" It is new, indeed for I made it last night in a dream of strange cities: and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the
contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon" The Call of Cthulhu

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

New Eldritch Tomes - Robert Bloch - Ray Bradbury,

Any one who has watched me fritter away my patromony (actually, it is my pension) here on HPL: Beyond the Wall of Sleep, will know I have a fondness for 1960's horror paperbacks, but only if the stars align and the covers are just right. Nicey done, not too garish or bloody. Since I covered a story by Bloch in my last post I looked around to see what I could find. Sadly none of these covers are attributed. 

I really loved the graphics on Yours, Truly Jack the Ripper, the same vender had a neat joint Bloch, Bradbury anthology. The Small Assasin, is designated on ISFDB as Ace UK, but the book listed The New English Library Limited on the title page, lovely isn't it.  I was also taken with how Bloch and Bradbury's most well known works Psycho and The Illustrated Man are trumpeted on the covers. I am always on the look out for Digit Digest science fiction, and there was Search the Sky, a Kornbluth, Pohl collaboration which Doug and I often discuss during our weekly lunches.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Robert Bloch; The Man Who Collected Poe and some links. July 19 one addition.

Weird Tales, October 1936, illustration by Virgil Finlay.

Last post I mentioned Robert Bloch's story "The Man Who Collected Poe" and the similarities between it and Lovecraft's story "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". Before I move on to that story I thought it would be fun to look at the the posts of some other bloggers whose sites I enjoy and who also share a certain affection for the the works of H.P. Lovecraft as well as a few writers. If you know of any others I would love to expand this with another post. A great resource to find out what some of his friends and contemporaries felt about him is the Arkham House book Lovecraft Remembered.


Or… The Trials Of A Sort of Mythos Author. 

The jobbing writer knows no fear; accepts no shame. Literary purity is not for the likes of us, beggin’ yer pardon, guv’nor. Run off a young adult horror story? Index a quick textbook? Draft a missing cat advert? Write a Lovecraft Mythos story? Well, why not, given that you’re trying to earn a living? Was it not St Catherine of Alexandria who said “Better a sold Nyarlathotep story and a new gas cooker, than snobbery and half a box of matches.”? No, it wasn’t, but still…


My obsession with the great Mr Howard Phillips Lovecraft
A few weeks ago I wrote an article in which I boldly stated that “I rarely buy the same book twice because a better cover comes along” and briefly mentioned my ‘vanity’ collection of H.P. Lovecraft titles. It’s true, I will buy anything bearing his name if it doesn’t already reside on my shelves, despite the fact that I may have several copies of the same volume under different covers. I just can’t help it, I don’t know exactly what spurs me on to indulge in this largely pointless endeavour apart from imagining myself as a custodian of sorts who seeks to amass and preserve these browning sheaves of paper from the ravages of time.

I bought my first set of Lovecraft anthologies back in 1985. They were published by Granada/Grafton and each of the four thick volumes bore the most garish cover imaginable which I have since traced back to an artist called Tim White. I was nineteen years old or thereabouts at the time and absolutely devoured their contents in a matter of weeks. I almost became one of Lovecraft’s impossibly driven characters poring over antiquarian manuscripts in a bid to find the arcane formula and sigils required to summon a foul, eldritch creature from its millennial slumber. I still have those books to this day – my ‘reading copies’ and they show surprisingly little in the way of ageing which is quite odd.

Teece’s Bit… A Shadow Over Rotherham

A few months ago, I suggested to my fellow vintage paperback collector and music aficionado Teece that he might pen a few articles for me to use on my blog. I’m very pleased to say that he accepted my invitation and so here is his first guest spot;
Harpers bookshop in the shadow of the imposing soot-encrusted church in Rotherham town centre was where I first got my unholy fix of science fiction and cosmic horror. The shop provided the haven of otherness which I craved as a teenager in the grim years of the early 1970s. Heading for those shelves bulging with creeping terrors and lurid futures, I felt I was transgressing… crossing a line that my parents, teachers and peers remained firmly the other side of. Just the sight of those weird and wonderful names on the book spines was enough to set my imagination racing – Philip K Dick, Cordwainer Smith, A. E. van Vogt, H. P. Lovecraft, Roger Zelazny, William Hope Hodgson, C. M. Kornbluth and the rest. It felt good to align myself with these literary misfits and malcontents in the shunned yet darkly fertile ghetto of ‘genre’ fiction. An escape from reality? Well no, this was the start of a journey into the deeper recesses of the human mind. These writers hold up a mirror – albeit twisted, warped and troubling! – to that strange and shifting place we call the real world.
As I neared the end of a story about a man foolish enough to venture upon the mist-laden moor alone I felt a dark presence looming over me. My heart froze and my gaze darted frantically to my left. Yes, Mr Vigil, my homeroom teacher, was standing next to me. He asked me what I was doing, I admitted my deed in a barely audible voice, and he asked if he could read it. I have often wondered what my life, or at least my writing life, would have been like if I had bucked authority (as was the fashion in the 60s) and said, "No way, man!" But I didn't, and he did read it, and I sat all sullen-eyed and brooded about the unfair vicissitudes of my life, and interfering teachers; toward the end of class, he handed back "The Moor" and said, surprisingly: "It was really good, and I'd like to read it when it's finished." And then he asked the question: "Have you ever read HP Lovecraft?" As it happened, I had not, but all that was about to change and my writing life take a big left turn.

In the introduction to her upcoming collection from Subterranean Press  Caitlin R. Kiernan provides a lovely reminiscence concerning her first experience with the works of H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft and I
Oh, where to start. 
"I’ll begin here, with the day I first encountered H. P. Lovecraft. Oddly,  I found him in Trussville, Alabama on a yellow school bus. I was seventeen years old."
Robert Bloch's experience was of course different, as Lovecraft was still alive at the time Bloch began reading his work.

"So, I wrote to Weird Tales and I wrote to Lovecraft in care of them to ask whether or not he knew where I could get some of these stories that I'd read about. He told me that he'd be glad to lend me any copies of any of his stories. So, we got into correspondence."

Cover by Don Punchatz

“The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.” 


As quoted in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”.

As I mentioned in my last post, Bloch’s "The Man Who Collected Poe" and Lovecraft’s "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" both appeared in the Derleth anthology Night’s Yawning Peal

"The Man Who Collected Poe" begins;

“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. 

I know not how it was — but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me — upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain — upon the bleak walls — upon the vacant eye-like windows — upon a few rank sedges — and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees — with an utter depression of soul.” 

Oh wait, that’s the beginning of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”  Bloch begins thusly;

“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, by automobile, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of my destination.

I looked upon the scene before me — upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain — upon the bleak walls — upon the vacant eye-like windows — upon a few rank sedges — and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees — with a feeling of utter confusion commingled with dismay. For it seemed to me as though I had visited this scene once before, or read about it, perhaps, in some frequently rescanned tale.” (66)

So we already know that while there might be some small nod to his friend Howard, Bloch is firmly in Poe territory here. 

The narrator has driven to the estate of Lancelot Canning to see his collection of material relating to the life and works of Edgar Allen Poe. The unnamed narrator met Canning at a recent bibliophilic meeting, and while his interest in Poe is mild at best, he has intrigued by Canning, who struck him as someone who might have stepped directly from one of Poe’s tales. As the valet guides him through the house, he is not disappointed the interior could also be lifted from Poe, and when he finally meets Canning he is reclining on a sofa in the library.
          As the tour begins Canning admits that the collection was begun by his grandfather, who collected first editions of Poe’s work and also was one of the group who had Poe reinterred to a more suitable spot. He also built the house, including a secret room with an iron door. Canning’s father expanded the collection. He specialized in the accumulation and study of Poe’s correspondence and also collected mementoes related to Poe and his family. While the two men talk they also seem to drink a great deal of wine and Canning opens up about the genesis of the collection, his own role in continuing to add to it, was well as some more intimate details concerning the special mania of the three generations of Canning men, when it came to Edgar Allen Poe. As far as the story goes I will leave you now.

But there are two connections to H.P. Lovecraft and his story “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. The narrator notes that the Canning collection contains De Vermis Mysteries a tome that Bloch himself added to the mythos bibliography in his short story "The Shambler from the Stars" , and the Liber Eibon which was added by Clark Ashton Smith and mentioned in his short story  "Ubbo-Sathla". (75) The term essential salts also appears. (77)

As excellent resource for figuring out which forbidden books appear in which mythos stories can be found at;

As part of this exercise I reread “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, and I wanted to make a few general comments. Ward’s love of his city, Providence and the New England setting, really reminded me in a passage in "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" and Randolph Carter’s love for Boston and New England. 

from "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

“His home was a great Georgian mansion atop the well-nigh precipitous hill that rises just east of the river; and from the rear windows of its rambling wings he could look dizzily out over all the clustered spires, domes, roofs, and skyscraper summits of the lower town to the purple hills of the countryside beyond. Here he was born, and from the lovely classic porch of the double-bayed brick facade his nurse had first wheeled him in his carriage; past the little white farmhouse of two hundred years before that the town had long ago overtaken, and on toward the stately colleges along the shady, sumptuous street, whose old square brick mansions and smaller wooden houses with narrow, heavy-columned Doric porches dreamed solid and exclusive amidst their generous yards and gardens. He had been wheeled, too, along sleepy Congdon Street, one tier lower down on the steep hill, and with all its eastern homes on high terraces. The small wooden houses averaged a greater age here, for it was up this hill that the growing town had climbed; and in these rides he had imbibed something of the colour of a quaint colonial village. The nurse used to stop and sit on the benches of Prospect Terrace to chat with policemen; and one of the child’s first memories was of the great westward sea of hazy roofs and domes and steeples and far hills which he saw one winter afternoon from that great railed embankment, all violet and mystic against a fevered, apocalyptic sunset of reds and golds and purples and curious greens. The vast marble dome of the State House stood out in massive silhouette, its crowning statue haloed fantastically by a break in one of the tinted stratus clouds that barred the flaming sky."

from "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath"

“For know you, that your gold and marble city of wonder is only the sum of what you have seen and loved in youth. It is the glory of Boston’s hillside roofs and western windows aflame with sunset; of the flower-fragrant Common and the great dome on the hill and the tangle of gables and chimneys in the violet valley where the many-bridged Charles flows drowsily. These things you saw, Randolph Carter, when your nurse first wheeled you out in the springtime, and they will be the last things you will ever see with eyes of memory and of love. And there is antique Salem with its brooding years, and spectral Marblehead scaling its rocky precipices into past centuries, and the glory of Salem’s towers and spires seen afar from Marblehead’s pastures across the harbour against the setting sun. “There is Providence, quaint and lordly on its seven hills over the blue harbour, with terraces of green leading up to steeples and citadels of living antiquity, and Newport climbing wraith-like from its dreaming breakwater. Arkham is there, with its moss-grown gambrel roofs and the rocky rolling meadows behind it; and antediluvian Kingsport hoary with stacked chimneys and deserted quays and overhanging gables, and the marvel of high cliffs and the milky-misted ocean with tolling buoys beyond. “Cool vales in Concord, cobbled lanes in Portsmouth, twilight bends of rustic New-Hampshire roads where giant elms half hide white farmhouse walls and creaking well-sweeps. Gloucester’s salt wharves and Truro’s windy willows. Vistas of distant steepled towns and hills beyond hills along the North Shore, hushed stony slopes and low ivied cottages in the lee of huge boulders in Rhode-Island’s back country. Scent of the sea and fragrance of the fields; spell of the dark woods and joy of the orchards and gardens at dawn. These, Randolph Carter, are your city; for they are yourself. New-England bore you, and into your soul she poured a liquid loveliness which cannot die. This loveliness, moulded, crystallised, and polished by years of memory and dreaming, is your terraced wonder of elusive sunsets; and to find that marble parapet with curious urns and carven rail, and descend at last those endless balustraded steps to the city of broad squares and prismatic fountains, you need only to turn back to the thoughts and visions of your wistful boyhood."

Lovecraft returned to Providence from his years in New York in 1926 and his return coincided with the production of his most significant works. “The Color out of Space” (1927), “The Call of of Cthulhu (1928), “The Dunwich Horror” (1929). The Whisperer in Darkness (1931) etc. “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" was begun in 1926 and completed in 1927 and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” in 1927. From the passages I quoted it is I think possible to see them as including, despite the horror in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, a loving invocation to Lovecraft’s own childhood and his ongoing admiration for the landscape of New England. Among the longest works Lovecraft had produced up until this time, and unpublished during his lifetime, it is interesting to speculate how a positive reception for one or both works might have changed Lovecraft’s subsequent career. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

New Arrivals

It is funny how I now tend to create the same environment around me wherever I spend much time. Now at least these few shelves at the cabin look very much like my shelves at home crammed with science fiction and mythos related items with the covers of the more striking paperbacks and chapbooks displayed so I can enjoy them at a glance.

As I have mentioned previously on this website, my collecting, as opposed to just accumulating books to read began with H.P. Lovecraft's books and other Arkham House publications. While I did not aspire to first edition copies of The Outsider and Others or Beyond the Walls of Sleep, I did get a lovely The House on the Borderlands by William Hope Hodgson (with a Hannes Bok dust jacket) and a copy of Derleth’s Lurker on the Threshold with Oswald Train’s (an early science fiction publisher) bookplate. One thing I now regret is I traded in a number of my original Lovecraft paperbacks as I got hardcovers. Eventually, I collected more widely, expanding to small press science fiction and magazines. But now having a lot of books I find I enjoy collecting paperbacks, a less pricey and bulky segment of the publishing industry. And while I had been looking at some UK science fiction editions, my latest purchases as often happens, brought me back to Howard yet again.

A couple of years ago I had the chance to spend $300 on the Arkham House edition of The Mask of Cthulhu with a beautiful dust jacket by Richard Taylor. I passed and now I love my Consul edition (1961) with a sadly unattributed cover.

I really enjoy Darrell Schweitzer’s mythos tales as well as his essays and the anthologies he puts together. I could not resist this Starmount Press book Discovering H.P. Lovecraft (1987) with a cover depicting Randolph Carter as the wizard Zkauba of the planet Yaddith, (Through the Gates of the Silver Key). Cover by Richard Huber. Also appeared as Essays Lovecraftian.

Brian Lumley seems to get some criticism in the Mythos community, I suspect because much of his work is seen as more closely related to August Derleth’s additions to the mythos than the Lovecraft canon. While I think his Titus Crow adventures continued too long and morphed into more action-adventure stories than mythos tales, he has contributed a lot of solid work. I hope to look at his stories more closely in the future. Cover by Les Edwards, New English Library, 1995.

I cannot resist a Derleth anthology with a cover featuring wolves with coral snakes for tongues, thanks to Don Punchatz. This collection includes “The Man Who Collected Poe” by Robert Bloch, a story I had not read before and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” by H.P. Lovecraft. I had not realized there was a connection between these tales before but I  hope to provide more detail regarding this in my next post. 

And my shelves always have room for another Bradbury, cover and interior illustrations by the incomparable Joseph Mugnaini.

Full wraparound cover.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thomas Ligotti; more links

I have encountered several resources that I would like to share. The first is an essay on Ligotti and Lovecraft by Matt Cardin. Cardin provides a very concise discussion of the lives and works of both authors and then takes a detailed look at similarities and differences in both author's worldview and how this influences their writing. I found this quite informative. I have always found the connection between the works of Ligotti and Lovecraft when considered in their entirety overstated. Some works like Ligotti's "The Last Feast of the Harlequin" and "The Sect of the Idiot" have an obvious connection but as Cardin rightly points out the differences between the two authors works or personal philosophies are far more important in understanding their works than any similarities. This point is also reinforced in the Weird Studies podcast below.

The Masters' Eyes Shining with Secrets:
H.P. Lovecraft and His Influence on Thomas Ligotti by Matt Cardin

from the introduction
"Jonathan Padgett, the originator of Thomas Ligotti Online, relates the following anecdote in his Ligotti FAQ: "In a phone conversation I had with Mr. Ligotti in the Spring of 1998, he explained that Lovecraft's fiction had had the most profound influence on his life rather than his fiction, as reading HPL's work was the impetus for Ligotti's writing career. Aside from this fact, Lovecraft really has had very littles to do with the subject or style of Ligotti's writing"


Thomas Ligotti's Angel (a discussion at Weird Studies)

In his short story "Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel," contemporary horror author Thomas Ligotti contrasts the chaotic monstrosity of dreams with the cold, indifferent, and no less monstrous purity of angels. It is the story of a boy whose vivid dream life is sapping his vital force, and who resorts to esoteric measures to rectify the situation. In this episode, Phil and JF discuss the beauty and horror of dreams, the metaphysical signifiance of angels and demons, and the potential dangers of seeking the peace of absolute "purity" in the wondrous flux of lived experience

"Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel" by Thomas Ligotti


The Mystics of Muelenburg - Thomas Ligotti


Image; detail from The Nightmare Factory; Carroll & Graf, 1996, cover illustration not attributed.

Hopefully none of the links above are violations of copyright; if you have any concerns please leave a comment.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Vastarien: A Literary Journal (Thomas Ligotti)

  I have made no secret of my admiration for the works of Thomas Ligotti so when I noticed a journal called Vastarien, (available at the Kindle store) which I recognized as the title of one of his stories, with a wonderfully evocative cover by Dave Felton I had to check it out. I have read stories from two issues so far, "The Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking" by Kurt Fawver and "Commencement" by Joanna Parypinski, both were brilliant. I have included a quote and link below to the announcement on The Teeming Brain website that Vastarien has won an award as Magazine of the Year from the annual This is Horror Awards. 
"Vastarien: A Literary Journal was conceived five years ago by a handful of people who wanted to see more writing about and in response to the work of writer/thinker Thomas Ligotti. Since then, our publication has been bombarded with stellar, but unusual, work by authors and artists — many of whom are underrepresented and/or newer voices. Without them and the incredible support Vastarien continues to receive from its devoted readers, this singular journal never would have come to fruition. Thanks so much to all of you and the staff of This Is Horror for this wonderful award."

—Jon Padgett, Editor-in-Chief of Vastarien: A Literary Journal

Also, The Teeming Brain offers an interview with Thomas Ligotti (see link below).
"Certain writers are more prone to eliciting this experience than others, simply because of the way they write. For example, many millions of people have read and loved The Da Vinci Code, but it’s unlikely that any of them have found the voice of their soul reflected in Dan Brown’s prose. The same holds true for virtually all genre writers and mass market writers. When was the last time somebody felt profoundly confirmed and transformed by reading a Robert Ludlum novel? Or a Dean Koontz novel? Or a Conan story? Or a Harlequin romance? It seems the transformative power of literature is almost always found in the explicitly “literary” branch of the family tree, and with a few rare exceptions in the work of authors who write in a specific genre but do so with a distinctive voice and sophisticated style, and under the power of a driving personal vision. In such cases the term “literary” is often appended to the generic category label, so that for instance we today have the subgenre known as “literary horror.”"

from Interview with Thomas Ligotti
It’s All a Matter of Personal Pathology


Photo; detail of Chris Mars illustration for the cover of the Penguin edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas ligotti

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Hellboy: The Board Game (Mantic Games)

Some time ago Helen participated in the crowd funding for 
Hellboy: The Board Game. 
She has been awaiting delivery for some time. 
Today was the big day.

Details about the game and much better photos can be found here.

Lots of stuff to unbox.

And I mean lots.

A few of the large bonus figures.

She is quite pleased, the detail on even the smallest figures is incredible.