Tom Piccirilli’s Nameless Necromancer: Pentacle and A Lower Deep

I did a post on a few books by Tom Piccirilli earlier this year, and despite ending that post saying I would avoid his horror fiction for a while, I recently read two more of his spookier books, Pentacle and A Lower Deep.

Pentacle

1995 – Pirate Writings Pub
This is a collection of 7 short stories about a wandering wizard and his familiar spirit, Self. Self is pretty much just a small, sassier version of the Necromancer that follows him around, licking him when he gets hurt and attacking the people who inflict his injuries.

The Necromancer and Self stay at an abandoned hotel, go to a blues concert, visit a mental asylum, an art gallery and a native reservation. They come across demons, ghosts and witches in all of these places, and they rarely make friends. A lot of hexes are thrown about.

Speaking of hexes, I found Piccirilli’s novel Hexes a bit challenging when I read it, but I think it might make more sense if I had read it after this one. While Pentacle is not a sequel or prequel to Hexes, it is set in the same universe. Some of it is set in the same town, and both books feature Panecraft Asylum. They’re both from relatively early in Piccirilli’s writing career, and it seems a bit like he was trying to establish his equivalent of Arkham. I haven’t read it, but another of Piccirilli’s stories is also set in Panecraft.

The writing is very dark, and it reminded me of Clive Barker with its focus of blood and pain. It’s a bit more occulty though. It references a lot of real occult texts and authorities, and a lot of these stories feature real figures from the history of witchcraft. Matthew Hopkins has somehow come back to run the insane asylum. There’s a recipe for disaster.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than the other horror stuff I’ve read by Piccirilli. The writing isn’t super clear, but the short story form makes it easier for me to get through a plot without knowing exactly what’s going on.

A Lower Deep

2001 – Leisure Books

A Lower Deep is basically a novel sized continuation of the stories in Pentacle. This time the Necromancer’s old friend tries to get him to resurrect Christ so they can bring about Armageddon and storm into heaven. (Yes. The protagonist remains unnamed here. Oooooooh, so edgy!) I hated this book so much that I find it hard to believe that I wrote the above paragraphs. I’ve wanted to write positively about Piccirilli’s books for years, but in truth, his horror novels are crap. This book is boring, contrived shite. If you don’t have an interest in the Bible, this will be very confusing. There’s lots of references to the Book of Revelation, the prophet Elijah and the nephilim. Yuck.

This is really a work of fantasy rather than horror. There’s lots of blood and occultism, but nothing scary happens, and I hated every page. Self, the protagonist’s familiar is supposed to add comic relief, but I found him horribly disruptive to the novel’s tone. A one point during the beginning of the apocalypse, he starts speaking with a Jamaican accent. Sigh…

The brevity of the stories in Pentacle is what made them bearable. A Lower Deep is a short novel, but it’s still far, far too long. Honestly, it’s terrible. Avoid it.

I am probably done with Piccirilli. I gave him more than a fair chance, but his horror novels just didn’t do it for me.

Barry Hammond’s Cold Front – Canada’s Rarest Horror Paperback?

Cold Front -Barry Hammond
Signet -1982

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You have seen that cover show up on this blog before. Valancourt books used that artwork on their 2019 edition of Thomas Page’s The Spirit. (If you’ve seen the original artwork for that one you’ll understand why.) Two books sharing the same cover is not unheard if in the world of paperback horror, but Cold Front is an anomaly. This book is so rare that there was recently a thread on reddit about whether it still exists or not. There’s lots of rare horror paperbacks, but copies of The Voice of the Clown, Eat Them Alive, Chainsaw Terror and the Halloween novelisation are out there; they’re just really expensive. Cold Front is different. There are 5-6 known copies in existence. The rest of the scant information about this book online suggests that it is a lost classic, a surprisingly well written nightmare that has almost disappeared.

Adding to the allure is the fact that the book is supposed to be extremely Canadian. I have no proof of this, but as far as I know, Cold Front was only ever available in Canada, hence its rarity. Now I don’t know about you, but there’s little in the world that excites me more than a mysterious, rare, horror paperback, smothered in maple syrup. I had to read this one.

As I write this, there is actually a copy of Cold Front for sale on ebay for $3000. I didn’t pay quite that much, but I had to make a bunch of calls, barter with strange Canucks and then travel across the Great White North to procure a copy. The whole process took 4 months, but last week, I finally got my hands on one of the last remaining copies of this bizarre little book.

Cold Front is only 150 pages long. The first two thirds are entertaining but largely predictable. Three low-lifes kill their boss after a night of drinking. They stash his corpse and his cash box into their car and drive away into a storm. When they wake up the next morning, they find themselves broken down in the middle of nowhere and then notice that the body is missing from the trunk of their car. Concerned and cold, they walk until they find a cabin with a smoking chimney. When they enter they find a beautiful, half naked woman alone.

And that is where the predictable part of this story ends. As the tagline on the back cover says, “You might pity the girl, trapped in a snowbound cabin in the Canadian wilderness with three savage fugitives from the law. But you would be wrong.” I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that the last 50 or so pages of this book are mental. This changes from a gritty crime novel to a blood-soaked, supernatural nightmare.

I can confirm that most of the stuff you’ve read about this novel is true. Cold Front is a fast paced, well written, absolutely bonkers, horror novel. It is a great shame that more people haven’t had the chance to read it.

This book is infamously rare, but unlike some rare paperback horror novels, this one is rare (at least in part) because of its reputation as being a good book. I couldn’t help but wonder why it has not been republished. The fact that Valancourt books used its cover for another book proves that Cold Front was on their radar at some point. They confirmed this in a different thread on reddit about the book, where they stated that “The art for The Spirit was not available to use and there were no plans for Cold Front to be reissued. We purchased the rights for the Cold Front art.” How would they know that there were no plans for Cold Front to be reissued if they hadn’t looked into reissuing it at some point? It seems fairly safe to assume that Hammond turned them down.

Why would an author do this? Well, this is pure speculation, but I have a theory. Barry Hammond is still active in the world of Canadian literature. He’s currently the poetry editor for On Spec, “the Canadian magazine of the fantastic”. Canada has changed quite a lot since Cold Front was published in 1982, particularly with how people think about the experiences and representation of the Indigenous and First Peoples of Canada. One of the main characters in this book is an Indigenous Canadian and a violent alcoholic. There are another two Indigenous characters who come across no better, and none of this is contextualized by addressing the horrible shit that Indigenous people in Canada would have lived through at the time when this book was written. This wouldn’t go down well today. In fairness, Hammond has to have been a fairly young man when he wrote this, and in 1982, most Canadians supposedly didn’t know about the utterly abhorrent shit that their government was doing to First Nations peoples. Again, this is pure speculation, but if Hammond is the type of guy he seems to be (and remember, he’s the poetry editor for a literary magazine), I reckon he’s happy enough to let this book remain obscure and mysterious. If this is the case, that’s actually pretty cool (and very Canadian) of him.

There are some heinous racial slurs used at one point, but the characters in this novel are definitely the kind of guys who would use racial slurs. The swearing throughout is generally delightful. I think it’s the second chapter that opens up with the phrase, “Holy Cock!” All this profanity made the book feel a bit like a Trailer Park Boys Halloween special. I mean that in a positive way.

Cold Front is definitely of its era, but if you’re able to look past its faults, it’s very entertaining. It’s only 150 pages, so I got through it in a couple of sittings. If you ever find a copy of this bizarre Canadian masterpiece, read it immediately.

Eat Them Alive: Pierce Nace’s Insane, Blood-soaked Masterpiece

Eat Them Alive – Pierce Nace

NEL – 1979

Eat Them Alive is one of the most notorious works of horror fiction. This notoriety is due to three factors, its content, its unattainability, and the identity of its author.

“But now I’ve got something to live for – because I love watching a man being eaten by a monster! Maybe it’s a substitute for my lost virility, but I know it’s a joy I never thought I’d feel again!”

First off, this is a book about a castrated psychopath who trains an army of giant, flesh-hungry praying mantises to torture and eat his enemies alive. It is bizarrely hateful and violent. The plot sounds ridiculous, but more ridiculous still is the execution. The writing is shockingly poor. We’ve all seen things described as “so bad it’s good”, but this book takes that to another level. Eat Them Alive is so bad it’s phenomenal. The cheer childishness of the protagonist’s motivation is almost profound. He loves watching men being eaten by monsters. Seriously, he really, really loves that. This fact, like a lot of statements in this book, is repeated numerous times throughout the text. The extremely formulaic nature of the mantis attacks would get boring if the book was any longer. As it stands, there are 4 almost identical scenes of entire families being eaten alive. This book reminded me of the music of Mortician. We’re talking unflinching brutality with very little variation – songs/chapters exclusively about people being chopped up and eaten. It takes no talent to make stuff like this, but the fact that somebody sat down and put their effort into creating something so heinous is admirable in itself.

“God, I love the sight of a woman being eaten. I’m a firecracker, just watching. I’m buoyed up, halfway to the sky. But I’ll be twice as high when I see Slayer eat Pete. God, I can hardly wait!”

Affordable copies of this book have been extremely rare for several years, but it went through at least 3 printings, and there are usually plenty of copies available. The last time i checked, I found more than 30 copies for sale online, but the lowest price was about 130 dollars. It took me about 4 years of searching to find one I could afford. Paperback editions from Manor House and NEL came out in 1977. There’s a star on the Manor House cover that says “For the first time in paperback”, but I don’t think it ever came out as a hardcover. The edition I have is a “2 for 1” job that also includes Fleshbait. (I actually reviewed Fleshbait a few years ago. It doesn’t compare to Eat Them Alive.) My edition does not include a date, but Fleshbait came out in 1979, so it can’t have been earlier than that. A German translation was published in 2019, but it hasn’t been reprinted in English for a good 50 years.

LOL

Part of the allure of Eat Them Alive comes from the fact that it was written by an old lady. It seems likely that Pierce Nace was actually Evelyn Pierce Nace, a writer who dabbled in different genres and had articles printed in men’s magazines throughout the 1950s by dropping her first name. Evelyn would have been about 70 when Eat Them Alive came out. How fucking cool is that? I was doubtful at first, but there does seem to be evidence for this. She wrote more than 40 novels, and some of them were horror. She also wrote some sex manuals, and she seems like the kind of person who would have given any genre a shot. It makes sense that an author like this might have been asked to write a giant insects novel in 1977. Nace’s unfamiliarity with the animal-attacks sub-genre of horror is likely what resulted in Eat Them Alive being the most bizarre work of depravity ever published.

God, the killing of these guys is better than any of the killings I ever watched before or ever will again! I’m tall, I’m happy, I’m warm, I’m wonderful! I wish I had a hundred old enemies to murder like this!

Eat Them Alive is not a good book, but it’s a true curiousity, and I found it very enjoyable. If you have any interest in mindless, ultraviolent trash, you should try to find a copy. Some lad has actually uploaded a self made audiobook version onto youtube. I probably would have gone with this if I had known it was there.

Hell! Said the Duchess – Michael Arlen

Hell! Said the Duchess – Michael Arlen
Valancourt Books – 2013 (Originally published 1934)

Valancourt books is one of my favourite publishers. Sometimes, if I’m not sure what to read next, I’ll browse their catalogue with the near certainty that whatever I pick will be entertaining. That is how I first heard of this novel. A little research told me that in 1983 Karl Edward Wagner listed Michael Arlen’s Hell! said the Duchess as one of his favourite supernatural horror novels ever. Not only did the book come highly recommended, bit it’s also nice and short.

This is the story of Jill/jane the ripper, a female serial killer in London. The main suspect is Lady Dove, a shy noble woman.

The first thing that struck me was the jovial tone of the narration. I had just finished reading a collection of Saki’s short stories, and this felt quite similar. There’s lots of clever little jokes. The story does involve several murders, but, given the book’s reputation, I spent a large portion of the book wondering when the supernatural horror was going to kick in.

This is an enjoyable book, and while it does get a bit spooky towards the end, I wouldn’t really call it a horror novel. It had been out of print for almost 50 years when Wagner put it at the top of his list, and I reckon he was trying to be kvlt by listing this obscure forgotten novel as one of his favourites. It’s a fine, fun book, but it’s not scary.

Humor, Horror and the Supernatural – Saki

Humor, Horror and the Supernatural – Saki

Scholastic Book Services – 1968

After reading Klein’s The Ceremonies, I pledged to read every work of horror fiction referenced therein. The collection by Saki (H.H. Munro) is actually quite important to the plot, as it lets the protagonist know that somebody has been looking through his stuff, but unlike several of the authors referenced in The Ceremonies, Saki’s writing is not actually discussed. Also, the specific collection of Saki’s stories is referred to only as “the works of Saki”, and as Saki wrote an awful lot of stories I decided to go for a collection titled Humor, Horror and the Supernatural. There are complete short stories collections out there, but I knew that only a handful of Saki’s tales are horror, so I was content to go with this shorter collection.

so I reached for the Saki collection.

Now I know I shelved that damned book under H.H. Munro, where it belongs. I specifically remember doing it, & I’m equally sure it was that way last night, because it gave me A.N.L. Munby on one side with The Alabaster Hand & Oliver Onions on the other side with Widdershins, all three books in fancy old bindings & looking quite handsome together. I remember sitting here admiring them.

But the Saki wasn’t there tonight. I found it under S.

from The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein

I used to teach English in highschool, so I had read a couple of these stories (many times) already. I knew that Saki used a lot of irony in his stories and that he was fond of a twist ending. I had never actively sought out his stuff before, but I wasn’t upset at the idea of reading more of him.

I did not enjoy this collection. Of the 22 stories in here, there are maybe 4 that feature supernatural elements, and these elements are generally pretty silly, like when a cat learns to speak or when a girl in reincarnated as an otter. The only stories that resemble anything like horror are The Wolves of Cernogratz and Sredni Vashtar, the latter of which contains no supernatural element but is quite nasty and probably my favourite in the collection. I suppose the Open Window relies on terror for the story to work, but that terror is merely a means to an end. It is a clever story though.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these stories are excellently written. They just aren’t really my thing. My sense of humour is more vulgar than droll, and Saki is wasted on me.

As I was reading the collection, I wrote a brief summary of each story as I read it. I am going to include these notes here for my own reference, just in case I ever want to check back. Don’t read this if you haven’t read the stories already.

StorySummary
Gabriel-Ernestmysterious boy turns out to be werewolf.
The Bagshooting a fox mixup – not funny or scary
Tobermorya cat learns to speak
Mrs. Packletide’s Tigera woman DOESN’T shoot a tiger
Sredni Vashtarlittle boy has a nasty pet. good.
The Easter Egga bomb hidden in an easter egg fails to kill king
Filboid Studgestory about gross breakfast cereal with good marketing plan
Laurasilly story about a girl who is reincarnated as an otter
The Open Windowread in work
The Schartz-Metterklume Methoda rich woman is mistaken for a nanny but accepts her part
A Holiday Taska woman forgets who she is and makes life uncomfortable for an awkward man
The Storytellera stranger on a train tells a gang of kids a story about a good girl who is eaten by a wolf. reminds me of another story that I can’t remember.
The Lumber Rooma kid punishes his punishing aunt.
The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleighan annoying woman goes missing. her family pay her kidnappers to keep her, but she was actually never kidnapped.
The Wolves of Cernogratzwolves howl when an old lady dies in a castle
The Guestsa woman tells a story of an annoying bishop and a leopard getting stuck in her house due to a flood to convince her friend not to complain about being bored
The Penancea man kills a cat and is subsequently punished by some children
The Interlopersread in work
The Mappined Lifegirl compares her life to that of an animal in the zoo
The Seven Cream Jugsa relative visits a family who think he is a thief, but he isn’t
The Gala Programmeit’s a roman emperor’s birthday. his followers make a party for him with 2 parts, a chariot race and a fight of beasts.
Suffragettes come and get in the way to ruin chariot race, so they unleash the animals.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones
Titan Books – 2020


I went through a string of terrible books a few months ago that left me sick of reading, and I thought I should go for something that was probably going to be good to get me back on track. I’d had my eye on this book since it came out. It won a bunch of awards and generated a good bit of attention, so I thought it might do the job of getting me back into horror.

The ghost of a deer comes back to fuck up the hunters who killed it.

The premise of the book is pretty simple, but it’s very well written, and there’s plenty of suspense. The setting and characters are interesting, and there were also a few moments that really surprised me. Stephen Graham Jones is a talented writer, and I reckon this book deserved the attention it got when it came out. Although some of that attention came from outside the horror community, this is not horror-lite. It’s extremely violent and very dark. One bit in particular creeped me out quite badly.

I don’t really have a huge amount to say about this book. It’s modern and popular though, so there’s tons of other reviews online. I actually wrote most of this post months ago, and I’ve read a bunch of other horror novels since then, so I guess this did the job. It was pretty good, and I may well read more Stephen Graham Jones in he future.

Robert E. Howard’s Cthulhu Mythos and Horror Fiction

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

Del Ray – 2008

I have long wanted to read Robert E. Howard’s Cthulhu fiction. On April 15th, 2015, I added Nameless Cults: The  Complete Cthulhu Mythos Fiction of Robert E. Howard to my goodreads to-read list. I knew Howard had created Conan The Barbarian, and while I hadn’t read any of Howard’s stories, I had seen and loved the 1982 Conan movie. I assumed the rest of Howard’s fiction would be similar. Unfortunately, the Nameless Cults collection has been out of print for a long time, and copies are fairly expensive. Also, I have read a few books put out by Chaosium, and while the contents are usually pretty good, the presentation is quite bad. I didn’t want to spend lots of money on a book that would probably be crap. Fortunately, Del Ray books also published an extensive collection called The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard.

This book is 523 pages long, and it includes 40 stories and 20 poems. As far as I understand, it is not a best of collection. These are all (or at least most) of Howard’s horror stories. I haven’t read his other stuff, but I would be surprised if at least some of his other stories didn’t have elements of horror. The 40 stories in here were enough for me though. I don’t have any desire to read more Robert E. Howard. This collection does not include all of the stories in Nameless Cults, but the ones it leaves out are mostly “collaborations” that were published long after Howard’s death. The prospect of reading a story that Robert E. Howard left for somebody else to finish does not seem at all appealing to me.

Honestly, a lot of this book is absolute crap. Howard was a hack. He wrote whatever would sell, pumping out horror, fantasy, adventure, sword and sorcery and westerns. There’s some good stuff in here, but at least half of this book was a chore to read. Anyone writing as much as Howard did was bound to get lucky now and then. A 200 page Robert E. Howard’s Best Horror Fiction collection would have been far, far more enjoyable.

I read this book because it seemed to contain Howard’s Cthulhu mythos fiction. The stories in here that are considered part of the Cthulhu canon are of mixed quality. The Fire of Asshurbanipal and The Black Stone were pretty good. Howard’s main contribution to the mythos seems to have been De Junzt’s Unaussprechlichen Kulten (Unspeakable Cults), a book of heinous black magic. Howard references this book in several of his stories, and Lovecraft went on to borrow it for a few of his.

Aside from the Cthulhu stuff, I quite liked Pigeons from Hell, Casonetto’s Last Song and Old Garfield’s Heart. The Dwellers under the Tomb was probably my favourite story in the collection:

“Spawn of the black pits of madness and eternal night! Crawling obscenities seething in the slime of the earth’s unguessed deeps–the ultimate horror of retrogression–the nadir of human degeneration–good God, their ancestors were men!”

The Dwellers under the Tomb

Robert E. Howard’s writing seems fairly notorious for the unfortunate way with which it deals with race. I’ve come across similar approaches with Lovecraft, Wheatley and others, but the tale in this collection called Black Canaan may well have the highest n-word count of any story I’ve read. I don’t know if Howard was a truly hateful person, but some of these tales are very likely to offend the modern reader.

There was definitely some decent stuff in here, but a lot of it felt like uninspired, poorly written garbage that was only put on paper so the author could pay his rent. After reading 40 of his stories, I have absolutely no interest in reading anything else by Robert E. Howard. I skimmed through his poems, and I had even less interest in them. I’m not a poetry kind of guy.

As I read the stories in this collection, I kept a spreadsheet with my thoughts or a brief synopsis on each one. I am including that spreadsheet here for my own reference, but it may be of mild interest to some of my readers:

TitleSynopsis/Thoughts
In the Forest of Villefèretraveler meets werewolf in forest. cuts off head
A Song of the Werewolf Folkpoem
Wolfsheadsequel to forest of villefere, man who fought w.wolf ends up in africa at a party in a castle. Is now a werewolf.
Up, John Kane!poem
Remembrancepoem
The Dream Snakemad old man dreams of being trapped inside a house on a hill because there is a mean snake outside.
Sea Cursea pair of scoundrels rape and kill a young girl. Her witch aunt curses them, and they die at sea.
The Moor Ghostpoem
Moon Mockerypoem
The Little Peoplean unruly sister goes walking on the moors at night to be attacked by a group of elfish fairies. She is saved by a mystery disappearing druid.
Dead Man’s Hatepoem
The Tavernpoem
Rattle of Bonessolomon kane story. Goes to an inn, but his accomplice turns on him then innkeep turns on accomplice, then magician’s skeleton turns on innkeep.
The Fear That Followspoem
The Spirit of Tom Molyneauxboxing story. Coach shows boxer picture of his fave boxer and helps him come back and in fight. Bad story.
Casonetto’s Last Songa devil worshipping singer sends a cursed record to the man who gave evidence at the court case that got him executed.
The Touch of Deathman sleeps in room with corpse. When candle goes out, he touches a pair of rubber gloves hanging from shelf and dies of shock.
Out of the Deepan evil mermaid pretends to be a sailor’s corpse and starts killing a bunch of people. Same place as in Sea Curse
A Legend of Faring Townpoem
Restless Waterspirate sells his niece to an older gent, kills her fiancee so he can make the sale. The dead lad shows up in a window and gives him a heart attack
The Shadow of the Beastfairly racist. A black lad shoots a white man and promises to kill his sister. He hides in an abandonded house that is haunted by a gorilla. He dies. Wtf.
The Dead Slaver’s Talepoem
Dermod’s Baneawful ghost story set in ireland. A bad ghost pretends to be a good ghost to kill a guy, but the good ghost saves the guy.
The Hills of the Deadsolomon kane story. Solomon goes to the jungle and kills an entire tribe of vampires with a witchdoctor. Awful.
Dig Me No GraveCthulhu cultist sells his soul for 250 of life. Time is up. A weirdo appears in his death parlour. Ok.
The Song of a Mad Minstrelpoem
The Children of the Nightman hanging out with mates briefly discuss horror fiction. Then one takes an axe off the wall and accidentally hits another lad in head. This causes him to go back in time to a time where the picts, small little goblin people had attacked his warrior clan. He is pure blooded, so he kills them violently. He awakes and tries to kill his mate who has slanted eyes. violent, racist and bad. Not really cthulu mythos.
Musingspoem
The Black Stonething in hungary. Pretty Good
The Thing on the RoofLad wants copy of de junzt to find about mummy’s jewel. He takes jewel so monster kills him.
The Dweller in Dark Valleypoem
The Horror from the Mounda man digs into an indian burial ground despite his neighbours warnings. A black vampire comes out and tries to kill him.
A Dull Sound as of Knockingpoem
People of the Darkman follows his rival into a cave to kill him but gets hit on the head and remembers a past life in which he did the same thing but he was conan. A race of goblins inherit the cave and him and his rival fight them. Then he comes back to modern day and shoots the degenerate ancestor of the goblins before they kill his rival and his girlfriend.
Delenda EstHannibal the historic figure, comes back in ghost form to tell a pirate of a mutinous shipmate. Shit.
The Cairn on the HeadlandAwful story set in ireland. A FOOL uncovers the grave where odin was buried after fighting irish army
Worms of the Earthbran mak morn witnesses a pict die, so he summons the worms of the earth, gross mutants, to kidnap the Roman soldier who killed him. P. good.
The Symbolpoem
The Valley of the LostDeadly story. Cowboy gets stuck in pet cemetary cave with enemies corpse. Finds snake peoples’ lair underneath. sees their history. Comes out and dynamites entrance, then shoots himself in head.   Harsh story. Cool
The Hoofed ThingCREEPY OLD NEIGHBOUR BREEDS WEIRD BLOOD THIRSTY LIFEFORM IN HIS BEDROOM. Eats him and then man kills it with a sword.
The Noseless Horrortwo lads visit their friend who has found a mummy. He also has an indian servant with no nose. The mummy is actually a lad the master killed. It comes back to life and kills him. The indian is blamed until they figure out what happened.
The Dwellers Under the TombEnjoyable story about lads who go into a tomb that leads to series of caves inhabited by degenerate murderous dog people. Last few paragraphs are delish.
An Open Windowpoem
The House of Arabua warrior goes to land of dead to find out who cursed him. Lots of babylonian mythology – absu and tiamat. Kinda interesting.
The Man on the GroundBiercish western about a cowboy realising he’s a ghost
Old Garfield’s HeartListened to audiobook version while going to sleep. Old man doesn’t age. Has a heart from a native american witch doctor. They cut it out of his body and it still beats. Not bad story. Weird
Kelly the Conjure-Manreally just a character sketch
Black Canaanstory about a black guy who tries to start a rebellion of blacks against whites by voodoo. Turns men into frog creatures in a swamp. Half of the text is just the n-word. No audiobook version of this one on youtube, LOL
To a Womanpoem
One Who Comes at Eventidepoem
The Haunter of the Ringa vampire’s dodgy ring turns a wife into a murderer
Pigeons from Hell2 wanderers go to sleep in abandon house. One dies. Second looks guilty of murder. Sheriff comes and believes him. P. good.
The Dead RememberCowboy murders black couple. Woman curses him. Ghost shows up and hidden gun explodes killing him.
The Fire of AsshurbanipalLads break into a tomb in middle east in search of a jewel. they find it but its guarded by a demon, kin of cthulhu and yog sothoth. Pretty good.
Fragmentpoem
Which Will Scarcely Be Understoodpoem
Golnor the Apeincomplete fragment about an really stupid, ugly freak
Spectres in the Darkcouldn’t be bothered reading this properly. 2 crimes, ghosts?
The Housea genius poet lived in a weird house. Mystery unsolved by the end.
Untitled Fragmentvery briefly mentions von junzt’s book. Not interesting. 2 explorers about to dig up egyptian site. Nothing happens.

Well, there we go. I think I have got around to all of the main members of the “Lovecraft circle” now. I have written posts on the Cthulhu mythos fiction of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Robert Bloch, Donald Wandrei, Frank Belknap Long, and Henry Kuttner. I know that Lovecraft corresponded with lots of other people (Fritz Leiber, James Blish…), but the guys listed above were the main ones, right? I was fairly thorough with most of them, but I think I may take another look at Clark Ashton Smith. I’m sure I’ll get around to the second generation of mythos writers at some stage in the future too.

Nick Sharman’s The Scourge

The Scourge – Nick Sharman

Hamlyn -1980

I had no idea what this book was going to be about, but that cover is sick as hell.

A private detective almost dies in a mysterious car crash, and he soon finds himself investigating a bunch of people who have been hallucinating themselves to death. It turns out they did something to anger the owner of a pharmaceutical company. This wealthy chemist makes a drug that lets him control his victims’ minds telepathically.

Maybe it was all the Russ Martin novels I read last year, but I am pretty damn sick of novels about telepathic mind control. It’s lame. If I had any idea that that’s what this book was about, I wouldn’t have read it. This would have been a far better book if it had been about a bloody eyeball.

I had a few other books by Nick Sharman lined up, but I’m in no rush to get to them now. The Scourge wasn’t absolutely terrible, but if it weren’t for that cool cover, it would be absolutely forgetable. I really don’t want to waste any more of my time discussing it. Good night.

Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife

Conjure Wife – Fritz Leiber

Penguin – 1969 (Originally published 1949)

I really enjoyed Our Lady of Darkness (both times I read it), and I felt like it was time to revisit Fritz Leiber. Conjure Wife was first published in 1949. It’s the story of a college professor who discovers that his wife has been practicing witchcraft behind his back. He thinks this is a shameful load of nonsense, so he tells her to stop. Shortly after this, he realises that her magic has been protecting him from the spells of the other witches. It turns out that his wife isn’t the only witch on campus. Actually, most women are really witches.

Now, the title ‘witch’ don’t apply to all women,

but all women have a little witch in ’em

Fritz Leiber

It’s a pretty simple premise, but Leiber makes it work really well. The conflict is mainly psychological, occurring in the protagonist’s head. I read somebody comment that the novel’s description of women isn’t “generous”, but I don’t agree. The tension in the book, and there’s loads of it, is largely created by the unwillingness of the male protagonist to believe what is happening to him. He’s an idiot. The women are running the show here. This book is only demeaning to women if you think of witchcraft as a bad thing.

While some of the magic in here is rather fantastic, a lot of it is the kind of stuff that I don’t entirely disbelieve in. It seems to me that Leiber had a very clear understanding of the nature of magic.

Fritz Leiber was a cool guy. I read somebody describe him as the link between Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick, and apparently he corresponded with both. That itself is enough to impress me, but the books I’ve read by him are awesome too. I’ve heard that his short stories are some of his best work, so I’ll probably look at them next. I don’t know if there’s a specific collection that I should go for. Part of me wants to just read the horror ones, but I’m sure that’s dumb. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

Joyride – Stephen Crye

Joyride – Stephen Crye

Pinnacle – 1983

The fact that a book is hard to find is often enough to make me want to read it. This was the case with Joyride. I knew affordable copies are scarce, and I think I had even seen people mention it fondly. When I saw a copy the other day, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I didn’t like it.

A group of teenagers decide to party in a cemetery. Unbeknownst to them, the man who works at the graveyard is a hideously mutilated psychopath. As the teens start spreading out, he starts picking them off, dismembering one with a scythe, setting fire to another, and decapitating another with a chainsaw. Once the killing starts, there’s not many directions the story can go, and the rest of the book is rather underwhelming.

There’s a backstory given to the murderer, and while it explains his inability to regulate his saliva output, I felt like it passed over a few of the transitional stages between high-school loser and outright murderous ghoul.

This is a “slasher”, and although I hadn’t ever thought about it much before, Joyride convinced me that I don’t like slashers very much. It reminded me a little bit of David Robbin’s dreadful Hell- O-Ween. Joyride was a little bit better than that piece of shit, but the only real tension here comes from not knowing how the next teenager is going to be murdered. At least it’s short, and I was able to finish it in 2 sittings. If it had been any longer, I probably would have hated it.