Some years ago I was idly traipsing around an Edinburgh charity shop, stuffed to the gunnels with tatty crime novels, unsavoury baby toys and tired shoes, when suddenly I spotted a new Lovecraft anthology … Lovecraft’s writing is such poetry. I return to it again and again. I’ve collected his tales in many editions and vintage paperbacks, some purely for the cover art. But as there is only a limited body of known work, I thought I had read them all. This, I mused in a daze, was what a Bach scholar might experience upon unexpectedly finding unknown sheet music by the man himself. But far less lofty. With more Ladygeek palpitations.

Anyone who needs reading like they do oxygen will recognise it: that golden fizzy pop glee, that sense of finding treasure, which for that moment belongs to you and you alone. That shudder of anticipation in the core of your soul when your fingers are clamped tightly around a New Book. Especially when that New Book is by a writer you love so much that over time, their work seems to have become part of your molecular structure and you can’t wait to race home and wrap their words around you.

The book is good. Even though it wasn’t the unmitigated fount of Stygian joy I expected. To stay financially afloat in lean times, Lovecraft ghost-wrote for other writers. This book’s editor claims that here in this publication are all of those stories, never before published and properly accredited to Lovecraft for the first time.

I discovered they can be divided into three categories, with a margin for varying tastes: the Excellent, the Mediocre and the Embarrassing Reruns. The Loved Dead, Out of the Aeons,The Diary of Alonzo Typer,The Horror at Martin’s Beach,The Curse of Yig, Medusa’s Coil and The Night Ocean are undoubtedly the cream of the crop. It’s significant to find that these are either collaborations with Lovecraft, full rewrites by Lovecraft, or written by Lovecraft based on a general outline from the client.

The Green Meadow, Poetry and The Gods, The Last Test, The Crawling Chaos, and The Trap are stories by others and only slightly revised and/or modified by Lovecraft. It shows.

The Green Meadow never seems to gel, nor delivers in the end. Poetry and the Gods is a breathless example of an Elysian fantasy, laced with erotic wish fulfilment, but oh, so very coy. The Last Test could have been shorter. The length handicaps the reader’s care about what happens to whom and why. The Crawling Chaos is better. Stylistically consistent with a beginning, a middle and an end.  It has a wonderfully Miltonian tone, but unfortunately still falls flat. The Trap,The Disinterment andTwo Black Bottles all have an interesting premise but manage to be dull, the latter two seem rushed.

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs (Co-written with Harry Houdini, who features as a character), The Mound and In the Walls of Eryx are wondrous stories. But Pharaohs, after its initial publication in 1924, crediting Houdini, was reprinted with the credit amended to be Lovecraft’s as early as 1939. It has since appeared in several anthologies. The Mound was never published during Lovecraft’s lifetime. August Derleth rewrote it excessively and his version was first published in 1940, then reprinted several times.  The original version as written by Lovecraft appears in The Horror in The Museum and Other Revisions, published in 1989 by Arkham House. Incomprehensibly, the tale in this book is the Derleth version. For a collection that claims to reinstate these works as Lovecraft’s, it’s a thundering misstep. In the Walls of Eryx, here indexed as Within the Walls of Eryx, appeared in another Arkham House publication in 1987. It was part of a mammoth and hugely successful effort to collate all available manuscripts and notes by Lovecraft to be able to publish definitive versions of his work. These being the longest tales in the book, they have clearly been trundled out as a bulking agent and in an incredibly clumsy fashion, given the facts.

Still. For an avid Lovecraft devotee, the book’s lesser known offerings are a delight. The general insights this publication brings to the surface – seemingly inadvertently – are fascinating.  Personal favourites among the featured tales:

The Loved Dead – You may remember how the musical brilliance and evocative lyrics of The Stranglers classic Golden Brown made heroin sound attractive for all of 3:33 minutes? This tale spectacularly manages the same thing for corpses. Out of the Aeons – A classic Lovecraftian story arc with signature turns of phrase, blended with a menacing atmosphere, not to mention poetically beautiful descriptions of nameless evil from the vast wells of time. Medusa’s Coil – What Poetry and The Gods could have been: the searing serpentine thralls and throes of a Pagan entity made flesh. And how! The Night Ocean – Very sparsely written and elegantly understated. Hardly any slime-trailing abominations, but a wonderful exercise in atmosphere that reminded me of the painting ‘Moonlit Beach’ by Leon Spilliaert.

‘Moonlit Beach’ by Leon Spilliaert

And so, ultimately, my love lingers on undiminished.

The Loved Dead: Collected Stories Volume Two – H.P. Lovecraft – Review Wordsworth Editions Ltd 2007 ISBN 978-1840226225

Suna Dasi

Suna Dasi is a passionate geek with a pen. Her profession as a singer has taken her all over the world. She currently records and performs with Texan artist Erin Bennett. Being a woman in the creative industries led her to co-found female film and music production company Art Attack Films/Attack Agency. Two of her short stories are due to appear in anthologies in 2016.