Forgotten Book: The Opener of the Way by Robert Block (1945 and 1976)

Many options, some very pricey, exist for purchasing Robert Bloch's The Opener of the Way

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 186th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Like most readers, I go through phases where I binge on certain types of books and try to collect them in various editions. One of my longer manias involved Arkham House books. I went through several stages where I wanted the words to all their titles or I wanted nice collectible copies of all their volumes. That path, I can assure, you will lead to destitution and madness. That would particularly be true now if you are starting your collection now and do not have really deep, deep pockets.

Back when I was looking at the Arkham House titles, they were expensive. And, while I work with accounting and money and the like, I have never been one to let my better judgment stand in the way of something I want. Well, not quite true. In 1973, I was offered a presentation copy of Lewis Carroll’s Phantasmagoria for a mere $150. At the time, I was working maybe 20 hours a week, for less than $2 per hour while attending school. That $150 price tag represented close to two months take-home pay for me. I was barely able to stay in school and feed myself at the time, so I had to let it go. But that potential purchase always remains back in my thoughts. What might have happened? What might have happened was that I would have lost my apartment, been unable to pay my bills and I would have had to sell the book, along with many other nice things, in order to keep a roof over my head, my car running and food on the table.

That book was THE ONE that got away.

I have had many fine things over the years, but Arkhams were always one thing I loved. I once convinced a bookstore to order the entire available Arkham catalog and tried to buy them one at a time for a while. They were only $4 or $5 each at the time, but even then, I had trouble getting them paid for. It caused some stress in my relationship with the bookstore.

Arkham, for those who have made it this far and don’t really know what I am talking about, is a specialty publisher, that started as a venue for August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to publish a memorial volume for H. P. Lovecraft, since no commercial publisher was interested. They launched the enterprise with The Outsider and Others in 1939. They soon also published more Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, along with Robert E. Howard’s amazing Skullface and Others. They did the first books of many fine writers of the weird, fantastic and horrible. People like Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Seabury Quinn, William Hope Hodgson and Robert Bloch. Their volumes are wonderful, filled with stories only available to those with a fantastic pulp magazine collection and deep pockets. My first Arkham book was The House on the Borderland and Other Stories by Hodgson, which reprinted the title novel and three others. I ran across Hodgson through Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy Series and loved his work.

Over the years, I acquired several Arkham House books, some like the Hodgson expensive, others like Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock not nearly so much. But I never had The Opener of the Way by Robert Bloch, which was published in 1945. It was Bloch’s first book.

For several titles, such as the massive Clark Ashton Smith volumes, I got the British publisher Neville Spearman’s 1970’s reprints. Sure, you had to order them from England and it took forever and the postage was expensive, but CAS was worth it. Spearman did The Opener of the Way in 1974 but I missed it. Again, funds were a big reason.

In 1976, British publisher Panther released the massive collection in two paperback volumes, The Opener of the Way and The House of the Hatchet. Last year, I got the first of those volumes, not realizing it did not contain all of the hardcover title. And that is what I read this week.

This volume contains ten stories from the hardcover edition, including the title story, “Beetles,” “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” and “The Fiddler’s Fee,” all stories I really liked. They suffer slightly from being together, as many of the stories contain that final line that serves as a “Gotcha!” with the Ripper story being a superb example. Others you could see coming.

I like Robert Bloch’s work. About 6 months ago I reviewed his novel The Will to Kill here and it was great. This volume holds up reasonably well. It does represent early work by Bloch who matured as he wrote more.

Those who want the whole volume can get the Arkham House volume (starting in the $400 + range on up to a price with a comma in it), the Neville Spearman edition ($30 to $750), the two paperbacks (between $10 and $20 each) or The Early Fears by Bloch (Fedogan and Bremer, 1993), which reprints all of Opener (except the introduction) and Pleasant Dreams, another early collection.

Go forth and collect.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard (2015)

With the name Carter & Lovecraft, you know this book has got to be weird.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 178th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Late last year I began to hear some chatter about this book. I liked the title Carter & Lovecraft but I wasn’t sure what it was about. Did it deal with Lin Carter and the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series? I wasn’t sure. And I never saw the book. Until Valentine’s weekend when I was attending ConDFW in Dallas.

ConDFW was celebrating its 15th anniversary and I believe I have been to all of them. Over the last 43 years, I have attended a large number of conventions, mostly in Texas, but I have gotten little afield from there. Anyway, ConDFW has a primarily literary focus and I have a good time there seeing old friends and trying to make some new ones.

Anyway, Adventures in Crime and Space had Carter & Lovecraft for me. I loved the cover by Ervin Serrano. Tentacle-lee things are always interesting on covers, don’t you think? When I saw it, I was pretty sure it was going home with me.

I opened up the book to read the flaps and discovered that I had other books by the writer, Jonathan L. Howard. Now I had three names to conjure with – Howard (a favorite of mine since 1967), Lovecraft (since 1968) and Carter (never a real fan of his writing but his period as editor of the adult Fantasy Series was wonderful). And then I see that Jonathan L. Howard was the author of the Johannes Cabal series of novels – Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Johannes Cabal the Detective, Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute, and The Brothers Cabal. I have the first two volumes (which also had great covers) but I had not read them. There was a quirky quality to them that appealed to me. I will now have to investigate the other two volumes and give them all a read.

Carter & Lovecraft (to get back to the book) deals with former policeman Dan Carter who has been involved in tracking down a serial killer called the Child-Catcher. While he and his partner are securing the scene, his partner talks to the killer and soon ends up killing himself. This is totally unexpected and bothers Dan a lot. He decides to retire from the force and become a private investigator.

The PI world is not Marlowe and Spade. It’s more divorce cases and skip tracing. Until the day a lawyer shows up and tells him that he is the sole heir to the estate of one Alfred Hill of Providence. Hill has been missing for seven years and has been declared dead. Carter has never heard of Hill and has no idea why he has gotten this legacy. But it involves a house. So he decides to check out the house and drives to Providence and finds that it’s not just a house. It is an antiquarian bookstore, Hill’s Books.

Inside the bookstore is a young African American woman, Emily Lovecraft. She is the last blood relation of H. P. Lovecraft, who was a great uncle of some sort. She’s heard all the stuff about him – his weird writings, his racism, and his misogyny, all of it. She is surprised to see Carter and to hear that Alfred Hill has been declared dead. Hill was her employer and had not been seen for a while, but she just thought he was eccentric.

Carter mentions the lawyer and brings out his paperwork, which appears to be legitimate to Lovecraft’s high powered boyfriend. Carter and Lovecraft reach an easy truce and Carter suddenly finds himself in a partnership with the woman.

Then the murders start. Not just any murders, but truly odd ones. A math professor drowns inside his car. Except that there is not any water in the car or in the lungs. And a casino pit boss in Atlantic City throws a young man out because he is defying the laws of probability at a roulette wheel. As he is escorted out, the man plays four slot machines side-by-side, hitting the maximum jackpots on each. Astronomical odds against that happening. And, soon after, the pit boss is killed when, while eating his dinner, he suddenly gains about 700 pounds and literally explodes within his office, just like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

Oddly enough, someone called Dan Carter on the math professor’s phone just after the murder and he finds himself deep in the investigation. This leads him to William Colt, an odd graduate student who has a cube of aluminum that isn’t quite right.

From here, the story gets wonderfully weird. Insane non-Euclidian geometry was always one of my favorite parts of the Lovecraft stories. And while it plays a part here, I was surprised that this novel does not draw on the Cthulhu Mythos stuff but rather on the Dunsanian fantasies Lovecraft wrote featuring the fictional dreamer Randolph Carter. Only, perhaps not quite fictional as Dan Carter appears to be a descendant who also suffers from odd dreams.

This was a very fun and very odd novel with lots of Lovecraftian lore in it. The ending is truly wild. I think it’s perhaps the best of this type of novel since T. E. D. Klein’s The Ceremonies so many years ago. I may still like the Klein book slightly better but they are both in good company.

If this sounds like your sort of insanity, I’d say, give it a try. As always, your dream journey may have different mileage than mine, but be sure to get green stamps along the way.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Forgotten Book: The Will to Kill by Robert Bloch (1954)

Robert Bloch's The Will to Kill is full of twists and turns.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 172nd in my series of Forgotten Books.

After enjoying a Fredric Brown book last week, I thought it might be nice to try a novel from another classic writer. So I pulled my copy of Screams by Robert Bloch off the shelf. That volume contains three early suspense novels by the Psycho master, so I decided to go with the earliest novel, The Will to Kill.

I had read a lot of Bloch over the years, mostly his short fiction. His horror for Weird Tales was spectacular and he was an early acolyte/friend of H. P. Lovecraft. In fact, the two writers each did a story where they killed the other off by horrific means. Such a fun group.

The Will to Kill was, for many years, a legendary Bloch novel, available only as an Ace paperback original that was very hard to come by. Over the years, I searched for copies of this novel in many states. I did eventually find one in the late 90’s in Springfield, Missouri, at a small paperback house. I locates a lot of great titles that day, including the first five 84th Precinct novels by Ed McBain. I was about to check out when I saw this one behind the counter. The clerk said they were holding it for some customer but he had never come in. I asked when he was going to pick it up and the clerk said if it was still available on Friday, I could have it for $2. Come Friday I picked it up.

Screams collects three early Robert Bloch novels, including The Will to Kill.

I never got around to reading it before my Big Book Sale of 2007, when it went away to land on someone else’s shelves. So this last week, I decided to remedy that situation.

Tom Keller is a Korean War veteran suffering from PTSD, even though that phrase did not exist at the time. He has come home from the war to a loving wife. Sometimes Keller suffers from blackouts, fugue states where he wanders and does things that he does not remember. Following one of those episodes, he wakes up with scissors in his hand and a dead wife at his feet. Her throat had been cut … by scissors. He is jailed but eventually released when forensics prove he could not have performed the murder.

Now in another town, he runs a stamp, coin and book store where he works with his new girlfriend. He wants to be with her, but he still has his own doubts about the murder of his first wife. As the novel opens, Keller is recovering from a blackout and has no idea what he has done. He soon finds that he has told his girlfriend Kit about his fears and this drives her away.

While Kit is gone, Keller deals with a fat man with an obviously stolen stamp collection. He chooses the high road and does not buy the material, even though he could turn it into a quick profit. The seller is upset and leaves.

Soon, Keller encounters the fat man again at a bar, where he is abusing a woman and making threats. When Keller steps in, a knife comes out. But Keller is a veteran and disarms the man, ejecting him from the bar.

The girl he has saved, Trixie, invites him over and frantic sex happens at her place. Keller falls asleep, and when he wakes up, Trixie is dead. In circumstances similar to the previous murder he was involved with.

Keller is, of course, arrested and the earlier case is brought up. A blind man identifies Keller by his walk and the taps on his shoes as the killer. The murder weapon is identified as a poniard, a French style stiletto. And, of course, Tom has one in a case at his store. Or, had one, since the store has been broken into and the knife taken. The only possible lead is Trixie’s roommate. When the police go to ask her questions, she is found dead also. But, Tom was in police custody when the roommate was killed. And, of course, the same knife was used.

Kit shows up with a lawyer, Anthony Mingo, for whom she used to work and had been romantically involved. Tom, already unsure of himself, takes this new twist poorly and begins to doubt Kit’s affection for him.

The story takes several good turns and eventually resolves itself, but not before several unusual items from Tom’s and Kit’s past are revealed.

I really enjoyed this novel and read it in one sitting. And, with Screams, I still have two more early Bloch novels waiting for my attention, specifically Firebug and The Star Stalker. Bloch was really crafting his style at this point, leading up to his 1959 novel Psycho.

So, if you can find the Ace paperback, buy it. If not, get Screams and have three fun books. And, as with all such titles, your mileage may vary, but I doubt it. Bloch is fabulous.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs. This week Todd Mason is hosting the listing.


Forgotten Book: Harry O. Morris by Harry O. Morris (2015)

Harry O. Morris

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 169th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Years ago I first encountered the force of nature that is Harry O. Morris in the pages of the long gone and deeply missed fanzine Nyctalops. I received an issue for my birthday and it was filled with more information and visual stimulation than you should legally be allowed to have. The issue I got was devoted to the work of Clark Ashton Smith, though Lovecraft was the fanzine’s primary focus.

Then I saw some of his art at the World Fantasy Convention in Ft. Worth in 1978. It was so wildly different from everything else on exhibit there that, broke person which I was, I ended up buying two photo collages for my personal collection. I know that I still have one of them and maybe the second too.

I later met Harry in person at ArmadilloCon and he was every bit as weird and cool as you could expect. Eventually he married my friend Christine Pasanen and they were a lovely match. I visited them once in Albuquerque and it was great!

Recently, Jerad Walters, the madman behind Centipede Press, published this amazing artbook/biography of Harry. Filled with literally hundreds of photos of artwork from fanzines and book covers. And the introduction from Thomas Ligotti, a writer I first encountered through Harry’s work, is worth the price of admission alone.

One of Morris' book covers

I’m not going to talk much about the book. It is extraordinary and out of print from the publisher, though a few copies are still floating around out there in Webland. It’s a little expensive (not really) because it is filled with lots of heavy paper and color pictures. I’m going to post a photo of Harry and some of his work. This does not really begin to give you an idea of its brilliance. He works with pens, ink, colors, collage, photo emulsions and maybe magic.

If you are looking for the perfect present for that weird friend (who may even be yourself), give them this book. Offer a double or nothing deal if they don’t like it. You won’t have to pay up.

Happy Holidays to everyone out there. And remember, if it ain’t weird, you’re not trying hard enough.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Haunting Question: What’s the Scariest Short Story You’ve Ever Read?

Short stories may be the ultimate way to experience horror fiction.

Think about it. You typically consume a short story in one sitting, no breaks, no relief from the mounting tension and dread. If the tale’s a gripper, you don’t dare come up for air. But with a novel — even one you really like — the experience is spread out, sometimes over a couple of weeks. And each time you put down the book, the tension dissipates.

Not surprisingly, virtually every major horror writer, from Edgar Allan Poe to Laird Barron, has written in short form. Pieces such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Next in Line,” Stephen King’s “I am the Doorway” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” all come to mind as my own early sources of chills — and writing inspiration.

With Halloween right around the corner, I asked other authors and editors to talk about the short stories that terrified them the most. The resulting selections make a great late-October reading list.


Lisa Tuttle: Lisa Tuttle is an American-born science fiction, fantasy and horror author who currently resides in the United Kingdom. She has published more than a dozen novels, seven short story collections and several non-fiction titles. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the BSFA Award for Short Fiction and the Nebula Award for Best Short Story (which she refused).

The first thing I thought of when asked for the scariest short story I’d ever read was “The Fog Horn” by Gertrude Atherton. But then I realized no one under the age of 50 would truly appreciate just why it is so terrifying. So, to balance that out, I must add another. This one scared the socks off me when I first read it, aged about twelve, and it holds up very well today. I love ghost stories, but really, when you think about it, ghosts are not that scary, being unable to do very much. But there are exceptions, like “The Gentleman from Down Under” by L.P. Hartley.


Joe McKinney: Joe McKinney, a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, is an author in many genres, including horror, zombie apocalypse tales, ghost stories, virus thrillers, crime and science fiction. He has written 17 novels, developed two collections of short stories, created a tale for a comic book, and been both published in and edited numerous anthologies.

Horror, if we’re being honest with ourselves, lives in the short story. That’s where the genre truly excels, and that’s why EVERY SINGLE MASTER OF HORROR has written in the short story genre. Yes, there are masterpieces in the novel genre. I grant you that. But the truly defining moments of horror’s graduation from fringe hack work to beloved cultural groupspeak come from the short story. So, if I had to pick just one, I’d give the nod to “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner. I first encountered that story in an anthology I picked up in a used bookstore. At this point, I don’t have any chance of remembering the name of the anthology, but I absolutely remember the terror that went through me as I read that story for the first time. It was not only a brilliant character study, but a master class in developing the slow, creeping dread that makes horror so effective. It was only later, after I’d begun my own journey through professional publishing, that I realized that the story was also a thorough commentary — indeed, almost a satire — of the horror genre as it came of age in the ’70s and ’80s.


Nate Southard: Nate Southard is the author of Down, Pale Horses, Just Like Hell and several others. His latest collection, Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again?, is available now from Broken River Books. His work has appeared in such venues as Cemetery Dance, Black Static and Thuglit.  A finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction, Nate lives in Austin, Texas.

The story that sticks with me the most is Paul Tremblay’s “The Teacher.” A new teacher accepts eight kids into a special class, one that involves a horrible video and an even worse lesson. While not what most might consider a “scary” story, “The Teacher” is the kind of tale that worms its way deep and infects you. Once I finished it, I couldn’t read again for a few days. The entire world felt wrong.


Jeffrey Ford: Jeffrey Ford is an American writer whose works span genres including fantasy, sf and mystery. His stories and novels have been nominated multiple times for the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the International Horror Guild Award, the Fountain Award, Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. He’s a graduate of Binghamton University, where he studied with the novelist John Gardner.

I don’t scare easy when it comes to fiction. The most scared I’ve ever been reading a short story was when I was 10 and up late in my bed after everyone had gone to sleep. I read “The Phantom Rickshaw” by Rudyard Kipling. I’m not sure what it was about the piece that scared the shit out of me, maybe the inevitability of the young soldier’s death after he sees the forbidding form of the woman he jilted glide by in a rickshaw. It had to do with the quiet nature of the story — no outlandish haunting — just a silent exchange of glances between the living and the dead. Creepy. Kipling is one of the best short story writers. Borges considered him better than James Joyce and Henry James. His colonial lineage is hard to defend. I side with Salman Rushdie’s take on him — “Kipling, there is much that is hard to forgive, but more that is hard to forget.”


Jessica Reisman: Jessica Reisman’s stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her first novel, The Z Radiant, published by Five-Star Speculative Fiction, is “thinking reader’s sci-fi.” She was a Michener Fellow in Fiction in graduate school.

I wanted to go with a Lisa Tuttle story that I heard her read at a World Fantasy Convention (“Closet Dreams, according to Lisa. — Ed.) , but I can’t for the life of me remember the title. So I’m going with Maureen McHugh’s “The Naturalist.” The reason explaining why is essentially the same, however: I find stories about human monsters — psychopaths and sociopaths — much more terrifying and chilling than stories about supernatural monsters. Beyond being possible, they actually exist and do horrifying, scary, scary things.


Gene O’Neill: Gene O’Neill is a multi-award nominated writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. More than 100 of his works have been published in venues including Cemetery Dance Magazine, Twilight Zone Magazine and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I think it’s a tie between George R.R. Martin’s “The Pear-Shaped Man” and Michael Shea’s “The Autopsy.” Martin’s story is great because essentially you become what you hate and fear. Shea’s story is great because of a dying man’s revenge against a seemingly overwhelming force.


Tina Connolly: Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Women Destroy SF, Lightspeed,, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and many more.

I don’t read a lot of horror, but I do remember loving to be scared stiff by the John Bellairs books as a kid. They were so deliciously gothic and atmospheric — and the creepy illustrations by Edward Gorey made them even better. The House with a Clock in the Walls is still my favorite, but the one that scared me the most was the terrifying sorcerer (who controls blizzards from inside his father’s tomb, IIRC) in the Dark Secret of Weatherend.


Lori Michelle: Lori Michelle is the co-owner/CFO/layout guru of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the editor-in-chief of Dark Moon Digest and Dark Eclipse. She is the author of Dual Harvest and the editor of Bleed, an anthology where the proceeds will go to the National Children’s Cancer Society. Several of her stories have appeared in anthologies including the 2012 Bram Stoker finalist Slices of Flesh.

I am not sure if this is the scariest story I have ever read, but it is certainly the most memorable short story I have ever read. It is by the great Stephen King and appeared in Nightmares & Dreamscapes. I am talking about “The Moving Finger.” The images of a strange anomaly coming into your safe haven via the drains has given me shivers over the years. The bathroom is supposed to be the place where you can relax. But SK has shown that nowhere is safe, not even your own sink.


R.L. Ugolini: R.L. Ugolini’s short stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including, most recently, Red Rock Review and Demonic Visions Vol. 3, 4 & 5. The Summerset Review nominated her story “Falllow” for the 2011 Million Writers’ Award. Samhain Publishing released her first novel Quakes in 2015.

It was 1843, and the world had yet to suffer the horrors (culturally, if not exactly psychologically) of sparkly vampires, Twitter or stuffed-crust pizza. An agitated narrator lays out his crime for his readers. He has done the unspeakable — he is a madman, a monster. And yet, as his story unfolds, it becomes clear the terror of the tale lies not with who he is or what he has done, but with how his conscience will bear his guilt. It is a reminder that horror need have no demons save those of our own making. For this reason, I recommend “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe.


Max Booth III: Max Booth III is the author of three novels: Toxicity, The Mind is a Razorblade and How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. He’s currently a columnist for LitReactor and Slush Pile Heroes. He has studied under Craig Clevenger and award-winning editor Jennifer Brozek.

“I’m On My” by Shane McKenzie published in Splatterpunk Zine #4. A thousand stories popped in my head when Sanford asked me to pick the story that has scared me the most. Many classics, which I’m sure you already know about. However, there’s one short story that has really stuck with me since I first read it back in 2013. And that is Shane McKenzie’s “I’m On My.” It’s a short little tale about a man driving home to his family, only to encounter a slight detour. Look, when you’re driving, all it takes is for your attention to be distracted for a single second, and not only is your whole life ruined, but so are others’. “I’m On My” is a story about an innocent man accidentally running over a small child. There is nobody around that witnesses this crime. It’s just the man and the boy he’s hit. If you were in the same situation, how would you react? I think we all would like to say, “I’d call the police and wait with the boy!” But that’s just what we like to say. The truth is, there’s no way of knowing how we would react to such a situation unless it actually happens. It’s a heat-of-the-moment type of situation, and the implicated consequences of such an accident are absolutely terrifying. Every morning, I drive home from work and see various kids waiting for the school bus, and I swear, every morning I am reminded of “I’m On My.” This little story has fucked with me so much.


Jamie Lackey: Jamie Lackey write science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories. She read submissions for Clarkesworld Magazine from 2008 through 2013. She also worked as an assistant editor for the Triangulation Annual Anthology Series from 2008-2010, and she was one of the magazine’s two coeditors in 2011. She was an assistant editor at Electric Velocipede from 2012-2013 and is the editor of Triangulation: Lost Voices.

I have to go with “Ponies” by Kij Johnson. It’s just so delightfully dark wrapped in shininess. And the ending is tragic and inevitable.


Eric J. Guignard: Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. His stories and articles have appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shock Totem, Buzzy Mag, Bewildering Stories and Stupefying Stories. He’s also an anthology editor, having published Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award.

Being an indecisive writer, I considered equally two of the scariest stories I’ve ever read, though each for a different reason. “Other People” by Neil Gaiman (published first in Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, 2006) is one of the bleakest visions of Hell I’ve ever encountered. This scared me remarkably, because there’s a belief that Hell is different for all, and it is designed individually based upon your worst fears… I wouldn’t have feared this prior, but after reading the story, suddenly Gaiman’s tale embodied what I imagined the worst type of Hell to be, in which you relive out all the pain you’ve caused other people, whether directly or indirectly, over and over again… and now I can’t “unknow it.” My second is “Crouch End” by Stephen King (published first in New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, 1980; collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993) I was probably about 18 or 19 years old when I read this story, and it freaked me out so much I swore I’d never read it again. And I haven’t… I don’t know if this story would still affect me so terribly now, but there were some passages that just haunted me at the time. I wasn’t familiar with the Cthulhu universe back then — which this story is homage to — so the descriptions of subtly-changing things around us and slithering shapes seen only from the corner of your eye were really quite seminal to me.

Forgotten Films: The Color Out of Space (2010)

If you don't mind subtitles, Germany's Color Out of Space serves up Lovecraftian chills.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 137th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

With this being the Halloween season, it is only appropriate that I review some horror-type films fir the next several weeks.

My friends Willie and Chuck brought this one to my attention. A German adaptation of The Color Out of Space based on the Lovecraft story of the same name. I do love the work of Lovecraft, as shown in more than a few columns of the Forgotten Books and Forgotten Films over the last six years or so. So when they expressed their pleasure in it, I checked up on it from Amazon and found that there was a Blu-Ray for a reasonable price and that it was limited to 1,000 copies. Sold!

When I first went to watch it, my Blu-Ray player seized up with the disc inside and would not respond. I tried the normal things – new batteries, manually hitting the control buttons on the machine, everything, and the disk remained stuck and the player was inert.

So, being the person that I am, I bought a new Blu-Ray player and set it up.

As I removed the old one, I looked for various ways to retrieve my unplayed disc but to no avail. As a last ditch effort, I plugged the player into another circuit. Suddenly, I saw the flickering of a power light. I punched the manual controls and out popped the tray. I grabbed the remote with its new batteries and the machine responded. Now I had two Blu-Ray players. I could not return the new one as I had pretty well destroyed the box opening it. So the old one went upstairs to reside next to the DVD/VCR combo in the guest bedroom. Another problem solved.

Last night, I watched this film. I had vague memories of the earlier version — Die, Monster, Die with Boris Karloff and Nick Adams — which I saw many years ago. I checked my movie listing and I do not appear to have a copy of that one. I know I have The Dunwich Horror and that one may show up soon.

This one was quite fun. It’s done in glorious black and white (mostly), and it’s set in three different timelines. The story starts with Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) returning to Arkham College to discuss the disappearance of his father with Mr. Danforth (Olaf Kratke), a librarian in the Forbidden Books area. The elder Davis had unexpectedly gone off to Germany a few weeks earlier and had not been heard from.

Jonathan heads over to the Swabian-Franconian Forest area of Germany to try to find his dad. He enquires at a pub and finds Armin Peirske (Michael Kausch) who did not recognize the father from the current pictures but did from his time in the war.

So we shift to the period at the end of World War II where the elder Davis (Ralf Lichtenberg) is a doctor looking to relocate people displaced by the war. Armin is returning wounded from the war to his farm when he encounters Davis. Davis asks him about the area, particularly the neighboring valley. Armin tells Davis not to go over there.

No one lives there. Anymore.

Now we shift to Armin’s tale from prior to the war when a meteorite has landed in that valley on the farm of Nahum Gärtener (Erik Rastetter), who has a small farm and orchard that he runs with his wife and three sons. Scientists come to examine the meteorite, which has some very strange properties and keeps shrinking. Testing does not determine its origins, so the scientists return and find a small opening in the fragment. They crack it open and something happens. There is a release and suddenly the fragment disappears.

Then strange things begin to happen. Giant pears begin to grow in the orchards but the fruit tastes spoiled. Frau Gärtener (Marah Schneider) sees something and goes very slowly insane. Things happen to the boys.

I’m not going to delve too much deeper here. You should see this film for yourself. It’s one of the best Lovecraftian films ever made. I can easily compare it to The Call of Cthulhu that I reviewed some time ago which was excellent.

The film is dual language – parts of it are in English but most of it is in German — so you will have to read your film. But, if you’ve read Lovecraft, you can easily read a film.

I’m not sure if it’s on Netflix or one of the other services. Amazon has it on its Amazon video and the Blu-Ray is still available for under $20.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Forgotten Book: Spicy Adventures by Robert E. Howard (2011)

Tame by today's standards, but enough to get you in trouble in the Bible Belt of the 1930s.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 161st in my series of Forgotten Books.

I love the work of Robert E. Howard. The man from Cross Plains is one of my literary heroes along with Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Neal Barrett, Jr. And this year I made my second trek to Cross Plains for Howard Days, where he is celebrated in the manner he should be.

I first discovered his work in the mid-1960s with the various Lancer, Ace and Dell editions, particularly the Conan and Kull stories. Then, in the 1970s, the Donald Grant hardcovers along with the Zebra paperbacks brought him deep into my grasp. I managed to get an Arkham House Skullface and Others from the university library. But I had to give it back. Later I got the Neville Spearman hardcover from the UK. When I sold my books I was sorry to see it go, so I was ecstatic when Half Price Books put it into their clearance for $3 about a month later. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

I was also pleased to co-edit Cross Plains Universe: Texas Writers Celebrate Robert E. Howard for the 2006 World Fantasy Convention, where we honored Howard’s centenary. It’s one of the best things I have ever done and I remain inordinately proud of the book.

So, this year, when I went to Howard Days, I got to revisit the Howard house and look at where the magic happened. I took my wife with me since she had never been. It was a great weekend.

And while I was there, I bought some books from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, including this week’s offering, Spicy Adventures. I have a fondness for old pulp stories, particularly the Spicy pulps. I blame Steve Mertz who introduced me to Robert Leslie Bellem and his skewed stories back in the early ’80s. Between him and John Wooley, I read a lot of those things.

By today’s standards, the Spicies are pretty tame. But in the ’30s, you could get in some trouble in the Bible belt if you were seen with one. The Spicies frequently had women in scanty clothing, sometimes ripped or missing. Sex was implied but never seen. And REH wrote several stories for them.

Here we have the five tales that Spicy Adventures bought from Howard, as well as three others written for the market but not purchased. And you also get four synopses and two earlier draft versions of a story as well as an informative introductory essay by fabulous Howard scholar and all around good guy, Patrice Louinet.

The stories are pure pulp adventure, fueled with adrenaline. “The Girl on the Hell Ship,” which has previously been the title story in a paperback collection called She Devil is the first offering. This one was written at the urging of E. Hoffman Price (the only man known to have shaken the hands of both Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, which got him many beers at conventions). Price was regularly selling to Spicy Adventures and found it to be easy money. (For a taste of Price’s work, a wonderful e-book titled The E. Hoffman Price Spicy Adventure Megapack from Wildside Press makes a wonderful experience for your Kindle).

“The Girl on the Hell Ship” features Wild Bill Clanton, who finds young maiden Raquel trying to flee from two brutes from the ship Saucy Wench on a South Pacific island. Things get wild and Clanton eventually assumes command of the ship with the prize of his passion. “Ship in Mutiny” finds Clanton and Raquel displaced from the ship by mutineers who inadvertently kill the only person other than Clanton who can steer the vessel. Unfortunately, the local man-hungry queen of the natives has her eyes on him.

Other fun stories include “The Purple Heart of Erlik,” which Roy Thomas made into a Conan comic (if I recall correctly and I may not) that features a young female grifter trying to escape from the Far East and trapped into a scheme doomed to failure. And then there’s “The Dragon of Kao Tsu” with more Eastern adventure.

Wild Bill Clanton appears in several stories. He is kind of fun.

The book is relatively short, a mere 211 pages. But it has a great cover from premier Howard artists Jim and Ruth Kreegan. It’s a little pricy, but the sales benefit the Robert E. Howard Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and presenting the works of REH as he wrote them. If you read the deCamp Howard collections, you did not get the full, real Robert E. Howard. So buy books from the foundation.

I picked up 7 books while I was at Howard Days. I didn’t want to spend that much money, but I really, really, really wanted the titles. This particular book is limited to 250 copies. If you are interested, do not hesitate. Check out their website to see all the various volumes available.

Also, if you’re a Howard fan, check out Project Pride, the lovely locals in cross Plains who maintain the Howard House and help host Howard Days.

It’s all worthwhile. And may Crom ignore you when you need it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Forgotten Book: Fat Face by Michael Shea (1997)

Would you trust this face? Maybe not such a good idea.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 158th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I first discovered the work of Michael Shea in 1980 when I read “The Autopsy” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was grisly and mesmerizing. He had published one earlier novel A Quest for Simbilis in 1974 as a homage/sequel to Jack Vance’s The Eyes of the Overworld but I had not read that. Shortly thereafter I read “Polyphemus” in F&SF and knew I had found a masterful writer.

I discovered H. P. Lovecraft in 1967 with one of the Lancer collections of short stories (probably The Dunwich Horror, but I’m not sure anymore) and had my fling with Lovecraftian horror for the next ten years, including a brief stint in a Lovecraft amateur press association (APA) called The Esoteric Order of Dagon. I stayed there for three or four mailings and found that a) there were people with much deeper devotions to Lovecraft, Howard, Smith and Hodgson than I would ever have, b) they produced some amazing scholarship and 3) as a working student I did not have the time, money or energy to continue in that environment.

But the love still stays.

So, in 1987 when Fat Face came out from Axoltotl Press in a limited edition, I picked it up. A Lovecraftian horror story by a master is always worth your time. And it was.

Michael Shea won a couple of World Fantasy Awards for the novel Nifft the Lean (1983) and novella for The Growlimb in 2006 and was nominated for a lot of awards. He was always on my radar. So I was shocked last year when he died suddenly. And now I wanted to read something again.

So Fat Face, a novella stared out of my bookshelf at me. Michael Shea and Lovecraftian horror with a Shea sensibility seemed like a winner. It began calling to me at night. “Scott!” It said. “Read me! Or Face My WRATH!!”

Not wanting to face that wrath, I read it again the other night. It’s short, which is a definite plus. And it does not read like a Lovecraftian piece. There are no words like eldritch or ichor or even blasphemous in the story.

It’s the story of Patti, a young hooker who is out of her depth. Her man has moved out of the massage parlor when she objected to how some of her customers found themselves dead shortly after a visit. So, she is back on the streets, working out of a seedy motel. She’s OK with that, maybe even bored.

A fancy gift for any Shea enthusiast: The Autopsy and Other Stories.

She and her friend Sherri keep trying to imagine what it would be like to be gone and away from it all, but that takes too much energy so she continues on. She knows all the street regulars, all losers. And she is fascinated by a man she can only see from his fourth floor window. She calls him Fat Face, but that is not meant harshly. She finds his face calming, even beatific. She imagines him as an angelic figure. The building houses an animal rescue, so he must be a good man.

She and Sherri make a bad move one day, leaving him something approaching a friend letter, not quite a love letter. But it brings his interest to them and bad things begin to happen.

If you want more, the novella is generally available. There is a Kindle version for less than a buck, and it is in several collections.

Now, if you are a Michael Shea fan, you can look for The Autopsy and Other Tales (2008) from Centipede Press. This is a beautiful book, signed, numbered, heavily illustrated and a massive collection of Shea which also includes his novel The Color Out of Time, another Lovecraftian tale worth your while. Unfortunately this one is out of print and, since it was expensive to begin with, copies are pricey. But, man, it is worth it.

So, some brief words to live by. Check out Michael Shea. Check out The Autopsy and Other Tales. Check out Centipede Press. You will not go wrong.

And, as regularly stated, my taste is all in my mouth and your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


“Kali Yuga” lands in Innsmouth Free Press

Don't mess with Kali Maa

Don't mess with Kali Maa

I just got word that my short story “Kali Yuga” will be appearing in the upcoming “Multiethnic Issue” of Innsmouth Free Press.

IFP is an online publication that features both short fiction inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and fictional newspaper reports set in the author’s universe. My story is the former: a classic weird tale with a shot of Hindu mythology. With protagonists who happen to be recent U.S. immigrants (and bad guys who happen not to be), it also flies in the face of some of the xenophobic tendencies of Lovecraft’s fiction.

Look for Innsmouth Free Press’ Multiethnic Issue in June.