A few years ago, I decided to read all of the Cthulhu Mythos fiction written by the Lovecraft Circle. I did posts on August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Donald Wandrei, Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith. The plan was to move on to Robert Bloch and then to finish with Robert E. Howard.
Before starting on Robert Bloch’s mythos tales, I decided that I should first read his best known work and its sequels. I enjoyed the first Psycho book, but I hated its sequels so much that I decided to hold off on reading Bloch again. I waited about a year and then started on Mysteries of the Worm, a collection of Bloch’s Cthulhu Mythos stories.
The Mysteries of the Worm
Chaosium – 2000 (First, shorter, version published in 1981)
The first two stories were run of the mill Lovecraftian pastiches, nothing special. The next story, The Shambler from the Stars was deadly. This is the story in which Bloch bases the protagonist on Lovecraft and then kills him off, a favour Lovecraft repaid in his The Haunter of the Dark. I really liked this one. It reminded me of that Frank Belknap Long story where he kills off a fictional Lovecraft. Murder seems to have been the highest form of flattery with these guys.
The standard of most of the stories is pretty decent. There’s a bunch towards the middle of the book that incorporate Bloch’s fascination with Ancient Egypt. I found these a bit tedious, but that was probably because I read all of them in one sitting.
I really liked the longer stories towards the end of the collection. Black Bargain, Notebook Found in a Deserted House, Terror in Cut-Throat Cove, and The Shadow from the Steeple, a sequel to Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark, were all great. These were written more recently than the others, and they feel a lot less like somebody simply trying to write like Lovecraft. Based on the quality of these stories, I would be willing to read more Bloch in the future.
I’ve long known that Lovecraft and Bloch were penpals, but I didn’t realise Bloch was only a teenager at the time of their correspondence. It’s pretty cool that Lovecraft was so encouraging to some pesky kid that kept writing to him.
Pinnacle Books – 1979 (Originally published 1978)
The premise of this novel is that Lovecraft’s stories were true, and the Old Ones are about to destroy the world. This book will be an absolute waste of time for anyone who isn’t familiar with Lovecraft’s best known stories. It’s pretty silly, but I enjoyed it in a mindless way. There are entities and characters who reappear in Lovecraft’s work, but Lovecraft never tried to codify his mythos. Bloch does. Strange Eons features elements from The Call of Cthulhu, The Rats in the Walls, the Shadow over Innsmouth, Cold Air, Pickman’s Model and several more. I read through it, enjoying the references but deliberately not spending too much time thinking if they worked to create a cohesive whole. This is clearly a homage to Bloch’s old mentor, and I don’t think he meant for anyone to take it too seriously. At one point it discusses the history of the Haunter of the Dark, the story in which Lovecraft kills off a fictionalized version of the author.
This is mastubatory, fanboy trash, but it was entertaining enough. I liked it just fine.
Ok. I guess I’ll start on Robert E. Howard soon.