H. P. Lovecraft – The Lurking Fear
Posted by demonik on August 3, 2007
H. P. Lovecraft – The Lurking Fear (Panther 1964, 1970)
Cover illustration: Michael McInnerney
For the most part this is early HPL, full-on Poe-esque horror as yet uncluttered by the Cthulhu Mythos. As such, many critics seem to regard this as his second division stuff which is probably true. Personally, the closer he stays to the trad horror approach, the more I like him as is certainly the case with The Hound, The Picture In The House, Cool Air and In The Vault.
In The Vault: George Birch, the village undertaker of Peck Valley is locked in the vault overnight. He stacks coffins one atop the other with a view to climbing to freedom but, unfortunately the uppermost one houses the carcass of old Aspath Sawyer, a singularly vindictive character with “a tenacious memory for wrongs real or fancied”. The less than diligent Birch has given him just cause for retribution …
The Hound: The narrator and St. John, “wearied by the commonplace of a prosaic world where even the joys of romance and adventure soon grew stale”, enthusiastically launch themselves into a new career – as grave robbers. They set up a secret underground museum where they can gloat over their hideous finds and savour the rank stench of corruption undisturbed. Learning of a fellow ghoul five centuries buried in a Dutch churchyard, they resolve to dig him up and get their hands on the powerful amulet he stole – “the ghastly soul symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng.” Within a week of their triumphant return to England they hear scratching at their windows, a faint baying as first heard when they exhumed the tomb-looter and the flapping of hordes of bat-wings. Whatever it is that seeks them attacks St. John and reduces him to a mangled corpse. The terrified narrator realises his only hope is to return the amulet …..
Cool Air: “You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a mild autumn day”. New York. Why is the brilliant Dr. Munoz holed up in a decrepit boarding house and how comes his room is always icy cold and reeks of ammonia? All is revealed when the refrigeration pump gives up the ghost and there is not enough ice in the local shops to keep him chilled. Lovecraft’s very own The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar.
The Terrible Old Man: Ricci and Silva make the fatal mistake of trying to rob the “pathetic” ex- sea captain in his home as he converses with his beloved bottle collection. Czanec, waiting outside in the car, assumes that the screams are the old mans as the boys torture him into revealing the whereabouts of his valuables. He wishes they’d go easy on him. He really shouldn’t worry so.
The Moon-Bog: Having made his fortune in the States, Denys Barry emigrates to Ireland, the home of his ancestors and buys the family castle in Kilderry, C. Meath. His doom is sealed when, against the pleas of the supposedly superstitious and ill-educated villagers, he makes plans to drain the bog which reputedly conceals a sunken city. The locals evacuate en masse and Barry hires outside laborers with no knowledge of the ‘curse’. On the eve of the operation the guardians of the city rise from the morass and, in emulation of the Pied-Piper, lead the party into the bog where they’re transformed into hideous frog creatures.
The Picture In The House: New England. The narrator is caught in a storm as he cycles home to Arkham and takes shelter in what he takes to be a deserted house. As he eagerly peruses the library he finds a rare book which always falls open on the same page – a depiction of a cannibal feast. Presently he’s joined by the owner, a red faced, white bearded old timer in unlikely robust health. This curious individual positively drools over the nasty illustration – it gives him a “tickle” and wants to know if it does the same for his guest – and his conversation is decidedly ghoulish, littered with references to people who’ve gone missing in these parts down the years. As he speaks, a red patch spreads across the ceiling ….
Despite an ending I find disappointingly abrupt, one of my favourite of HPL’s traditional horrors for that unspeakably pervy old git.
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