked down upon. She tries to get a nobleman interested in marrying her but she is laughed at — why would such a man marry a lowly whore? She vows vengeance…her desire is noted by a woman who says her coven is 11 and needs one more woman, and the The Black Man will give her whatever she wants in the world if she worships and gives her body and soul to this fellow.

She does.

And a mysterious “inheritance” of an “uncle she never knew comes her way, castles and lands that were supposed to be absorbed by the Catholic Church, setting off suspicion by a Bishop and an inquiry into witchcraft…

While not as compelling as his SF, Kornbluth was a solid storyteller and this little tale was a fun read, and shows that Kornbluth knew a lot about history of the time and the beginings of the Inquisoition.

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