Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ – Mendal W. Johnson Golden Apple Books – 1984 (Originally published 1974)
I read Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ because I wanted to write a post on the Valancourt Paperbacks From Hell reissues. I knew full well what this book was about, and other than a morbid curiosity, I had no desire to read it. I got through half of it in one evening and then decided that I wasn’t going to finish it. I read the second half when I woke up the next morning. I wasn’t surprised by anything, but I was disturbed. None of the seedy literature I’ve read compares to the pain of this book. It’s 290 pages of anguish.
The story of Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ publication, scarcity, author, reputation and its effects on its readers are all part and parcel of its infamy. Bloggers were pouring their souls out about this one long before I got the internet. The level of research and detail that has gone into some of the posts about this book puts my blog to shame. Some of those posts contain spoilers, but the plot of this novel is hardly complicated, and if you don’t already know what the book is about, I would actually suggest you read a plot summary before starting it. This book is definitely not for everyone.
I certainly didn’t enjoy Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, but I can’t deny that it was well written, and despite how utterly horrible it is, I wasn’t able to bring myself to not finish it. I don’t know how Mendal W. Johnson was able to maintain his focus on suffering for however long it took him to finish this novel. With all due respect, I can’t say I was surprised to find out that he drank himself to death within 2 years of finishing it.
Reader beware: you’re in for a horribly pessimistic journey of agonizing misery and abject bleakness.
The Cellar – Richard Laymon Feature Books – 1990 (Originally published 1980)
When I read Richard Laymon’s Flesh a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised. I planned to read more of his stuff. There’s a lot of authors and books out there though, and I wasn’t sure which of Laymon’s books to check out next, so I forgot about him for a while. Then I read a post on Too Much Horror Fiction that mentioned a Laymon book featuring “a mutation where the tip of the urethra can extend as a kind of “mouth,” with its own tongue”. I put this book on my to-read list immediately. A few months later, I read Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, a history of horror in which the author describes the same book as unsuccessful. I then saw another negative review of this book on Mica’s blog. Things were getting curiouser and curiouser. I knew it was going to be crap, but I had to read The Cellar to see what all the fuss was about.
Yuck. This is a horrible book. Yeah, it’s a splatterpunk novel, and it has lots of blood in it, but that’s not why I’m yucking it.
This book is horrible because it’s paedophiley. I know that horror is supposed to be shocking and all that, but I never want to read about children getting raped. Maybe that makes me a wuss, but I’d prefer to be a wuss than a person that likes reading books about kids getting molested. Nope. No. Fuck off.
This is the story of a woman and her child running away from their abusive husband/father. They run until they end up in a small town that contains a house that has a murderous monster living in it. There, the woman falls in love with a man who is trying to kill the monster. You can guess how this ends – the whole gang goes into the Beast House and things turn out horribly for all of them.
Ok, the plot is dumb, but that’s not important. When I finished my first Laymon book I noted the exact same thing. The problem here is the child rape. The dad gets out of prison and immediately tries to get home to rape his kid again. It’s literally the first thing he does. It’s not really believable that anyone would be so stupid, but he’s the bad guy in a trashy horror novel, so I’ll let that slide. When he gets home and finds that his family have fled, he breaks into another family’s home, kills the parents and then repeatedly rapes the child.
At this point in the novel, I was feeling pretty grossed out, but not at all in the way I want to be grossed out. I continued reading in the hopes that this disgustingness was included in the book for a reason. I thought that Laymon might have been trying to make his readers hate this dude so that they would get a big kick out of his inevitable (and hopefully exceedingly brutal) demise at the hands of the beast. The beast does get the nonce, but his death is swift and dealt with in a few sentences. The descriptions of him raping children are definitely longer than the description of the beast quickly killing him. He gets off nice and easy in comparison to the child he raped. She is kidnapped by the beast and doomed to a life of more rape.
I recently read a book called Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ in which a character is raped multiple times. It was a truly horrible book, and I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but the rape scenes served a purpose. Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ is about humanity’s apathy to the suffering of others. It’s not pleasant, but it’s supposed to make you think. Richard Laymon’s The Cellar is a novel about a monster with a mouth on his willy. The violence and rape here is served as entertainment. There’s so message or philosophy behind this crap.
Maybe I seem like a hypocrite. I enjoyed Edward Lee’s The Bighead, a book from the same genre with even more rape and bloodshed, but even Lee’s infamous splatterfest is tasteful enough to steer away from paedophilia. There is a scene in it where a child is about to get diddled, but that scene ends, satisfyingly, with the diddler getting diddled himself.
In short, the scenes of child molestation in The Cellar do not serve to enhance the plot. They are entirely superfluous and do nothing than make the book feel creepy in an entirely unenjoyable manner.
This was Laymon’s first novel, and I did enjoy the other book I’ve read by him, so I won’t say I’ll never read anything else of his, but I’ll probably wait a good long while before giving him another chance. I had originally planned to read the 3 sequels to The Cellar, but that’s not going to happen. Even without the rape, this book is crap.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that Stephen King had poo-pooed The Cellar in Danse Macabre. Funnily enough, the edition pictured above features a quote from King on the cover. I assume that quote was about some of Laymon’s later fiction. I have edited the cover so that it contains what Stephen King actually said about this pooey piece of garbage:
I first saw the title of this book on the Too Much Horror Fiction blog’s list of favourites. I didn’t actually read the review, but the title alone was enough for me to put it on my to-read list. I found a copy recently and devoured it in two sittings.
I’m pretty happy that I knew nothing about this book before I started it. It’s based on Sawney Bean, a legendary Scottish cannibal. Historical fiction is not something that interests me, and if I had known this was based on a “true story”, I might have been deterred.
The story of Sawney Bean is probably just a legend, and Morse doesn’t stray far from the usual account. The attraction of this book however, is not its historical accuracy; it is the scenes of brutal violence and perversity. It has cannibalism, rape, incest, and torture, and it has them in abundance. The book is called The Flesh Eaters, so I was expecting it to be exploitative, but I was pretty surprised by the end of the first chapter when a young girl helps stab her father death and then rolls around having sex in a pool of his blood.
It gets worse too. This is an excruciatingly horrible book. It’s written in the present tense, and this makes it feel like watching an utterly Hellish episode of Unsolved Mysteries. I went back and read Too Much Horror Fiction’s review after finishing it, and absolutely agree with Will’s claim that The Flesh Eaters is “a must for every horror fan who likes horror fiction nasty, brutish, and short.” Hell yeah.
The Spectral Link – Thomas Ligotti Subterranean Press – 2014
This is a very short book containing just two short stories. Like Ligotti’s other stuff, these tales are bleak, bizarre and thought provoking. The phrase “thought provoking” is generally used to describe something that encourages a multitude of ideas or thoughts, but I find that Ligotti’s work is thought provoking in the singular sense. It provokes one thought: the idea a that existence is terrible. The knowable universe isn’t just pointless; it’s actually objectively awful.
He’s serious too. Ligotti is not impressed… ever.
This post involves spoilers, so maybe read the book first if that kind of thing bothers you. Then again, Ligotti’s fiction isn’t generally the kind of stuff that will actually be spoiled by spoilers.
The first story, ‘Metaphysica Morum’, is a truly grim piece of work. Fiction doesn’t really get much darker. An unhappy man suffering from strange nightmares convinces his psychiatrist to commit suicide with him. This tale is presented in the form of the suicide note, and the drawn out, verbose narrative sometimes feels more like a homily on the virtues of self-destruction than a story. It’s not really though. There is a plot to this, and it is as nightmarish as you’d expect.
While Ligotti’s fiction is hugely miserable stuff, it can also be very funny.
“Everybody ends up badly. At best, it’s only the luck of one in a million if you don’t see it coming.”
I don’t think that Thomas Ligotti set out to convince anyone to kill themselves, but still, if you are feeling suicidal, maybe return this book to the library unread (and please don’t kill yourself!)
The second story, ‘The Small People’, is about a world in which regular humans live separately but alongside a race of small people. These small people live in their own cities, and their cities are forever expanding. It seems that they don’t communicate with regular people. The narrator, a boy, grows to hate these small people. I’ve read other reviews of this book that claim that this is a more conventional story than the first. That might be true, but it is easily as complicated in terms of its themes and existential implications. It seems to me that this is primarily a story about identity. Who are we in relation to each other, ourselves, our families…? Bleh, look elsewhere for a deeper philosophical analysis. This tale was unsettling and genuinely weird.
The Spectral Link is only two stories, but they’re both really good ones. This is top shelf Ligotti.
Organized Satanism’s tendency to align itself with political movements is lame. Satanism should be about the celebration of evil and the performance of heinous deeds of malevolence. Dorky satanists’ attempts to politicise their movements are pathetic.
I know there are countless Satanic sects, but the two biggest groups of organized Satanists are the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple, and both have ridiculous links to politics.
The Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is all about individualism. You don’t need to adhere to any specific lifestyle or political belief system to become a member. That being said, the philosophy behind this “religion” is based on the writings of Ayn Rand, and it’s largely about maximising one’s own power at the expense of others. This focus has attracted countless right wing wankers. LaVey, the organization’s founder, fraternized with James Madole and several other neo-fascists. In the 80s, several members of the Church of Satan appeared on Race and Reason, a talk show hosted by Neo-Nazi Tom Metzger. Now, I know that a few members of an organization being Nazis doesn’t make every member of that organization a Nazi, but one of the guys I’m talking about was later asked to become the organization’s leader. I don’t actually believe that every member of the Church of Satan is a white supremacist, but I do believe that most of the members get a kick out of their religion’s nebulous connections with neo-fascism. They’re Satanists for fuck’s sake; they love being associated with scary stuff. (CoS’s links with right wing scum are well documented elsewhere. Google it if you want more information.)
I don’t think that the Church of Satan is a hate-group or anything like that. I just think its members are nerdy virgins who were bullied at school and spend the rest of their lives trying to seem dangerous. They’re too wimpy to actually do anything, so they just flirt with Nazi imagery on their tumblr blogs. Lame.
The Satanic Temple
By now, I think the Satanic Temple (TST) probably has more members than the Church of Satan. This organization promotes progressive ideas of social justice and that kind of thing, and I think a lot of stuff that TST does is kinda cool. I just dislike its members as individuals, and I think the whole thing of Satan being the good guy is silly.
Satanism, regardless of what brand, has to be a little bit naughty. It’s named after Satan, the adversary of God. Satan doesn’t follow the rules. He’s not supposed to do the right thing. If not the antagonist, he is at very least a trickster. Inviting Satan to the battle against conservative Christians is fair game, but what about invoking him to protect Muslim refugees in the USA?
I am NOT saying that I disagree with welcoming and protecting Muslim refugees. Islam is an Abrahamic religion, and the Shaitan (an evil spirit) tempts Adam in the story of the Garden of Eden as told in the Quran. Somehow I don’t think many Muslims are going to feel comforted when greeted with the following image:
I didn’t make that image myself. I found it in a TST facebook discussion group a few years ago. Check out the replacement of the star with the pentagram. Is that blasphemous? Some well-meaning Satanist was making these images to share online. Here’s another one:
The name Satan comes from a Hebrew word meaning accuser. Satan first appears as a specific entity in the Torah, and he plays an important role in the beliefs and sacred texts of Judaism. Some fucking idiot has placed an upside-down pentagram, the symbol of Satan, inside the star of David. How fucking oblivious can you be?
Of course, this isn’t the first time that somebody decided to mix Satanic imagery with Jewish symbolism. Here’s an image from the July 1938 edition of Der Stürmer, the Nazi tabloid.
This kind of hateful nonsense even predates the Nazis. During the medieval period Christian leaders put a lot of effort into linking Satan to the Jewish people. I have no doubt that the individual who posted the Satanic Solidarity images meant well, but Jesus Christ, what an ignorant fucking imbecile.
I made the following image myself and posted it in the same thread as the two above. I was kicked out that facebook group shortly after.
No. Making Satan the good guy is dumb.
the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture
the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society
the adoption or co-opting, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers associated with or originating in minority communities by people or communities with a relatively privileged status.
Cultural appropriation is a favourite topic of some modern progressives. Regardless of how problematic you think it is, I’m sure you’ll agree that all three of the above definitions of cultural appropriation apply to the Satanic Temple’s adoption of Satan as a symbol for progressive values. Oh the irony! Satan is a character, a force and a symbol from Jewish and Christian belief systems that has been willfully misunderstood and transformed into a force of benevolence by a bunch of geeks wearing black nail varnish. There are obviously more Christians than these progressive Satanists, but the language used to describe the appropriators as being “relatively privileged” or “typically dominant” doesn’t really create a contradiction. TST looks edgy on the surface, but its values are actually pretty close to those of the majority of people living in the Western World. Their beliefs are (thankfully) dominant here at this point. The benevolent Satan of TST is an abhorrent corruption of the evil Satan of the Abrahamic religions.
I want to reiterate that I think that some of what TST does is actually pretty cool. I just think a lot of its members are clueless weiners. The above images are just one example of the kind of wishy-washy, goody-two-shoes nonsense that I witnessed in TST facebook groups before deactivating my account. (I want to make it very clear that I definitely prefer these harmless geeks to the nasty little rape glorifiers of the Church of Satan.)
Satanism is inherently dumb, and any attempts to codify it are bound to turn out lame. A true Satanist serves Satan; they shouldn’t try to tame the Dark Lord and have him spout their political dogma or make excuses for it. The only viable form of Satanism is the performance of atrocious deeds of unspeakable evil. Snarl at the moon, abuse yourself, spit blasphemous obscenities in the faces of believers and revel in your acts of unholy destruction (preferably all at once), but please keep your political beliefs for lunchtime conversations at work like a normal person.
Darker than You Think – Jack Williamson Bluejay Books – 1984 (First published as a novel in 1948)
Journalist Will Barbee goes to the airport to cover the story of a team of scientists returning from an excavation in the Gobi Desert. He meets April Bell, an alluring redhead, and seems to fall in love on the spot. The leader of the scientists dies moments after getting off the plane, and Will immediately suspects April of playing a part in his death. One thing leads to another and pretty soon there’s a naked babe riding around town on the back of a sabre-tooth tiger.
Hell yes. Hell fucking yes.
Jack Williamson was a science fiction writer, and I’ve seen people refer to this book as his horror novel, but while it does contain werewolves, it reads more like pulp fantasy than anything else. It’s quite exciting, but never really scary. I thought it was great.
Darker than You Think had been on my to-read list ever since I saw it mentioned in a biography of Jack Parsons. By the time I got around to reading the novel, I had forgotten what its connection to the occultist/rocket scientist was. Reading it made this connection pretty clear. This is the story of a normal guy who meets a redhead who awakens his hidden powers. Crowley, Parson’s magickal mentor, had referred to his first wife as his scarlet woman, and Parsons later used this moniker for Marjorie Cameron, his own red-headed second wife, the one he met after the Babalon Working, a sex magic ritual that involved him repeatedly bumming Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard out in the desert.
Parsons was such a fan of the book that he organised a meeting with Williamson in 1941. The novel that I read was first published in 1948, but a shorter version of the story had appeared in Unknown magazine in 1940. Parson’s didn’t meet Marjorie Cameraon until 1946, and when he did he wrote to Crowley saying, “She has red hair and slant green eyes as specified. She is an artist, strongminded and determined, with strong masculine characteristics and a fanatical independence.” It seems to me that he had been keeping his eye out for a real life April Bell for six years.
Jack Parsons was an influential man in several realms. The extent of Darker than You Think‘s influence on Parsons is unclear, but it seems considerable. All that aside, it’s also a fun book. It’s also pretty easy to find a copy, so give it a read.
The Lair of the White Worm – Bram Stoker William Rider and Son – 1911
The 1980s saw a veritable boom of worm horror, but this niche genre had been around for a while before that. Bram Stoker, author of horror classic Dracula, published his The Lair of the White Worm in 1911. I love Dracula, but Stoker’s worm book has the reputation of being one of the worst horror novels ever written. I put it off for a while, but in early December I pulled up my socks and read this crazy mess. I read the original 40 chapter version of the text, not the more widely available, 28 chapter, abridged version from 1925.
First off, I want to provide a summary of what I understood of the story. I might be mistaken on a few points, but I’m confident this is pretty close to what Stoker actually wrote:
Adam, an Australian lad, is summoned to England by his great uncle. They have no other living family, and the uncle wishes to leave his land to his nephew. Adam arrives just before Edgar, another foreign chap who is also returning to his family’s ancestral home.
When Adam is on his way to meet Edgar for the first time, he bumps into Lady Arabella March. She’s an awkward weirdo, and it quickly becomes apparent that she wants to marry Edgar for his land. It’s around this point that Oolanga, Edgar’s servant, is introduced to the story. Oolanga isn’t actually very important to the story, but he is one of the most notable parts of the book. (I’ll explain this later.)
Edgar throws a homecoming party where he and Adam meet two girls named Mimi and Lilla. Adam falls in love with Mimi, and Edgar falls in love with Lilla.
The next day all of these characters meet up for tea. Edgar tries to gain influence over Lilla by staring at her intensely. This, for me, was one of the strangest elements of the book. He doesn’t just look at her while they’re chatting. The entire conversation dies and everyone present becomes involved in a big staring match. Despite her desire to marry him, Arabella joins Edgar’s efforts to stare Lilla down. This part is truly bizarre. It felt like reading a Tim and Eric sketch. The scene ends with Edgar and Arabella sneaking away, but nobody seems to remember what happened and the scene is repeated a few days later. I don’t know. If a creepy man came to my house and stared and me intensely, I probably wouldn’t invite him back.
Adam notices some snakes in the neighbourhood, so he buys a mongoose to kill them. At one point the mongoose sees Arabella and attacks her. She tears it in half.
Oolanga expresses his love for Arabella, but she spurns his advances. Soon thereafter Adam, Arabella and Oolanga are sneakily following each other around a forest, each one unaware that they’re being followed themselves. Arabella leads Oolanga into her house. At some point that I don’t think is actually mentioned in the text, Arabella realises that Adam is present and she asks him for help. It seems as though Stoker had forgotten that Adam was supposed to be hiding during this scene.
Once they’re all in her house, Arabella jumps on Oolanga and they fall down a huge hole. She soon reappears and claims that Oolanga is dead but that she herself had not fallen. She claims she actually ran up the stairs.
Adam goes home and chats with his uncle’s friend. They deduce that Arabella is actually a giant luminous snake from the era of the dinosaurs. This involves some pretty ludicrous reasoning.
While this has all been happening, Edgar, the lad Arabella wants to marry, has been going insane. He builds a giant kite shaped like a hawk and spends his time flying that to scare away birds. He has started to think of himself as a god.
Lady Arabella invites Adam and Mimi over for tea. Then she tries to kill Mimi. On failing to do so she turns into a giant snake and chases the couple all around England.
A few days later, Arabella sends Adam a friendly letter offering to sell her house to him for a low price. He accepts. Once he has taken possession of the house, he fills the basement with dynamite. (He does so because he thinks this is where Arabella sleeps.)
Edgar goes to Lilla’s house for a final staredown. This time the staredown is so intense that Lilla dies.
The ending of the book is quite confusing. Mimi confronts Edgar about killing her cousin. By this time he is fully insane, flying his kite in a thunderstorm and boasting of his own power. Arabella finds the two at the top of the castle. She grabs the very long kite-string and takes it home to her lair, the one Adam has filled with dynamite. When lightning strikes the kite, the current goes through the kite-string then down into the dynamite filled lair. It blows Arabella’s enormous worm body into bloody chunks.
A few issues:
The mesmeric staring is truly ludicrous.
The way the characters don’t call each other out for their behaviour is entirely unbelievable.
The lads figure out that Arabella is a giant shapeshifting snake from the name of her home and the fact that a mongoose attacked her. I did notice that the far shorter 1911 version of the story actually addresses this issue somewhat. In the later version of the story, Arabella is actually seen trying to strangle a child. This makes it very clear that she is actually a dinosaur worm.
The whole thing of Edgar making the big kite is ridiculous.
The discussions between Adam and his uncles friend are presented as Socratic dialogues. These are painfully boring passages of creative reasoning.
Arabella is supposedly an ancient monster, but at one point in the story, she goes to her dad’s house to visit him.
The 1911 version of the text is heavily abridged, but it does contain some additions to the story. Along with the aforementioned child strangulation, there is also a brief section at the end of the newer version which mentions a honeymoon for Mimi and Adam. Also, the 1925 version of the text uses the n-word 23 times while the original version only used it 4 times, and all 4 of these instances were in dialogue. I have read that Stoker himself was not responsible for this change. It’s a bit strange to consider somebody sitting down to edit a book and deciding that it needs fewer pages and more uses of the n-word.
Even in the original version, I found the racism towards Oolanga fairly shocking. He dies around the halfway mark, and the tale could get by without him. People have tried defending Stoker by pointing out that Adam, the books protagonist, does end up married to a person of colour. I don’t think this gets him off the hook. Some of the stuff he writes (even in the original version) is rough.
This is not a good book, but there are occasional moments throughout that suggest that it could have been a great book. I have read that Stoker was going mad with syphilis when he wrote it, and that’s why it’s so mental. I certainly would have liked if the book was better, but I found that the weird problems and lack of cohesion actually made it a fairly interesting read in its own right.
Last year I set out to investigate the expanded mythos of H.P. Lovecraft’s small circle of friends. I had read Clark Ashton Smith’s most Lovecraftian tales before, and my next step was to examine August Derleth’s Cthulhiana. Unfortunately, Derleth’s stuff was pretty boring, and I decided to give the ol’ Yog-Sotothery a break for a while. I recently read T.E.D. Klein’s awesome Dark Gods collection, and his Lovecraftian tale ‘The Black Man with a Horn’ convinced me to get back into the mythos.
Henry Kuttner was 25 years younger than H.P. Lovecraft, and the two only made friends shortly before the elder’s death. Kuttner was clearly a big fan of Lovecraft’s fiction, and he wrote several Lovecraftian tales himself. Lovecraft, ever the supporter of young writers, read these tales and provided feedback to Kuttner.
Chaosium’s 1995 edition of The Book of Iod contains 13 stories, 10 by Kuttner, 1 by his friend Robert Bloch and 2 by Kuttner’s fans. Later editions only contain 10 stories. (I don’t know which are omitted, but I’d hope it’s the non-Kuttner ones.) This book was pretty good.
Honestly, after reading Derleth, I was expecting the rest of the expanded mythos to be boring crap. Derleth was a cool guy in a lot of ways, but his writing was horrendously formulaic. It would be a complete lie to to say that these stories Kuttner are hugely original, but they are least varied. One, ‘Bells of Horror’, is about a cursed set of bells that make people try to blind themselves. Another aptly titled tale, ‘The Frog’, sees an undead witch that has turned into a frog go on a violent killing spree. ‘Spawn of Dagon’ is a swords and sorcery type of thing about a hero named Elak, but it was one of my favourites in the collection.
Some of the stories are so shamelessly Lovecraftian that they almost read like rewritten versions of Lovecraft’s work. ‘The Black Kiss’ comes directly from ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’. ‘The Salem Horror’ is ‘The Dreams in the Witch House’. ‘Hydra’, ‘The Secret of Krallitz’ and a few of the other tales also felt remarkably familiar. Still though, Kuttner was about 21 when he was writing these tales, and after he wrote them, he’d send them to Lovecraft in the post. Pretty damn cute if you ask me.
My favourite story in this collection was ‘The Invaders’. It’s a fairly standard “Oh no! I have opened up a rift to another dimension and bad things are coming through!” story, but there’s one scene in which a man returns from the rift after being dragged through against his will. It ain’t pretty.
Zuchequon, Vorvadoss, Iod and Nyogtha are the four scary entities that Kuttner contributed to the mythos. There’s also the Book of Iod, Kuttner’s addition to the profane library of eldritch arcana. Aside from couple of stories added on to the end of this book, I don’t know if these monsters and this text show up in many other places.
Kuttner stopped writing Lovecraftian horror a few years after Lovecraft died, but he continued to write for another 20 years or so. I know Ray Bradbury thought very highly of his writing. Also, my favourite horror novel, Matheson’s I am Legend, is dedicated to Kuttner. I don’t think that the tales in The Book of Iod were considered his best work when he was alive, but I thought they were highly enjoyable. I am thinking about tracking down the rest of his Elak stories next.
I found this book at a thrift store a while back, and although I hadn’t heard of it at the time, I snatched it up immediately. I had two reasons for doing so. The first was that it’s about a cursed rock from Ireland. I have a bit of a thing for horror novels that have anything to do with Ireland. Secondly, I recognised the author’s name. I previously came across Paul Huson’s work when researching a rather silly grimoire a few years back. (It was easy to remember the name Paul Huson as it’s the same as Bono’s real name but spelt differently. Another Irish connection!) When I see a paperback horror novel about Ireland written by a knowledgeable occultist on sale for a couple of dollars, I buy it.
Honestly, I didn’t have very high expectations. Stories about Ireland by non-Irish writers can be pretty awful. I was expecting leprechauns, Riverdance and the IRA. Fortunately, Huson’s depiction of Ireland is pretty good. Reading his descriptions of certain parts of the country, I became convinced he had actually been there. I messaged Mr. Huson to inquire about this and he confirmed that he spent several weeks making a documentary in Ireland in 1963.
A few days after starting this book I had one of those “what are you reading?” discussions with a co-worker. I told him it was about a magical stone from Ireland that turns into a vampire. This isn’t strictly accurate, but it’s close enough to give you an idea of whether or not you’d want to read it. Personally, I think that description makes it sound great, but my co-worker laughed and didn’t ask me to lend it to him. Some people have no taste.
The Keepsake was a lot of fun. It’s well written, well researched, fast paced and quite violent. Definitely give it a read if you find a copy. Huson wrote one other novel, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for that one.
I first read Algernon Blackwood years ago. I was just starting to get into weird fiction, and I read the Penguin edition of his stories right after reading a similar volume of Arthur Machen’s best tales. I always felt like I rushed through the Blackwood book, and I’ve been meaning to give him another go for years. I recently decided to read his John Silence stories. John Silence is an occult detective predating Carnacki,Duke De Richleau and Doctor Orient. The book pictured above is the first John Silence collection. It contains 5 tales. There is a more recent collection put out by Dover with an introduction by S.T. Joshi and an additional story. This is all pretty old stuff though, and it’s all public domain, so I just downloaded an e-book for free. Here’s what I thought of the stories:
APsychical Invasion This is the worst story in the collection and a terrible introduction to the book. It’s a boring haunted house yarn. It was like a shit version of Bulwer Lytton’s The Haunted and the Haunters, itself a boring story.
Ancient Sorceries This was the only story in the collection that I had read before. I remembered that it was about cat people, but I had forgotten that these cat people worshipped the Devil. I enjoyed this one, but it isn’t really a John Silence story. Silence merely listens to the tale as it’s recounted by one of his patients. He plays no part in the events described.
The Nemesis of Fire This is another haunted house story, but it’s a lot more interesting than the other one. It involves an ancient Egyptian fire spirit. It was alright.
Secret Worship This is another story in which John Silence only plays a small role. It might also be my favourite in the collection. It’s about a man returning to the strict boarding school/ monastery where he spent his youth. The place has fallen into ill repute, and this guy has to discover why the hard way.
TheCamp of the Dog This one is pretty bad to be honest. A werewolf is on the loose in a campsite. There’s never any mystery as to what is going on and the way the characters respond to the crisis is completely unbelievable. A man sees his daughter attacked by a werewolf on an uninhabited island, hundreds of miles from civilisation. He has a gun but doesn’t shoot the werewolf dead immediately. Come on… On top of being unbelievable, this was way too long. It was a real stinker.
A Victim of Higher Space The last story, and the only one not contained in the original 1908 collection, is about a man who passes into other dimensions. It was like a horror version of Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott. It was alright.
Honestly, this collection was pretty crap. Only two of the six stories are enjoyable, and it’s not a coincidence that those two tales are the ones that aren’t really about the eponymous occult detective. John Silence is a know-it-all cunt, and I’d like to box him in the mouth.
I’d be willing to give Blackwood another chance, but not for a while.