Teatro Grottesco – Thomas Ligotti

teatro grotessco thomas ligotti.jpgTeatro Grottesco – Thomas Ligotti
Virgin Books – 2008 (First published 2006)

This collection of short stories makes most of the horror fiction I’ve read seem like a children’s cartoon. This isn’t bump in the night stuff; it’s black, oily, suffocating horror. It is the second book that I have ever read that actually gave me nightmares.

Nightmares are interesting things. While they always contain some kind of unpleasant element, they also have to be similar enough to our day to day lives to actually disturb us, and it’s this fact that gives this Teatro Grottesco a truly nightmarish quality.

This collection is truly weird weird-fiction, but while the scenarios it describes all contain an element of the fantastic, their reality is never far enough from our own to void the message they deliver. And there is a message in these tales. Ligotti is a philosopher as well as a fiction writer, and it is his takes on reality that make these stories truly horrifying. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read his The Conspiracy against the Human Raceone of the most pessimistic books in existence. I read and enjoyed that one a few years ago, but my one complaint was that although the arguments therein are convincing, they didn’t hugely influence the way I was feeling when I read them. I was able to brush them off as somebody else’s bad attitude. For me, it was far more effective coming across these ideas in fictional narratives than in a treatise of philosophy. The final tale in this collection, The Shadow, The Darkness, is one of the most profoundly articulate discussions of the futility of human existence that I have encountered. It made me feel quite bad when reading it. Indeed, the horror of Ligotti’s prose is more directed at its reader than at its characters.

The characters in these tales are very strange. They appear more as shadows than as distinguishable individuals. They’re all artists or managers of boarding houses. The narrator of any one tale in this collection could be the narrator of any of the others. This might seem like a criticism to somebody who hasn’t read the book, but I strongly suspect that it was intentional. One of the key ideas throughout this collection is that the self is an illusion. Human minds and souls aren’t real; they are a symptom of the sickness of reality, and the attempt to distinguish between one person and another is a pathetic exercise in futility. In one of the tales, a character describes himself thus:

“My body – a tumor that was once delivered from the body of another tumor, a lump of disease that is always boiling with its own disease. And my mind – another disease, the disease of a disease. Everywhere my mind sees the disease of other minds and other bodies, these other organisms that are only other diseases, an absolute nightmare of the organism.”

Get the idea? What difference does it make who is narrating the story if every living thing is just a drastically diseased and deluded tumor? This book is horrible – horrible but also absolutely deadly.

Shout out to my mother in law for buying me this for Christmas. It’s probably my favourite book that I’ve read this year – I really, really liked this one. It’s also the third of Ligotti’s books that I’ve read, and from what I can see online, most of his books are fairly difficult to come by. This is unfortunate because he’s a brilliant writer. I’ve seen a bunch of stuff that talks about how Ligotti is like a modern Lovecraft, but I find his writing more similar to that of Samuel Beckett than to any horror writer I’ve read. (I think the similarity lies in how both writers present human relationships – maybe I’ll write an essay about this some day.) Anyways, I am going to try to find a copy of the Penguin edition of Ligotti’s first two books and review it in the very near future. This is the kind of horror I want to read.

Crawling Chaos Magic – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 3

pseudonomicon phil hine.jpgThe Pseudonomicon – Phil Hine
New Falcon Publications – 2007 (Originally published in 1994)

I’ve read quite a few books of Lovecraftian occultism at this stage, and this was the best one yet. It’s a book of chaos magic. Chaos magic, as far as I understand it, is a very open form of magic. It is to free verse as goetia is to writing sonnets. The focus here is on results rather than rules and rituals.

While other books of Lovecraftian magic attempt to mix Lovecraft’s mythos with traditional forms of occultism, the Pseudonomicon encourages experimentation. A true Cthulhu druid should follow their intuition rather than the steps of a ritual. This disregard for traditional sequence fits in with Lovecraft’s tendency to use non-Euclidean mathematics as a method of evoking a weird atmosphere in his tales.

cthulhu.jpg

From the perspective of the layman, the behaviour that this book describes and encourages will seem ridiculous, and a skeptic might fairly describe this as a book on how to pretend that a collection of fantastic stories by a dead lad are based in reality. Neither view would be incorrect, but so what?

The book acknowledges that reading it might lead one to madness, and anyone who takes its advice and smears themselves in shit while dancing around a graveyard at night might well be seen as insane. On the other hand, who am I to act as though my take on reality is any more accurate than that of the Cemetery Scat Man. The more I think about it, the more I believe that what a person perceives IS their reality. If the Pooey Ghoul believes his actions are allowing him to speak to the Great Old Ones, I can’t disagree. Reality, existence and their links to perception are too inherently unknowable for anyone to assume that their take on these concepts is any more sensible than another’s.

This book does get pretty weird. In an appendix near the end, the author describes his experience of being possessed by Tsathoggua, Clark Ashton Smith‘s giant toad god who features in Lovecraft’s Whisperer in the Darkness. Cool.

This book does a pretty good job of balancing the Mythos stuff with a practical way of incorporating it into magical workings. If i was ever going to practice magic, i think i’d go for something like this.

haunter of the dark lovecraft.jpg
The Haunter of the Dark – H.P. Lovecraft

Wordsworth – 2011

This is the second and biggest entry of the Wordsworth Lovecraft editions. It contains the following stories:
Celephaïs, Herbert West – Reanimator, Pickman’s Model, Polaris, The Cats of Ulthar, The Colour Out of Space, The Doom That Came to Sarnath, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Dreams in the Witch House, The Haunter of the Dark, The History of the Necronomicon, The Horror at Red Hook, The Other Gods, The Shadow out of Time, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shunned House, The Silver Key, The Statement of Randolph Carter, The Strange High House in the Mist, The Thing on the Doorstep, The Unnamable, the essay Supernatural Horror in Literature and Fungi from Yuggoth, a collection of weird sonnets.

The items listed in blue are not contained in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work. I’m not going to say much about this collection other than that I really enjoyed reading most of these stories again. The Thing on the Doorstep and The Dreams in the Witch House are so deadly. Also, I’m pretty sure The Shadow Over Innsmouth is tied with Whisperer in Darkness as my favourite Lovecraft story. I’m not mad about all of the Dream Cycle stuff, but parts of it (The Other Gods) are awesome.

At this stage I’ve finished rereading all of the stories that Lovecraft wrote by/for himself that were included in the Penguin editions. It has been very enjoyable, and I feel that I’m now in a much better position to understand a lot of the occult texts that are based on his works. I can now sensibly distinguish a Shoggoth, Yuggoth and Yog-Sothoth. I still have one more entry in the Wordsworth series to read, but that one is comprised of collaborations that Lovecraft worked on. I’m quite excited about that as I’ve only read one of the stories it contains before. After I review that, I’m going to do a post on all of the stories that are not collected in the Wordsworth series. Both posts will also include an obscure work of Lovecraftian occultism. Stay tuned.

Flesh – Richard Laymon

flesh - richard laymon.jpgFlesh – Richard Laymon
Tor Books – 1988

A few months ago, I found a bunch of Richard Laymon books in my favourite second hand book store. I had heard of him, but I wasn’t sure which of his books were worth checking out. I bought this one because it had a cool cover. After reading Flesh, I deeply regret not buying all of the Laymon books that were there.

A gross slug thing burrows into people’s flesh, attaches itself to the back of their skull and then takes control of their body. The plot of this novel is remarkably similar to Brain Damage (one of my favourite movies, also released in 1988) and a later episode of the X-Files. The slug like beasty of this novel is special though, as this one only takes control of humans so that it can satiate its need for human flesh. It turns its victims into cannibals.

Let me put that another way. The monster in this book eats through people’s flesh so that it can use their bodies to eat through other people’s flesh.

The central premise of this book doesn’t make sense, but I didn’t even realise that until I started writing this review. It’s such a cool idea for a book. There were, however, a few other issues that were more difficult to swallow. Most of the characters in Flesh are either exceptionally stupid or remarkably intelligent. The victims make absolutely terrible, terrible choices, but the police officers on the case are able to deduce the exact nature of their bizarre adversary after examining one of its victims. They immediately figure out that they’re dealing with a with a psycho-parasitic worm with a lust for human flesh. Finally, the women in this book have such sensitive nipples that I can’t imagine how they go about their daily lives. Every time a woman does anything in this book, her nipples’ reaction is mentioned, whether she be taking a shower, greeting a friend, or enjoying a pleasant summer breeze.

Despite these issues, I found this book to be immensely entertaining. It is absolutely full of gore, a real bloodbath. The writing is decent too. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not Faulkner, but it’s not bad. Laymon tells a good story. Flesh is 400 pages long, but I read it in only a few days. I advise you all to hunt down a copy too.

Hacking the Necronomicon – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 2

In this series of posts, I’m reviewing books on Lovecraftian Occultism alongside the Wordsworth collections of Lovecraft’s tales. I’m finding it quite insightful to read through the bizarre works inspired by Lovecraft’s horrors while these horrors are still fresh in my mind. This post delves a little deeper into Lovecraftian Occultism, focusing on two books about the Simon Necronomicon, a book that is itself directly inspired Lovecraft’s work. I have previously reviewed the Necronomicon itself and Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon.

necronomian workbook necronomicon.jpgNecronomian Workbook: Guide to the Necronomicon – Darren Fox 
International Guild of Occult Sciences – 1996

This was written by Darren Fox, otherwise known as Brother Moloch. This is actually the same guy that published The Dark Arts of Tarantula, one of the silliest books I’ve ever read. His book on the Necronomicon isn’t much better.

He claims that Lovecraft astrally traveled to another dimension where Abdul Alhazred was real. This is where our boy H.P. discovered the Necronomicon, but he told himself it was all just a dream.

There’s at least 2 versions of the Necronomicon out there. Brother Moloch acknowledges that they might be fake, but posits that coherent forgeries can still give effective magical instruction.

necronomicon simonProbably fake, but who cares?

What follows is basically a bunch of tips on how to perform each of the different rituals and prayers in the Simon Necronomicon. Large quotations are taken from Simon’s book.

Although Moloch has warned his reader not to contact Cthulhu, he gives a ritual to do exactly that. This ritual mixes names from Lovecraft’s pantheon and quotes from Crowley’s Book of the Law into a ritual that sounds like it comes straight from a Solomonic grimoire.

Next, there’s a bunch of bullshitty grimoire styled spells with the names of a few Lovecraftian entities thrown into the mix. It’s mostly the usual stuff: to kill an enemy, to increase sexual potency, to hold back evil… but, there’s also a spell to get money that directly addresses Cthulhu. Yes, performing this spell involves asking the great priest Cthulhu for cash. In At The Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft explains that human beings were created solely for the amusement of a race that were in conflict with Cthulhu’s spawn. We are less than shit to Cthulhu, yet Brother Moloch suggests that we should ask him to help us make some money.

Moloch also describes his visit to Leng. He made a nice a cup of tea, had a warm bath, did some yoga exercises and then imagined himself walking down a stairs to the center of the world. He opened a door down there and walked into Leng, easy as that.

After this, there’s some poems that the author pinched from a 1903 book on the Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, and some essays that he stole off the internet. One of these essays is called “The Aeon of Cthulhu Rising”. A quick google search reveals that its author was none other that Frater Tenebrous, the author of Cults of Cthulhu, the pamphlet I reviewed in my last Lovecraft post.

The other essay, “LIBER GRIMOIRIS: The Parallels of East and West: Termas, Grimoires and the Necronomicon”,  is by a guy called Frater Nigris. It basically says that the Necronomicon might be real. Searching the author’s name brings up other essays on Thelema and the like.

The book ends with a description of the author’s journey through Kenneth Grant‘s Lovecraftian Sephirot. It’s very confusing.

Overall, this book was utter rubbish. The spelling and grammar are utterly atrocious, and the author seems to have completely missed the distinctive and complete apathy of Lovecraft’s entities towards the human race.

Shite.

hidden key necronomicon.jpgThe Hidden Key of the Necronomicon – Alric Thomas
International Guild of Occult Sciences – 1996

This is a shockingly uninformative pamphlet on the Necronomicon. It was put out by the same publisher as the Necronomian Workbook. It’s only a few pages long, and most pages are taken up with diagrams from the Simon Necronomicon. Some of these images have been slightly edited. The author acts as if these edits will blow the Necronomicon open for the practitioner. Ugh. This is poorly written garbage. No effort was put into creating this piece of trash.

 

the lurking fear lovecraftThe Lurking Fear – H.P. Lovecraft
Wordsworth – 2013

This is the fourth collection of Lovecraft’s writings put out by Wordsworth Publishing. It contains the following tales:

The Lurking Fear, Azathoth, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Ex Oblivione, Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, From Beyond, Hypnos, Memory, Nyarlathotep, The Alchemist, The Beast in the Cave, The Moon-Bog, The Music of Erich Zann, The Outsider, The Picture in the House, The Quest of Iranon, The Street, The Temple, The Terrible Old Man, The Tomb, The Transition of Juan Romero, The Tree, The White Ship, What the Moon Brings, The Rats in the Walls, He, In the Vault, Cool Air, The Descendant, The Very Old Folk, The Book, The Evil Clergyman, and the short essay, Notes on Writing Weird Fiction.

The titles in green were not included in any of the Penguin collections of Lovecraft’s work, and so I hadn’t read them before. Some of them (Ex Oblivione, Azathoth, Memory) are very short, but also very cool. The essay on Weird Fiction is very interesting, and I plan to write more about it in the future.

Overall, this collection is quite a mix of stuff, both in terms of content and quality. A lot of these stories are quite short, and don’t really fit neatly in with either Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos or his Dream Cycle. (Most of those tales are collected in the first and third Wordsworth collections respectively.) What you’ll find in this book is a collection of odds and ends. It features tales that Lovecraft wrote as a boy (The Beast in the Cave), stories that were never meant to be published and originally only included in private letters to Lovecraft’s friends (The Very Old Folk), and horror classics that just don’t fit in with his other tales (The Rats in the Walls).

Some of these stories are fairly shit. I read The Tree a couple of times, and I still feel like I don’t get it. A few of the other stories (The Lurking Fear, In the Vault, Arthur Jermyn…) are fine, but don’t come close to the atmosphere or excitement of Lovecraft’s more famous tales. Some are absolutely deadly though. I had totally forgotten The Picture in the House. It is fantastic.

The Horror at Red Hook is the story that people usually point to when they want to show that Lovecraft was a horrible racist, but that’s a horror story that features racism. The Street is just a racist story and a shit one at that. If you want a clearer look at Lovecraft’s racism check out this vile little poem or his letters. In one letter he says of Adolf Hitler, “I know he’s a clown, but by God I like the boy!” I considered writing more about Lovecraft’s xenophobia, but the internet is already full of articles about it and I don’t actually care that much. If you’re triggered by some of the passages in his stories, just remind yourself that he died poor and lonely and keep reading.

I’m glad to have this book on my shelf. Even though it’s basically a leftovers collection, I really enjoyed reading it. This is the shortest book out of Wordsworth’s editions of Lovecraft’s work, and it’ll probably be a few months before I write parts 3 and 4 of this series of posts.

 

 

 

Echoes from the Darkness – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 1

While reading John L. Steadman’s H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition last year, I decided that the time had come for me to reread Lovecraft. Too many of the books I read and plan to read reference his stories, and it was getting to stage where I was mixing up my Shoggoths, Yuggoths and Yog-Sothoths.  In order to remedy this embarrassing situation,  I started going back over Lovecraft’s tales, including the stories that aren’t included in the Penguin editions of his work.  I started on this collection during the summer, reading a story here and there, between other books. I haven’t strictly limited myself to the stories in this collection, but it’s the first of the Wordsworth series that I’ve completed, so I’m reviewing it first.

whisperer in darknessThe Whisperer in Darkness – H.P. Lovecraft
Wordsworth – 2007

All of the other entries in the Wordsworth series contain stories that are not included in the Penguin editions, but this collection was all stuff I’ve read before. It contains:

Dagon
The Nameless City
The Hound
The Festival
The Call of Cthulhu
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness

These are obviously some of Lovecraft’s finest. The Whisperer in Darkness has long been my favourite of his, but I couldn’t remember what happens at the end. It’s fucking fantastic. There were gross parts in this story and in Charles Dexter Ward that I had also forgotten about. I was also very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Call of Cthulhu. I have read an awful lot of horror fiction since the last time I read this classic, and I was expecting that it might not seem as effective to me now. If anything, I enjoyed it more than ever. There’s so many passages throughout that story that I paused to reread several times on account of their exceptional awesomeness. It took another half year to get around to writing this review though, so I’ve forgotten the specifics. In fact, the only story from this collection that I’ve read within the last 4 months has been At the Mountains of Madness. It’s only about 4 years since I previously read this story, so much of it was still in my head, but it still managed to give me a few chills. There’s one part near the end where he says, “It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.” Fuck yes. Please Sleeping Abnormalities, if you’re still out there, leave those unplumbed depths and destroy us soon!

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Lovecraft was one of the only writers I had any interest in as a teenager, but I absolutely love his writing style. I adore Lovecraftian horror. I love how he took what he understood about the advances in modern science and used this not to spread hope for the future of humankind but to insist on the futility of all human life. We are nothing in even the minutest scheme of things. According to Lovecraft’s mythos, we were created by an ancient race of prawn-cucumbers to provide them with light entertainment. YES!

Although I own all of the Wordsworth editions of Lovecraft’s work, and these are the ones I’m using to order my rereading, I’m actually reading most of the stories from the Penguin editions because of the notes therein. I’m also using audiobooks and pdf versions. The Wordsworth edition are fine though; what they lack in commentary, they make up for in comprehensiveness. So important is Lovecraft to my reading habits that I need to have hard copies of all of his stories in my library.

wordsworth lovecraft

Anyone reading this blog should have read Lovecraft. His fiction has affected so many of the other books that I review here. Kenneth Grant’s The Magical Revival, Thomas Ligotti’s Conspiracy against the Human Race, Pauwel and Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians, Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, Simon’s Necronomicon, and Stephen Sennitt’s Infernal Texts are all heavily influenced by Lovecraft. His influence on horror fiction is unmeasurable. Some novels like Michael Slade’s Ghoul and Garret Boatman’s Stage Fright feature beings directly from Lovecraft’s stories, but his influence can be found in countless ways in countless other novels and tales.

Like I said, I’m rereading Lovecraft to refresh my memory so that I can delve deeper into the realm of Lovecraftian occultism. Here’s a review of an interesting little pamphlet on that topic.

cults of cthulu tenebrous.jpgCults of Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecraft and the Occult Tradition – Frater Tenebrous
Daath Publications – 1987

This short pamphlet contains the text of a lecture given in Leeds University in 1985. It’s credited to a lad named Frater Tenebrous who the internet is telling me is another name for Peter Smith. Peter Smith was a contributor to Stephen Sennitt’s Infernal Texts, and Sennitt actually dedicated the second half of that book to him and referred to him as “foremost scholar on the Necronomicon”. Only 123 copies of this were initially published, and they go for quite a lot of money these days. Fortunately, you can download pdf copies for free. This text contains a short biography of Lovecraft, descriptions of the major players in his pantheon and a very brief discussion of how Lovecraft’s fiction has shaped the rituals of a handful of occult groups (one of whom was led by Michael Bertiaux, yet another contributor to Sennitt’s book). I can’t say Cults of Cthulhu contained much information that I wasn’t already aware of, but it was only ever supposed to be “an introduction to the occult aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings for potential initiates of the E.O.D.”. It made for pleasant reading on my commute to work one morning last week.

I’m gradually getting through the other stories and some even weirder texts of Lovecraftian occultism. Expect to see a few more posts on these over the next year.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Three More from the King (The Dead Zone, Firestarter and Cujo)

I’ve read a fair few books by Stephen King, and after my last binge on his writing, I decided to work through the rest of his books in chronological order. Last year, I only read one King novel (along with 7 novels by his friend Richard Bachman), so I want to get through a few this year. Here’s three.

the dead zone stephen kingThe Dead Zone – 1979

I read this a while back. I really enjoyed it up until near the end. It felt a bit like King had hit his publisher’s page limit when he was only halfway through the story. (I felt the same reading The Stand.) I was expecting the conflict between Johnny and Stillson, the antagonist and protagonist, both of whom are introduced within the book’s first two chapters, to take up more space in the book. There’s a huge big subplot in the middle where Johnny stops a murder that doesn’t have much to do with the main conflict of the book (as far as I remember), and was the chapter on the lightning-rod salesman really necessary? Also, isn’t there a bit that suggests that Stillson was in contact with Sarah’s husband? I presumed that that relationship would lead to serious complications for Johnny later on, but it led to nothing. It is hinted that Stillson is truly evil and that he would be an awful president, but he never gets to reach his full potential. Sure, he’s unhinged, but he never comes close to Randall Flagg levels of nastiness.

 

firestarter stephen kingFirestarter – 1980

The next of King’s books that I read features one of his scariest antagonists. Firestarter is the story of a man and his daughter, both of whom have psychic powers, being chased, imprisoned and manipulated by a shady government agency. I have a little girl myself, and I couldn’t help but get sucked into this one. The little girl in the book has the ability to start fires with her mind, and the man responsible for getting to use this power, one John Rainbird, is a chillingly evil character. He’s so bad that I had to put the book down at one point to really contemplate his wickedness.

You can probably guess how this is going to end once you get halfway through the book, but it’ll take you another 200 pages to get there. This is another long, fairly tortuous read from King.

 

cujo stephen kingCujo – 1981

I wrote the reviews for The Dead Zone and Firestarter a while after reading those books, but the wounds that Cujo inflicted on me are still healing. This book was fucking nasty.

I’ve known that this novel is about a rabid dog for as long as I remember, so I was a bit surprised that the book starts with the description of a serial killer. I was doubly surprised to realise that the serial killer being described was the killer from King’s The Dead Zone. Although it’s included in this post, I wrote the above review for The Dead Zone months before reading Cujo. In it, I actually complain about the inclusion of the serial killer subplot, but it makes sense now. I think the way King link his books together like this is really cool. You don’t have to have read The Dead Zone to enjoy Cujo, but it does make you feel pretty smart to have the background information from the other book. I’ve long known that King does this kind of thing, but this particular example makes me afraid of reading the rest of his novels out of sequence. I’m not going near the Dark Tower series until I’ve read everything else he wrote before finishing those books.

Anyways, people can say whatever they want about Stephen King’s writing, but fucking Hell, he can suck his reader into a story. His ideas can be corny, but his characters and the way they interact with each other are brilliant.

As in Firestarter, the central conflict in Cujo is drawn out and fairly hopeless. This one has an even bleaker ending though. Really, it’s very, very bleak. I really enjoyed this book.

I was going to try to read and review Pet Semetary before the new movie comes out next month, but Christine and Different Seasons were published before that one, so I won’t have the time if I’m reading King’s books in chronological order. I’ll probably get to those later on in the year.

The Satan Sleuth Series – Michael Avallone

michael avallone satan sleuth seriesPhilip St. George III, aka the Satan Sleuth, is wealthy, vengeful, sexy, equipped with ridiculous gadgets, and he loves solving spooky mysteries. Yeah, he’s basically a mix of Batman, James Bond and Scooby Doo. This is a series of three novels that I first read about in Paperbacks from Hell. I spent a stupid amount of time and money tracking down old paperback copies, but I saw a few days ago that you can actually buy kindle versions off Amazon.

satan sleuth fallen angel avalloneThe Satan Sleuth #1:  Fallen Angel
Mews Books – 1976 (First Published 1974)
This is the Satan Sleuth’s origin story. A gang of weirdos break into a young millionaire’s house and kill his wife in the name of Satan. He gets super upset and decides to hunt them down for revenge. Luckily for him, the Satanists come back to his house right after he has filled it with Satanist catching equipment. What follows is essentially a slightly less violent version of Home Alone.

This is the most dated book in the collection. Of the four criminals, one is described as “A walking moron, even if she was the best and free-est piece of tail in the world. With the biggest boobs.” She is repeatedly and brutally beaten and berated by her boyfriend for being dim. The Satan Sleuth shows her no leniency despite the fact that she was clearly coerced into partaking in the murder by her brutal and manipulative partner.

Another of the Satanists is “gay as a green goose when the bare asses were down”. He is also referred to as a “Fruitman”, and a “damn pineapple”, and it is insinuated that he gets off on brutally murdering a woman because he is gay. This kind of stuff is pretty distasteful in 2019, but this book was a written almost half a century ago by a man who was approaching 50. It’s hardly surprising.

satan sleuth avallone

Early on in the novel, the hero decides to do some research on Satanism so that he can understand his enemies. He gives his lawyer a list of books on the occult and has him track these down. I recognised a few of the names on the list, but some I had never heard of before, despite their amazing titles. I had to do some sleuthing myself to figure out which were real and which were Michael Avallone’s own creations.

satan sleuth book list.jpg

Possession by T.K. Oesterreich, The Satanic Mass by H.T.F. Rhodes, During Sleep by Robert Crookall, The Magus by Francis Barrett, Timeless Earth by Peter Kolosimo, Gypsies, Demons and Divinities by Elwood B. Trigg, Your Sixth Sense by Brad Steiger and The Satanic Rituals by Anton La Vey are all very real books.

Where the Devil Walks by Marcel Alevoinne sounds great, but the author’s name struck me as rather similar to Michael Avallone. It turns out that Marcel Alevoinne was actually a pseudonym that Avallone used to use to order take-out.

Lucifer, My King by Jean-Anne de Pré also sounds incredible, but I discovered that Avallone used Jean Anne de Pré as a pseudonym for several gothic novels including The Third Woman, A Sound of Dying Roses, Warlock’s Woman, Die, Jessica, Die and Aquarius, My Evil. Unfortunately, I can find no evidence to suggest that a book called Lucifer, My King was ever written

Mark Dane, the author of Beyond our Ken is yet another of Avallone’s many pseudonyms.

This leaves one book, The Blask Mass (sic) by Sidney Stuart. I couldn’t find anything on this one online. It turns out that Sidney Stuart was the name of one of Michael Avallone’s early agents, so it’s likely that book is also a fake.

 

satan sleuth the werewolf walks tonight avalloneThe Satan Sleuth #2: The Werewolf Walks Tonight
Warner Paperback Library – 1974

This one is about a werewolf instead of Satanists. It was not published as part of the UK Mews edition of the series, so my copy of this book and my copy of Devil, Devil (the third book in the series) are both labelled #2 on their covers. I didn’t like this one as much as the other two. Maybe the Brits felt the same and that’s why they chose to leave it out.

satan sleuth number 2Two #2s

The most interesting part of this book was the way it pushes the reader back and forth between believing/not believing in the supernatural. There are times when the text flat out says that nothing supernatural is occurring and other times when it says the opposite. In truth, I’m a bit unsure as to whether this was intentional or just sloppy writing. The time sequence in this one is confusing too, and I can’t help but feel that it would have benefited with a bit of proofreading.

Oh, and this book features another mentally challenged woman with “splendid round breasts” being brutally raped. She is referred to as both “a peacherino” and “prime cut beef”.

satan sleuth devil, devilThe Satan Sleuth #3: Devil, Devil
Mews Books – 1976 (First Published 1975)

This was probably my favourite out of the three. Not only does the Satan Sleuth find himself in the clutches of a coven of evil Satanists, but the ringleader of the coven is named Catharine Copely! Any Satan Sleuth worth their salt will surely recognize the Satanic relevance of the name Copely. Canon Copely-Syle, the strange mix between Montague Summers and Aleister Crowley, is the antagonist in Dennis Wheatley’s classic To the Devil – a Daughter. The Satan Sleuth series was written more than 20 years after Wheatley’s book, so maybe Avallone had read it and decided to pay homage. (If not, there’s some weird synchronicity going on. Copely Woods is also name given by Budd Hopkins to an area of high UFO activity in the Eastern United States.)

The women in this one still have big jugs, but they’re not as dim as the ladies in the other entries of this series. The main antagonist here is female, but unfortunately, she meets her doom after being charmed by the Satan Sleuth’s snake. She decides not to sacrifice him to Satan after seeing him lying naked, unconscious and strapped to the altar. “But this man – this intruder – whoever he truly was – was gifted in every conceivable department. He was superbly endowed. Pan would envied him for his incredible appendage. The principal male tendon was a thing of beauty, even dormant and idle. The Ram’s staff!” Sister Sorrow may not have been mentally deficient, but she was unable to resist a nice juicy cock.

 

Avallone is infamous for the rate at which he wrote paperback fiction. To be honest, I got the sense that these three books were churned out fairly quickly. There’s a few spelling mistakes in each of these novels, and Avallone is remarkably fond of sentence fragments. Really. So many it’s silly. Seriously. Also, in the last book it seems that he’s using the word “cockamamie” at least once every two pages.

When my copies of these books arrived, I saw the following line on the back cover of Fallen Angel and was instantly satisfied with my purchase.
satan sleuth dennis wheatleyDennis Wheatley, for any Philistines reading this, is the author that made me want to start this blog. After having read all three Satan Sleuth novels, I have to say that aside from dodgy writing and less than progressive depictions of women and homosexuals, Avallone’s books have very little in common with Wheatley’s. Black magic is a powerful force in Wheatley’s novels, but the supernatural is always presented as a farce in the Satan Sleuth series. Avallone would later claim that this was the reason that this series didn’t get more attention (source). I reckon he was right about this. By the time I got to the third book, I knew that anything spooky that happened would be explained away later on. This cuts out a lot of suspense. Why did he write his books this way? Well, I reckon that it had something to do with the fact that Avallone, despite what it says on the blurb at the back of Fallen Angel, was not nearly as knowledgeable on Satanism and Black Magic as our Dennis.

satan sleuth avallone occult expert

At one point he refers to the werewolf as a Lycanthrophobe, and when his hero is going up against a team of Satanists, Avallone has him read a bunch of books on ESP, Ancient Aliens and fairies. There’s no rhyme or reason to the Satanism presented in the Satan Sleuth novels either. The Satanists in the first novel are Satanists by name only. Sure they murder a woman for the glory of Satan, but there’s no real spiritual or philosophical motivation behind their crime.  None of them believe in what they are doing. They’re just a bunch of drugged out social outcasts who occasionally say dumb things like, “God sucked. Lucifer was right. Make way for Beelzebub!”

The last book presents a Satanism far closer to the Satanism presented in Wheatley’s novels, but unlike Wheatley, Avallone doesn’t manage to explain why the Satanists are acting the way they are. They’re just bad for the sake of being bad here. There’s a few references to the Church of Satan that suggest that Avallone didn’t really know what he was talking about.

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Anton LaVey’s Satanism deserves to be criticized, but it’s not fair to present his followers as the kind of people who murder and decapitate young women. I’m not misrepresenting things here either. Sister Sorrow, the villain of Devil, Devil is seen reading from The Satanic Bible only a page after Avallone quotes from the Satanic Rituals, LaVey’s companion text to his Satanic Bible. I can’t imagine any way of reading this that doesn’t suggest that the fiends in this book are LaVeyan Satanists.

satan sleuth lavey quote

Satanism exists in so many forms, and it’s such a silly concept to begin with, that I’m not going to hold it against an author if they mix it up a bit. The Satan Sleuth series is far more straight forward than Paradise Lost or Goethe’s Faust. In Avallone’s work, Satan and his followers are categorically bad. I’m fine with this. I wasn’t exactly expecting profound philosophical fiction when I bought these books. These are fun adventure stories, and they work as such.

In Paperbacks from Hell, Grady Hendrix writes that “Avallone planned two more Satan Sleuth novels—Vampires Wild and Zombie Depot—but Warner Books never bought them, so he never wrote them.” This is not true. Both Vampires Wild and Zombie Depot were written, but as of today they remain unpublished. David Avallone, Michael’s son, has confirmed that he is working on having the final two Satan Sleuth novels published later on this year. (David also helped me figure out where some of the books mentioned in Fallen Angel came from. Thanks David!) I’ll be reviewing the final entries in the series as shortly after they’re released as possible!