A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
(real name John William Wall)
(b.1910 d.1989)
Sarban was the pseudonym used by John William Wall, a diplomat for many years stationed in the Middle-East. He was a man who acheived a great deal in his professional life, coming from humble origins, but who seems to have never shaken off a feeling of inadequacy. Wall appears to have taken refuge in his writing, and his daughter Jocelyn has suggested that he had something of a Jekyll and Hyde personality. There does seem to be an outer and inner man; John William Wall and “Sarban”. The former was known by friends, family and colleagues as a conventional diplomat. The latter is a man who can only be guessed at by the readers of his stories.
Sarban’s sympathy appears to be with the “under-races” of The Sound of His Horn, and primarily with the gifted cripple in The King of the Lake. Perhaps he too felt that he was an outsider. However, the writer’s attitude towards women has been construed as misogynist, but a balanced reading causes one to doubt this generalisation. There is much humanity in Sarban’s writing, and if Wall was unhappy and frustrated in his personal life, Sarban was not bitter. The portraits of Clare Lydgate in “The Doll Maker” and Daphne Hazel in “Ringstones” are fully rounded and entirely sympathetic, a world away from the trussed-up “birds” of The Sound of His Horn and the harnessed women of The King of the Lake. It is true, however, that amongst the characteristic, sadistic eroticism of the latter story, we are not quite sure at the denouement whether our sympathy is being directed to the crippled dwarf or the two unwitting heroines now within his power. There is here more than a suggestion that there is something noble in the dependent relationship between captor and captive, hunter and hunted. All this serves to illustrate the difficulty in identifying a simple, coherent subtext within these astonishingly brave and magical fables.
 A more comprehensive bibliography can be found at www.sarban.co.uk
Short Stories/Novellas
Ringstones and other Curious Tales, Davies, 1951
(Includes: A Christmas Story: . Capra: An adultress finds a lover from myth. Calmahain: During World War II two children decide to explore their fantasy world. The Khan: Set in Iran, an estranged wife becomes lost and comes upon a palace owned by "The Khan". Ringstones: A young girl is given the job of teacher for three strange children in the north of England. The place and one child in particular disturb her and she cannot leave.)
ditto, Coward-McCann (U.S.), [1951]
ditto, Tartarus Press, 2000 (350 copies)
(Tartarus edition adds Number Fourteen: The followers of an obscure South American religious cult gain curious influence over a beautiful dancer in post-war London.)
The Sound of His Horn, Davies, 1952
(The Sound of His Horn: Alan Querdillion escapes a prisoner of war camp only to find himself in an alternative future in which the Nazis have won the Second World War. Against a sylvan backdrop the legend of the Wild Huntsman is revived and genetic experiments have created strange hybrids. Humans are hunted for game, haunted by the sound of the Huntsman's horn.)
ditto, Ballantine (U.S.), 1960 (wraps)
ditto, Tartarus Press, 1999 (350 numbered copies)
(Tartarus edition adds: The King of the Lake: Two young English-women are rescued from a Saharan sandstorm by mysterious horsemen and taken to a secret underground Lake.)
The Doll Maker, Davies, 1953
(Includes: The Doll Maker: Clare Lydgate attends a boarding school, and slips over the wall at night into the grounds of a neighbouring estate. Here she meets Niall Sterne, the doll-maker of the title. Clare soon learns that he makes them so life-like, and can animate them, at the expense of those young women who he models them upon. A House of Call: A traveller finds refuge in the snow at a hovel but appears to have travelled back in time. The Trespassers: Two young boys enter a private estate and meet a strange girl.)
ditto, Ballantine (U.S.), 1960 (wraps)
ditto, Tartarus Press, 1999 (250 numbered copies)
The Sacrifice, Tartarus Press, 2002 (350 copies)
(Includes: The Sacrifice: A young artist encounters an Eastern-inspired tragedy in an idyllic English country garden. The Sea-Things: A marine mystery-story with a Red Sea setting. Number Fourteen: The followers of an obscure South American religious cult gain curious influence over a beautiful dancer in post-war London. The King of the Lake: see above.)
Please click on the index to access authors by surname:
Return to Guide main page
Click here to email Tartarus Press
Click here to access Tartarus Press web pages




Page updated 6th August 2004