Spawn – Shaun Hutson

Sometimes a cover is so good that you have to read the book.

Spawn – Shaun Hutson
Leisure Books – 1988 (First published 1983)

I read Chainsaw Terror last year, and I knew that Shaun Hutson isn’t really known for writing hi-brow literature, but I have to admit, I was appalled at this book.

I generally like to know as little as possible about a book before I read it, and so aside from knowing that this book would probably include a mean baby, I had no idea what it was actually about. I’m going to provide a summary next, so if you’re like me, you might want to read the novel before continuing with this post. If, however, you have a sense of decency, you might be better off with my brief synopsis.

Harold Pierce, a badly traumatised and developmentally challenged burn victim gets a job in a hospital. He is assigned the role of loading the hospital’s aborted fetuses into a furnace. The fetuses remind Harold of his baby brother who died in a fire that he started, and so instead of burning them he sneaks them out of the hospital and buries them. This is gross-out horror, but so far the story is merely tragic. The whole aborted fetuses motif is immediately repugnant, but there’s no malice at play so far. Harold is damaged; he’s not evil.

Then there’s a big storm. A bolt of lightning knocks down a powerline right beside where the fetuses are buried, and the electricity from the lightning and the power cables is sent directly into the shallow grave. The electricity burns the earth and grass around the grave, but it somehow manages to bring the fetuses back to life. It also gives them psychic powers and a thirst for blood.

Yep.

Honestly, I was actually impressed with the plot. Hutson clearly did not give a shit. “Hmmmm, I need some way to reanimate these rotten abortions so they can kill a bunch of people… Voodoo? Nah, too ethnic… Scientific experiment gone wrong? Far too complicated… Fuck it. A bolt of lightning. That’ll do.”

Oh, and there’s a serial killer on the loose too. You spend the whole novel wondering how he’s going to fit in with the vampire abortions, but they barely interact. I reckon the murderer bit was only included so that Hutson could have some gory scenes at the beginning of the book. The killer is also a victim of neglect and child abuse.

I’ve read plenty of repugnant splatterpunk horror fiction, but this one is distasteful in a special way. Some gross-out horror is tough to get through because the authors seem like they’re trying hard to be super offensive, but Spawn is such a puerile mess that at times I got the sense that Hutson might not have even realised he was being offensive. Writing fiction about abortions seems like a hazardous venture for any writer, and I can’t imagine any sensible adult with any kind of stance on the abortion debate actually wanting to read a novel about aborted fetuses. Couple this with the fact that the two main characters are disfigured, developmentally challenged, traumatized victims of abuse. The whole thing is in very poor taste. The saving grace of the book is that there is clearly no message to it. Hutson is not trying to force his views on anyone.

Unfortunately though, the book is actually pretty fuckin’ shit. I found myself skimming large chunks of it. The characters are so flat that I wasn’t able to give a damn about them, and the suspenseful scenes were formulaic and uninteresting. The book is 288 pages long, and I reckon a good third of it could have been edited out

All that being said, I was entertained by this piece of deplorable, degenerate trash, and I am entirely certain that I will read more of Shaun Hutson’s work in the future. I know he wrote a sequel to this just a few years ago, but I probably won’t bother with that one.

Another great cover. W.H. Allen, 1983

Joe R. Lansdale’s God of the Razor (The Nightrunners, Blood and Shadows…)

A friend of mine recently suggested that I read Joe R. Lansdale’s The Nightrunners. I had been planning to read Lansdale’s The Drive-In books for a while, but I have been holding off because there is 3 of them, and that seems like a big commitment. The Nightrunners looked like a short, standalone text, and the name was familiar. I started that evening. I am now a Follower of the Razor.

The Nightrunners – Joe R. Lansdale
Tor – 1989 (First published 1987)


This book is nasty. It’s about a gang of horribly messed up teenagers trying to kill their teacher. They’re spurred on by the God of the Razor, a particularly unpleasant interdimensional entity who likes seeing people bleed.

The only other Lansdale I’d read before this was his story in the first Splatterpunks anthology, and I’m pretty sure that this novel far exceeds that tale in terms of graphic violence. This book contains multiple scenes of sadistic torture and sexual assault. It’s fucking good though. It’s a hard one to put down once you’ve started. Reading the car chase towards the end of the book is just as exciting as watching it on a cinema screen would be.

There’s one bit in here that describes the evil teenagers as “high on fire, blood and hate”. When I came across this phrase, I thought it might have been where that band High on Fire got their name. It’s not though. Apparently the band name comes from some crappy Electric Light Orchestra song. Yuck. If Matt Pike had any decency, he’d go back in time, read this book and then name his band High on Fire for the right reason.

While I was reading The Nightrunners, I started to wonder if there was a film version. It really seems like it should be a movie. This hasn’t happened yet, but Lansdale, along with his friend Neal Barrett, Jr., have written the screenplay. I read this too. It’s pretty much the same as the novel, but here the God of the Razor seems far less likely to be a hallucination.

In 2007, Subterranean Press put out The God of the Razor, an anthology of Lansdale’s Nightrunners/God of the Razor stories. It includes:

The Nightrunners
God of the Razor
Not from Detroit
King of Shadows
The Shaggy House
Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
Janet Finds the Razor 

This book is long sold out and hard to find, but I was able to track down its contents in other sources. The most comprehensive of these was Crossroad Press’s 2012 release, Written with a Razor. This book includes the screenplay version of The Nightrunners, God of the Razor, King of Shadows and Janet Finds the Razor. I found the remaining tales online and in different anthologies.

The Lord of the Razor, The Shaggy House and Not from Detroit are short stories that are basically rewritten and extended scenes from The Nightrunners. Neither The Shaggy House nor Not from Detroit actually feature the God of the Razor in any form. (It is for this reason that I didn’t bother reading Lansdale’s Something Lumber This Way Comes, a rewriting of The Shaggy House for children. I’ll do so with my kids when they’re a little older.) These stories were fine. You’ll have to forgive me for not being super excited. I read these tales, the novel they were taken from and its screenplay in the course of a week. Maybe space them out if you’re going to do the same.

King of Shadows is the highlight of both collections. It’s an original story (original here meaning “not based on a scene from The Nightrunners“), and very nasty. A family adopts a kid whose da murdered his ma and then killed himself. Guess what happens next.

Janet Finds the Razor is short. It was written specifically for The God of the Razor collection. I have no complaints about it.

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is an excellent story, but apart from being super gory, I don’t know what it has to do with the God of the Razor. Maybe it was included because it’s one of Lansdale’s better known tales. It’s not included in Written with a Razor.

In 1996 Lansdale wrote a story called ‘Subway Jack’ for a Batman Anthology. This story is not included in either of the above collections, but in the introduction to King of Shadows in Written with a Razor, Lansdale notes that his other favourite God of the Razor story couldn’t be published there. I assume Subway Jack has to be the one he’s talking about. There was probably some licensing issue because of the Batman characters. I really liked this story. It quotes background sources on the God that aren’t available elsewhere. Also, this story is a crossover between ultra violent horror fiction and Batman. Hell yeah.

While the Batman/Lord of the Razor crossover takes the form of a short story, Lansdale actually wrote a 4 four part comic series about the Lord of the Razor called Blood and Shadows. I don’t read many comics, and I was delighted to give these a go. This is a weird series that starts off Detective Noir, turns into a Western and ends as hellish post-apocalyptic fantasy. It gives a bit of background about where the God of the Razor comes from. It seems as though the metal in his razor originally came to Earth on a meteor and was forged into a blade by an Apache Tribe. This seems to contradict the information in Followers of the Razor (a fictional book mentioned in Subway Jack and Blood and Shadows) in which author David Webb claims, “Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword, was originally from the same dimension as the God of the Razor, and that it belonged to him. He [Webb] claims that this is the sword that got broken and made into a razor.” How could the razor come from the Apache and the Britons? The first known mention of King Arthur is from 829, a good while before there was any trade between America and Europe. Is there more than one magical blade that can call up the God of the Razor? But look at his name! He’s not Razor God or God of Razors; he’s God of THE Razor. What the Hell is going on? Probably something to do with his interdimensionality.

The only God of the Razor stuff that I didn’t read was Joe R. Lansdale’s Lords of the Razor. This is an anthology of God of the Razor stories by other authors. I’d like to read it, but it’s out of print and super expensive. It doesn’t contain any Lansdale stuff that isn’t available elsewhere though, so I’m not too upset that I couldn’t get my hands on it. Still though, if anyone has a copy that they want me to have, I’ll gladly review it here.

The Nightrunners turned into more of a commitment than I was expecting, but the novel, the screenplay, the stories and the comic series were all highly enjoyable. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Lansdale’s books in the future.

The God of the Razor drawn by Mark A. Nelson

Valancourt’s Paperbacks From Hell: Part Two

When it comes to paperback horror, I am a sucker for silly covers and titles. This leads me to reading some utter garbage. Left to my own devices, I have chosen to read books about evil fish, an evil suit and an evil spring. Fortunately, there are lots of people out there who know the horror genre far better than I do, and 2 years ago, a bunch of them got together to put out a series of then out-of-print horror classics. The first wave of Valancourt’s Paperbacks from Hell series convinced me that there are gems out there waiting to be discovered, and I was delighted to allow that prestigious publisher curate my reading with their second wave from Hell.

The Pack – David Fisher
Originally published – 1976

Of the 13 Paperbacks from Hell that Valancourt has put out, only two of them fall into the ‘Animals Attack’ subgenre. (Maybe 2 and a half if you count sasquatches as animals.) I’m not hugely interested in this particular brand of horror, and when I started reading The Pack, I was a bit surprised to discover that like The Nest, the series’ other bad animal book, this book is also about a group of animals that don’t usually attack people attacking people on a small island off the coast of the Northeastern United States. This time it’s abandoned dogs rather than mutant cockroaches, but the results are pretty similar. It was a bit harder to dislike the antagonists in this one. What kind of piece of shit would abandon their puppy? I thought The Pack was a pretty good read overall.

Black Ambrosia – Elizabeth Engstrom
Originally published – 1988

I really liked Elizabeth Engstrom’s When Darkness Loves Us and I was looking forward to reading Black Ambrosia. I absolutely loved the first half of the book, but I was getting kinda bored by the end. It’s about a girl who realises she’s a vampire. Not a bad book, but a little drawn out. From what little I have read, Engstrom’s writing seems better suited to novellas, but I’m probably wrong, and I would gladly read more of her if anyone has recommendations.

Nest of Nightmares – Lisa Tuttle
Originally published – 1986

This is the series’ only short stories collection. My immediate response to finishing the first story was to utter to myself, “That’s fucked up.”… always a good sign. One story, ‘The Memory of Wood’, really creeped me out. It’s about a family who buys a haunted box at a yard sale. The family is pretty similar to my own, and I couldn’t help but imagine it happening it to us. CREEPY.

Nightblood – T. Chris Martindale
Originally published – 1990

When I first read Paperbacks from Hell, I made a list of all the books in it that I absolutely needed to read. This was the only one on that list that was also reissued by Valancourt. I’ve seen this described as Rambo meets Salem’s Lot, but I thought it has a certain amount of Home Alone in it too. A heavily armed, mentally unstable Vietnam veteran arrives in a town with a serious vampire problem. This was a bit like reading a William Johnstone horror novel only it was more focused and better written. It felt drawn out towards the end, but it was good fun overall.

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ – Mendal W. Johnson
Originally published – 1974

I felt so strongly about this book that I did a separate post on it here. More of a Paperback like Hell really. Truly horrid.

The above novels made up the second wave of Valancourt’s series. I was originally going to do the third wave in a separate post, but there’s only 3 more, so I decided to throw them in here.

The Auctioneer – Joan Samson
Originally published – 1975

A lad moves into a small country town and starts holding auctions. He gets the stuff he sells from the local townspeople. They quickly lose their say in what he takes from them. This was quite a strange book, and I still feel like I haven’t made up my mind about it a few weeks after reading it. It’s an extremely tense and suspenseful read. I’ve seen people describing it as the greatest book about “groupthink” ever written, but while I have no illusions about the frailty of human beings’ abilities to think and act for themselves, I felt that there was something else going on here. It’s not just that the townspeople are too weak and afraid to stand up for themselves; there’s also something diabolic about the auctioneer. He’s a real bad dude.

Stage Fright – Garrett Boatman
Originally published – 1988


I have written about this book extensively. Here is my original review, and here is my interview with its author. The fact that my interview is mentioned in the introduction to the new edition brought a tear of pride to my beady little eye.

Familiar Spirit – Lisa Tuttle
Originally published – 1983

This might be my favourite book in the series. It starts off with a girl being attacked by a demon that she has summoned. The first chapter is exactly what I was afraid of happening to me when I started reading and collecting occult books. This is an occult horror novel, but as with the other Lisa Tuttle book in this series, it also features good writing and characterization. It’s as much a story of the end of a relationship as it is a ghost story. This one was really good, and I am already planning to read more of Lisa Tuttle’s books in the future.

I probably could have milked this for 6 separate posts, but these books are hot stuff at the moment, and you’ll find them discussed on lots of other sites. They’re really great. I recommend them to anyone who likes reading. The only downside is that this series might make people think that all “Paperbacks from Hell” are of this quality. Not true. These are forgotten masterpieces that should never have been out of print. This publisher has put out plenty of other great horror too, and I’ve enjoyed all 30+ of the Valancourt books that I’ve read in the past year. Go to their site and buy some books so they can keep republishing books that I want to read.

Dystopia – Richard Christian Matheson

The first time I came across Richard Christian Matheson, I liked him. The second time, I did not like him. The guy is known as one of the splatterpunks, and last year, I did a megapost on his dad’s books, so I thought I’d better take a closer look at his output. RCM has written novels, but he is most famous for his stripped down short stories. His most popular collection of stories is 1987’s Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks. I was originally going to read this one, but I opted instead for a collection called Dystopia from 2000. This collection contains all the author’s fiction that had been published by that point, including everything in Scars.

Dystopia – Richard Christian Matheson
Crossroads Press – 2011 (Originally published 2000)


Honestly, choosing the longer collection was probably a mistake on my part. Matheson is a talented writer, and some of the stories in Dystopia are great. The problem is that some (maybe even lots) of the stories are not really great. The most notable factor of Matheson’s writing is his precision; many of these tales are told in less than 3 pages. This is really cool when it works, but there’s many, many stories (60ish) in this collection, and they’re not all masterpieces. I usually read a few in each sitting, and the brevity and quantity made even the good ones a bit forgettable. I appreciate complete collections of author’s works, but I would have been far better off with a shorter “Best of” collection of this author’s works. Dystopia is more than 400 pages. I reckon a slim 180 page greatest hits would have been far more impressive.

It has been pointed out to me that I often avoid discussing specific stories when reviewing short fiction anthologies. The nature of the stories in this collection makes it even less appealing to get into specifics. Fortunately, as is so often the case, Will Errickson over at Too Much Horror Fiction blog reviewed Matheson’s short fiction more articulately and in more detail than I ever could. Check out his review here.

Kinda crappy post this week… sorry. Life has been pretty hectic recently, and I haven’t had much time to blog. I had to go through my draft posts folder to find something to polish up for my Sunday deadline. I wrote the above a long, long time ago. I was actually planning to read RCM’s novel, Created By and including my thoughts on that in this post, but after putting it off for half a year, I have decided not to bother. Life is too short to read everything. I gave this dude a chance, and while he was clearly a capable writer, I currently have no desire to read more of his stuff. If anyone has read this novel and is convinced I would enjoy it, let me know and I’ll reconsider.

I have a few big posts coming up in the next few weeks, so check back soon.

Donald Wandrei’s Cthulhu Mythos and Horror Fiction

H.P. Lovecraft is celebrated as one of the greatest horror writers of all time, but his fame has been almost entirely posthumous. It wasn’t until after Lovecraft’s death that two of his friends set up Arkham House to publish a collection made up entirely of Lovecraft’s own work. These men were August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. While Derleth wrote a whole bunch of second rate Lovecraftian fiction after his friend’s death, Wandrei only contributed two tales to the Cthulhu Mythos, and both were published long before Lovecraft died.

Don’t Dream: The Collected Fantasy and Horror of Donald Wandrei
Fedogan & Bremer – 1997

While Derleth’s Cthulhu Mythos tales are scattered throughout several volumes, absolutely all of Wandrei’s horror fiction can be found in Don’t Dream: The Collected Fantasy and Horror of Donald Wandrei. This is a companion volume to Colossus: The Collected Science Fiction of Donald Wandrei. At first I thought the completeness of these collections was pretty cool, but even the introduction to Don’t Dream notes that its comprehensive nature “may not be the best way to showcase a writer”. This is EVERY horror story the dude wrote. Some are really good, but some are not. Also, this collection does not include “The Red Brain”, one of my favourite stories by Wandrei. That one is entirely set in space, so it got included in the science fiction collection instead. In retrospect I would have enjoyed a “Best of Wandrei” collection more than a “Collected Horror” collection. Again though, I do love the idea of a nice complete collection. If you are a diehard Wandrei fan, this is definitely the book for you. I don’t know though; are there any diehard Donald Wandrei fans out there?

My primary motivation for reading Wandrei was his “Cthulhu Mythos” fiction. The two tales that are officially considered to be part of the “Cthulhu Mythos” are The Tree Men of M’bwa and The Fire Vampires. Both of these were pretty good. This collection also includes When the Fire Creatures Came. This is an early version of The Fire Vampires. The stories are actually very different, but they share the same antagonist. He goes by “Fthaggua, Lord of Ktynga” in the latter version. I really enjoyed reading both of the Fire Creature stories and would suggest you read both instead of assuming the newer version is better. Neither The Tree-men of M’bwa nor The Fire Vampires mention any of the entities from Lovecraft’s own fiction, but they’re both about a buncha Kansas City Fthagguas (malevolent aliens) coming to Earth and ruining our fun. I’m not really sure who canonized these tales as “Cthulhu Mythos”. One other story, The Lady in Gray, actually mentions the call of Cthulhu, the old ones and the colour out of space in a dream sequence. That story itself is more Poeish, than Lovecraftian, but it’s also worth a read.

Don’t Dream contains lots of other good stuff. There’s a bunch of stories about people turning into slime, one about a rifle wielding jaguar (The Witch-Makers), one about giant amoebas killing everyone (The Destroying Horde) and another about an idiot dwarf growing out of man’s leg (It Will Grow on You). The title story, Don’t Dream, is about a man whose thoughts become reality regardless of whether he wants to them to or not. Is this where the writers of Ghostbusters got the idea for the Mr. Stay-Puft scene? Uneasy Lie the Drowned was really good too. That one creeped me out.

There’s also a section at the back of this book that collects some marginalia and fecky bits and pieces. I skimmed through most of this section. You probably will too. I recommend the essay that finishes the book though. It’s an interesting look at Wandrei’s role in the story of Arkham House.

This collection was a bit much for me, but I really liked it. It contains plenty of entertaining stuff. Donald Wandrei wrote some good stories, and I recommend you read all those I mentioned above. If you’re interested in the Cthulhu Mythos fiction of Lovecraft’s close friends, you can check out my other posts on the Yog Sothothery of Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Frank Belknap Long and Henry Kuttner.

Jacques Cazotte’s The Devil in Love

The Devil in Love – Jacques Cazotte
Heinemann – 1925 (Originally published as Le Diable Amoureux in 1772)


Jacques Cazotte was a rich French lad who may have been a psychic member of the Illuminati. (He was definitely a freemason, and it is claimed that he prophesized the coming of the French Revolution at a dinner party in 1788.) His head was cut off in 1792.

Oh, and twenty years before he died, he wrote an occult romance called Le Diable Amoureux. There have been several translations of this work into English, and while the earlier ones had a bunch of different titles, most of the versions that are currently available are published as The Devil in Love. I read the 1925 edition, a reprint of the 1793 translation. (Here is a great article that goes into more detail on the different editions of this text, and here is a pdf of the text I read.)

Don Alvaro, a stupid Spanish lad, meets a Jafar type character named Soberano who has power over demons, and Alvaro immediately wants to get in on the action. Soberano tells him that it takes years of training to control demons, but Alvaro summons Beelzebub on his first go. Beelzebub shows up in the form of a minging camel, but he turns into Biondetta, a sexy babe, when Alvaro grimaces.

This image is from a different edition of the book to the one I read.

The rest of the book is basically Biondetta getting Alvaro to fall in love with her. There’s a slow power transfer, and towards the end Alvaro is set to start doing her bidding rather than the other way around.

The story is very straight forward, and it felt pretty familiar to me. This is a very short work too, and the version I read is an old translation of an older book. Maybe some of the charm got lost in translation. The Devil in Love is an interesting little curiosity, but there’s not that much too it. It’s the kind of book that would make a better music video than a movie.

J.B. Priestley: Grandfather of Dr. Frank-N-Furter

Here’s two books by an old English wanker:

The Other Place – J.B. Priestley
Valancourt Books – 2018 (Originally published 1953)

I quite enjoyed the first few stories in this collection. None of them are particularly scary, but they’re all quite strange. The only ghost story is about  a haunted TV set, and it’s going for laughs rather than scares.

It took me several months to get through the first half of the book, but I rushed through the rest in an afternoon. I think I might have enjoyed this part more if I had continued at my original pace. Reading these tales in close succession highlighted how similar many of them are. It seems that most of them are about people having visions of the past or the future. They’re all competently written and enjoyable, but looking back now it’s tricky to distinguish some of them. This wasn’t the most jaw-dropping book I’ve ever read, but I liked it. After finishing, I was happy enough to give Priestley’s novel Benighted a try.

Benighted – J.B. Priestley
Valancourt Books – 2018 (Originally published 1927)

Benighted is quite good. Yesterday, I was out for a drive with my wife, and I was telling her about the book I was reading. When I explained the plot to her, she responded that it sounded awfully like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She was dead right. This is the story of a couple who get caught in a storm and have to seek shelter in an old house full of weirdos. Unfortunately, there are no sweet transvestites in Benighted. I looked into this a bit, and it turns out that The Rocky Horror Show was directly influenced by The Old Dark House, the 1932 film version of Benighted. I was pretty embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed the similarities beforehand. I love that movie!

I’m a little surprised that Benighted isn’t better known. It starts off atmospheric and mysterious and ends quite exciting. Things get pretty heavy between the characters, and there might be a little bit too much philosophical insight for this to appeal as a straight forward horror novel. It’s creepy in parts, but that creepiness never seems to be the main point of the book. It’s hard to get too concerned about the tongueless ghoul lurking upstairs when you’re trying to figure out the single biggest obstacle to human happiness.

Still, it is fair to call Benighted a horror novel. If you look up “gothic tropes” on google, the first 3 listed are darkness, isolation and madness. Bingo! Those are the main ingredients here. This is also a novel about a labyrinthine mansion filled with a strange family’s shameful secrets. That’s pretty gothic bro. There’s no supernatural element though, so I guess this would be classed as psychological horror nowadays.

Truth be told, I had originally written a more laudatory review of these books. It was going to end with a claim that I would some day seek out the author’s other works. Then I read that he hated Irish people. Fuck you J.B. Priestley, you little jaffa prick. Glad you’re dead and if I ever come across any of your other books, I’ll stick them up my ass.

Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams

Arthur Machen – The Hill of Dreams
Corgi Books – 1967 (Originally published 1907)

When I first read Arthur Machen I was blown away. It was a collection of his best short stories, and I was fascinated. These tales were dark, folky horror, and the fact that the author was an occultist gave them an extra little je ne sai quoi. A few years later, I read some more of his short fiction. It didn’t compare. I was awfully disappointed. I knew his novel, The Hill of Dreams, was supposed to be pretty good, but I waited almost 5 years until I picked it up.

Yuck. Not for me. This is the story of a wimpy little freak who becomes an insane drug addict because he can’t find success as an author.

I’ve come across references to the “decadent” movement in relation to the fiction of Montague Summers and Huysmans before, and while I don’t think I ever looked into what decadent means in that sense, I was able to identify The Hill of Dreams as a decadent work about half a page in. Too many words and not enough story. Call me a Philistine if you will, but I’m not into this tripe.

I’ve seen this book referred to as horror, but that’s absolutely not accurate. I’ve also read people saying it contains dark visions. Techncially it does, but they are just drug induced day dreams. There’s nothing supernatural about the story.

There’s a part where a bunch of kids murder a puppy and the protagonist looks on does nothing. This made it really hard for me to care about him. I understand that the book is largely autobiographical too. I hope that part never happened.

I probably would have pretended to like The Hill of Dreams if I had read it 10 years ago, but I have no time for overwritten fiddle-faddle anymore. The only people who will like this nonsense are namby-pamby struggling author/artist types who like reading drawn out descriptions of wooded paths through the forest. Yeah, actually, you’ll probably enjoy this book if you like listening to the Cure.

Frank Belknap Long’s Cthulhu Mythos Fiction

Frank Belknap Long was a good friend of H.P. Lovecraft. Before I talk about Frank’s stories, I want to clear up some confusion about the different collections of his early short fiction. You can probably skip the next paragraph if you’re not an anally retentive book nerd like me.

In 1946, Arkham House put out a collection of 21 short stories by Frank Belknap Long. This collection was titled The Hounds of Tindalos. A second edition of this collection was published by Museum Press in 1950. In 1963, Belmont Books put out a collection with the same title, but this collection only contained 9 stories. The next year, they put out another collection of the remaining tales called The Dark Beasts and Eight Other Stories from the Hounds of Tindalos. The two Belmont collections added no new tales, but neither of them contained ‘A Visitor from Egypt’, ‘Bridgehead’ or ‘Second Night Out’. In 1975, Panther books did something similar. They put out two collections, one called The Hounds of Tindalos and one called The Black Druid. The tales in these two collections add up to the contents of the original Arkham House collection. That same year, The Early Long was published Doubleday. This is a collection of Frank Belknap Long’s best tales from the early part of his career. Although this collection adds author’s introductions to each of the tales, it only contains tales from the Arkham House collection. It omits ‘Bridgehead’, ‘The Golden Child’, ‘The Black Druid’ and ‘A Stitch in Time’. To make things more confusing, the third edition of The Early Long was retitled The Hounds of Tindalos. Reading back over this paragraph, I believe I’ve done a good job explaining the confusing history of the different books titled The Hounds of Tindalos, but just to make it perfectly clear, there are 4 different collections of stories with the same title, and while some of their contents are the same, none of them are identical. The only complete versions are the the Arkham House or Museum Press editions.

The Early Long – Frank Belknap Long
Doubleday – 1975

I read The Early Long. While it doesn’t contain all of the stories, it has those introductions, and the author seems to have considered these tales to be the best of the original collection. It starts off pretty strong. The second tale, ‘The Ocean Leech’ is gross. It’s about a guy who feels pleasure while being digested alive by a disgusting slimy sea monster. Cool. Most of the other stories are fairly forgettable though; some are outright dull. There’s one called ‘Dark Visions’ that I liked. It features a man looking around at his fellow humans and being shocked to discover that their “minds were cesspools of maggoty hate, carnality and revolting spite”. Talk about naïve! The author’s introductions are mildly interesting, but he comes across a bit of a ding-dong boasting about how he had read Salammbô three times by age 15. Nerd!


There are two tales in this collection that are considered part of the Lovecraft mythos, ‘The Space Eaters’ and ‘The Hounds of Tindalos’. These were pretty good. ‘The Space Eaters’ features a Lovecraftian protagonist in the literal sense. His name is Howard and he is a horror author. ‘The Hounds of Tindalos’ is probably Frank Belknap Long’s best known tale. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t anything special either. A lad takes drugs that give him the power to see a gang of interdimensional hungry mutts.

New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos – Edited by Ramsey Campell
Grafton – 1988(originally published 1980)

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database categorizes 3 of Frank’s short stories as Cthulhu Mythos tales, the 2 from the above collection and a story called ‘Dark Awakening’ that Long wrote for Ramsey Campbell’s New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos collection. I tracked this story down too. It’s alright. A strange statue from the sea starts controlling people. Classic.

While many believe that ‘Dark Awakening’ is Frank’s last mythos story, that’s not quite accurate. He wrote ‘Gateway to Forever’, basically a short sequel to ‘The Hounds of Tindalos’, for the 25th edition of Robert M. Price’s Crypt of Cthulhu fanzine. It can now be found in Price’s The Tindalos Cycle collection.

The Tindalos Cycle – Edited by Robert M. Price
Hippocampus Press – 2008

‘Gateway to Forever’ isn’t very well known. It’s not very good either. I read it a few days ago, but I can’t remember much of it. The dogs come back. Wuff wuff.

Price’s Tindalos collection also contains a few chapters from Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric’s Fifth Born Son that feature the hounds. Ghor was a written by several famous authors in collaboration. This is a cool idea, but I’ve read the story is pretty crap as a whole, and I had no interest in reading a few chapters from a rare and notoriously disappointing book. I’ll read the whole thing if I can get my hands on it for a small amount of effort and a smaller amount of money. I had orignally planned to read the rest of the stuff in the Price collection, but I had read the Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce stuff before, and a lot of the rest is supposed to be rather dull.

The Horror from the Hills – Frank Belknap Long
Arkham House – 1963 (Originally serialised in 1931)

Without doubt my favourite thing that I read by Long was his novella The Horror from the Hills. It’s about a statue of the abominable Chaugnar Faugn, basically a cross between an elephant and a mosquito, being brought to Manhattan from Tsang. Once he ends up in the museum, Chaugnar starts mangling, mutilating and murdering everyone in sight. Hell yeah.

Part of the reason I wanted to read Long’s stuff was that I had read that the protagonist from T.E.D. Klein’s ‘Black Man With a Horn’ was based on ol’ Frankie. I adored that story when I read it last Christmas, and reading The Horror from the Hills made it pretty clear where Klein had gotten his ideas. Slogging through all this mythos stuff is time consuming, but it feels pretty cool when you start to notice the patterns running through it like this. Klein didn’t rip Long off. He built on what the elder author had created.

I read two other stories by Long that are not technically considered part of the Cthulhu mythos but are Lovecraftian in their own ways. ‘The Black Druid’ was included in the original Hounds of Tindalos collection but it was omitted from The Early Long. It’s another tale in which the protagonist seems to be based on Lovecraft. Again Long treats his friend cruelly, poisoning his coat and turning him into a slimy monster. This story was alright. At one point in The Early Long, the author says something to the effect that this collection only contain his stories that avoid pure gross-out horror. ‘The Black Druid’ is not a classy tale, but gross-out gore fans shouldn’t get their hopes up either.

‘The Man with a Thousand Legs’ is about a man who turns into an octopus like creature. It’s set near the sea and felt quite Innsmouthy. I thought this one was pretty damn good.

Frank Belknap Long wrote a lot. I enjoyed much of what I read by him, but there was lots of filler too. If you think I have missed anything crucial, let me know.

Alright. At this point I’ve written about the Lovecraftian works of Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Henry Kuttner and Frank Belknap Long. I’m already a few stories into Donald Wandrei’s collected horror and fantasy, so he’ll be up here in a few weeks.

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ – Mendal W. Johnson

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.